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Rat Bedding

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The Dangers of Using Cat Litter for Rat Bedding:

In this changing world of what people are bedding their rats on, cat litters have become popular. But care needs to be taken to as to the contents of these cat litters, bearing in mind that they were primarily designed for cats to visit briefly to ‘do their biz’ on and not for rats to live on permanently. Remember that your rat has its nose close to whatever bedding you give it for a large percentage of an average day, so it doesn’t want highly fragranced or dusty bedding material.

ONLY cat litters that are 100% recycled paper or clearly state on the packaging that they are safe for small animals seem to be safe for use with rats. As far as I know, this only includes Biocatolet, Yesterdays News and Back 2 Nature of which all state suitable as small animal bedding on the packaging. Some of the supermarket own brands say paper based, but they aren't 100% paper or even close – 'paper based' just means it came from a paper based source and as you can see by Tescos statement about their own product below, it’s not actually paper!! I have been following this up and collecting data after a couple of people have had similar symptoms appear in their rats which at the time were being bedded on either a mineral based cat litter or cheap supermarket brand 'paper' based cat litter. The symptoms are as per pituitary tumour/stroke/ear infection – head tilt, listless, unable to hold food properly, loss of balance and in 5 cases the rats have died. (2 people with 2 rats and 1 with 1 rat) - other rats at the same premises were affected but the litter was changed quickly enough and they recovered with treatment - it seems too much of a coincidence for all these rats to have these symptoms while being bedded on heavy chemical based litters so risking these other cat litters is not a good idea. Below are statements received from Tesco regarding their own brand cat litters:

From Tesco:
Tesco paper based cat litter is produced from residual solids recovered from paper mills. It consists of approximately 30% cellulose and 70% minerals (clay, chalk).

Also from Tesco:
Tesco Lightweight Cat Litter is produced from a mineral called moler. This is a natural mixture of clay and diatomaceous earth. The process involves heating the natural clay in a furnace to produce the light, porous product with the high absorbency which makes this ideal for cat litter. The odour controller used in Tesco Lightweight Cat Litter is a fragrance composition which is a multicomponent mixture of natural and synthetic fragrance ingredients. Based on the identity and concentration of the individual ingredients and considering the toxicological, dermatological and allergological data, it has been concluded that this fragrance compound is suitable for the intended application under normal use conditions.

'Thomas' cat litter and an Asda own brand one are also implicated in this – neither are paper and neither state they are recommended for use with small animals. After getting this information, I took a wander round the supermarkets and none apart from the Bob Martins and Biocatolet are 100% paper!! I am suspicious that there are chemicals or something else in these other cat litters which are poisoning the rats. I only have the data I have collected, but to me, it gives enough reason never to use anything other than Biocatolet, Yesterdays News or Bob Martin if the choice is to use cat litter for rats bedding. If anyone has anything more to add to this, I would love to hear it as evidence either way.

Also be wary of the pine and wood based cat litters as these will almost certainly be pine based and contain harmful phenols, which is often the reason people feel the need to move away from shavings. Remember that the cat passes by the litter whereas the rat lives on the litter!

Other alternatives:

Information on alternative and more suitable bedding for rats is available here.

Article written by Estelle

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Last modified: February 08, 2017