Thursday, January 29, 2009

Why Can't I Use Pine Bedding - The Ugly Truth

There is strong scientific evidence that pine and cedar shavings are harmful to the health of rodents. Both of these beddings give off smells (phenols) that are toxic. The phenols, which give the shavings their scent, are the reason that cedar repels fleas and moths and why pine-oil is the major ingredient in Pine-sol brand disinfectant. When animals are exposed to softwood shavings the phenols are absorbed through the respiratory tract and enter the blood.

Cedar and pine shavings are often recommended because their pleasant scent masks animal smells and repels skin parasites. However there are so many safer alternatives to use that are equally as effective.

Pine and cedar shavings are often defended with the claim that customers are not forced to buy them. However, most small animal owners are not aware of the toxins in pine and cedar shavings. They assume that if a product is offered for sale, it must be safe. But just because pine and cedar shavings have been traditional and popular beddings does not mean they are safe.

Studies have shown that exposure to the phenols in cedar and pine (the chemical that makes them smell nice) can cause respiratory difficulty, as well as liver and kidney damage. A list of published articles is available. With so many better, safer products on the market, there is no longer any reason to use these soft wood shavings as bedding.

Some alternatives are listed below.

Keep in mind, also, that clumping and clay-based kitty litters are not healthy. Clay-based litters are very dusty, and can cause problems with the rat's delicate respiratory system. Clumping litters can cause problems if ingested. It's important to remember that cats only visit their litter box to do their business. Rats live in their litter.

Paper-based cat litters are fine, and a few of them are included in the list below.

• Care Fresh reclaimed paper pulp product

• Bio-Flush paper-based, contains baking soda .

• Housekeeper's Eco-Bedding paper-based, like crinkled paper bags.

• Aspen shavings or pellets Available from many sources

• Critter Country grass fiber pellets Moutain Meadows Pet

• Yesterday's News recycled paper product

• EZ-FLUSH paper-based, has odor control compound .

• Cell Sorb Plus paper-based Fangman Specialties

• Sani-Chips heat-treated aspen pellets PJ Murphy Forest Products

• Alfalfa pellets a.k.a. rabbit food; green pellets Rats can't digest it, so they won't eat it. Readily available from many sources

• Corn Cob - It is dust free, odor free, and absorbent, but not too much so. It can absorb more moisture longer than other beddings without getting damp and mushy.

• Aspen - This one is the best choice of all the wood shaving types of beddings. It doesn't have any odor and it is soft, and spreads and covers easily. It is very absorbent, maybe too much so. It gets soggy easily and takes on ammonia smells very quickly.


Cages should be cleaned at least once a week in a home setting. Depending on the size of the cage, ventilation, and number of rats, cages may need to be cleaned more or less frequently. A rat cage should never smell, as they are very clean animals. If the cage smells, it is because it is long overdue for a cleaning.

Rat urine creates ammonia fumes, so a dirty cage leads to an unhealthy build up of ammonia.

Though cages can be cleaned with a commercial pet cage cleaner, sometimes the fumes from these types of products can cause respiratory problems. It is recommended to clean the cage with warm water and a mild soap, rinsing thoroughly.

A very diluted bleach solution is also acceptable. Household cleaners, such as Windex, Fantastik, etc., should never be used due to harmful fumes.

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