Best Bedding for Rats: Top Bedding Types for Comfort

by Joshua Paulson

Best Bedding for Rats Top Recommendations for Comfort


When your pet rat has suitable bedding, it will feel comfortable. That much is obvious. What may not be as obvious is the role proper bedding plays in the rat's overall well-being. It affects their sleep, controls unpleasant odors in their cage, and even impacts their respiratory health.

There's a plethora of rodent bedding options, some more rat-friendly than others. This guide will take a detailed look at many bedding types, their pros and cons, and some other helpful tidbits of information.

Why Is Choosing the Right Bedding Important?

The most important consideration is the comfort level. Feeling comfy will help your pet rat sleep, relax, and generally feel good in their cage. Bedding materials like wood shavings, paper, or shredded cardboard can give the cage more warmth and insulation.

Furthermore, your pet rat will make messes in their cage now and then, so their bedding must be absorbent enough to prevent standing water and the accumulation of germs. Dry and clean bedding will also prevent possible foot problems and injuries due to dampness.

Some bedding types are better than others at controlling odor. This is worth remembering. Neither you nor your pet will enjoy a smelly, dirty cage environment. Materials that are good at keeping odors at bay help the cage stay clean for longer.

Pros and Cons of Different Types of Rat Bedding

Bedding Type Pros Cons
Paper-Based Bedding High absorbency, good odor control, low dust Potential downsides are minimal but may include cost
Wood Shavings Natural scent, good absorbency Some types (e.g., cedar) can be harmful due to aromatic oils
Cloth/Fabric Reusable, soft and comfortable Lack of absorbency, needs regular cleaning
Pellet Bedding High absorbency, low dust Hardness may be uncomfortable for rats
Pine Shavings Natural scent, good absorbency May contain aromatic oils that are harmful
Corn Cob Bedding Biodegradable, good odor control Can mold when wet, potential choking hazard
Paper Bedding Soft, absorbent, biodegradable May require frequent changes, can be costly
Cat Litter High absorbency, good odor control Some types may be dusty or contain harmful additives
Hemp Bedding Low dust, biodegradable, good absorbency Can be expensive, availability may be limited

Common Types of Rat Bedding

Since bedding serves several purposes in your furry pal's life, you'll want to familiarize yourself with the different types of bedding to find a product that works best for both of you.

This section will overview the most common types of rat bedding, including paper-based bedding, wood shavings, cloth or fabric, pellet bedding, pine shavings, corn cob bedding, paper bedding, cat litter, and hemp bedding.

Rat looking through cage

Paper-Based Bedding

Paper bedding is a type of animal bedding that uses mostly shredded paper, such as recycled newspapers, recycled paper litter, and wood pulp. Surprisingly absorbent, it traps moisture from urine and other liquid spills, so there won't be any dampness or foul smells.

Also, due to its fibrous composition, paper bedding produces little dust compared to other bedding types.

However, paper bedding can sometimes be pricier compared to other options, as it may need to be changed more often. Paper bedding likewise becomes clumpy when wet, which makes it difficult to clean.

Wood Shavings

There are a few types of wood shaving bedding, like pine, aspen, or cedar. Pine has a pleasant, natural scent that purifies bad smells and also acts as an excellent absorbent material for your pet's cage. Aspen is another popular type of rat bedding since it's both soft and dust-free. However, you should avoid cedar shavings for rats due to their aromatic oils that can cause skin irritation in rats.


You can also use fabric and cloth as a rat cage bedding. This can be a fairly eco-friendly bedding since it can be made from old clothes such as upcycled t-shirts or towels. It can also comprise more luxurious natural materials like fleece. Repurposing fabric is an amazing way to make sure nothing goes to waste. At the same time, your pet will be provided with comfort and warmth, and you get an economical bedding material that's machine washable, so you can reuse it several times.

However, fabric bedding isn't as absorbent as cotton or bamboo, and the fabric still wears out and can get stained. Still, if you want something you don't need to throw away often, it's certainly convenient.

Pellet Bedding

Pellet bedding comprises highly absorbent materials that can soak up to three times their own weight in moisture. These pellets produce minimal dust, which means that if your furry friend is sensitive or suffers from respiratory issues, their lungs will be unaffected. One downside, though, is that the pellets can sometimes be quite hard and uncomfortable for your pet rats to sleep on. This means that they may also be a little bit rough on their feet.

Pine Shavings

One particular type of wood shaving is effective for rat bedding - pine shavings. This option has a pleasant smell and is reasonably absorbent. It can be comfortable for your pet and keep their cage looking and smelling nice.

The caveat is that untreated pine shavings may contain volatile compounds that can be damaging to the pet's respiratory system – so be sure to inquire about the origin of the product before making a purchase.

Interestingly, scientists have found that certain chemicals in pine shavings affect rats' biochemistry, so they don't advise using them in laboratory settings.

Rat on cage with wood shavings

Corn Cob Bedding

Corn cob is another interesting bedding choice for small, exotic pets. Renewable and biodegradable, it controls odors better than many other types of bedding. But there are also things to watch out for if the bedding gets wet. It can mold, and a curious pet could swallow pieces of the bedding.

Another interesting fact scientists discovered is that corn cob can affect estrogen levels in rats, which means it may be beneficial or detrimental to a rat's hormones, depending on the rat and its circumstances.

Paper Bedding

Paper bedding is one of the more popular options, excellent for pet comfort and absorbency. This type of bedding is soft on the feet and can quickly take in liquids. Paper doesn't produce much dust, so your pet won't suffer respiratory issues. Better still, research suggests that it's among the healthiest bedding types in general. It's also earth-friendly since it's biodegradable and easy to dispose of, unlike some other materials that take more effort for disposal.

Of course, this kind of bedding needs changing more often than others, as it doesn't last as long and isn't particularly reusable. There might also be a slightly steeper upfront cost compared to some alternatives, but the benefits can certainly be worth it.

Cat Litter

When it comes to bedding options for rats, cat litter is a viable option. On the plus side, it has high absorbency and odor control qualities that can be beneficial. However, there are also certain drawbacks to consider: The dust might irritate the rat's respiratory system and the additives in the cat litter could be potentially harmful.

Cat litter may not be your first thought when considering bedding for your pet rat, but it's both accessible and convenient. If you have both cats and rats, it could be a good money-saver. On the plus side, it has high absorbency and odor control qualities that will keep the rat cage clean.

However, there are also certain drawbacks to consider: It's possible that the dust irritates the rat's respiratory system or that some of the additives in the cat litter could be potentially harmful.

Hemp Bedding

Hemp bedding is a natural and fairly eco-friendly small pet bedding option. Remarkably absorbent, it's biodegradable and produces significantly less dust than some other materials. Moreover, it's an excellent insulator, so your pet is likely to be more comfortable in cold climates while using hemp bedding.

On the other hand, the cost of hemp bedding can be high, and it's not the most common material, so you might have some trouble finding it. But if you can get it, it provides great sustainable bedding for your furry friend.

Organic vs. Non-Organic Materials Safety Considerations for Rat Owners

There's no denying that organic is "in fashion." And there are good reasons why. Regarding rat bedding, the prime factor when choosing between organic and non-organic is safety. Many organic materials are free from pesticides and synthetic materials that could irritate your pet's skin or cause respiratory issues. Some non-organic materials may contain these chemicals, which could pose health risks.

But it's worth noting that "organic" doesn't always mean "safe" or ideal. In truth, some organic materials may still cause allergies and other issues. Natural ingredients, such as essential oils or acids, could harm your pet. For that reason, always check that the product is rat-safe.

Factors to Consider When Choosing Bedding

Different rats may need different bedding types due to size, breed, or health disparities. Hence, there's no one-size-fits-all solution. The list below will give you an idea of the factors you should keep in mind.


Your pet's cage needs absorbent bedding or substrate. The better the absorbency, the more it can wick away moisture and keep the bottom of the cage dry. Consequently, it will prevent odor buildup and the need to clean up frequently. Aside from giving the pet a pleasant environment, this gives owners less work to worry about.

Odor Control

Odor control means that the cage's inhabitants have a fresh environment to live in, but it also prevents foul smells from taking over your home. Certain bedding materials fare better at controlling smells than others. In particular, materials such as wood shavings, paper, and hemp bedding are all great at neutralizing or masking odors.

Dust and Respiratory Concerns

The fragility of a rat's lungs should be considered when selecting bedding material. Dust particles can cause serious respiratory problems for rats, so it is best to look for low-dust products that won't aggravate their respiratory system. Some rats are more sensitive than others, so if your pet has sensitive lungs, that should be your first priority.


Rats, like other animals, should be physically comfortable to stay happy and healthy. Finding the right bedding for them can make a big difference. Soft materials like fleece, towels, or blankets make for a cushiony layer under their feet and keep them warm on cold nights. Avoid bedding that's too rough or coarse, as it can be uncomfortable and leave scratches on your rat's body.

Environmental Impact

Some bedding, such as hemp and corn cob, is biodegradable or recyclable, which means it's more sustainable for those mindful of their carbon footprint. Non-recyclable materials add up to waste, so they're not ideal. Furthermore, many synthetic materials in bedding can emit pollutants during production. While not as immediately obvious as health and comfort, the eco-friendliness of your pet's substrate is still something to keep in mind.

Rat on a cage wire

Tips for Maintaining a Clean and Comfortable Rat Habitat

Whatever bedding you use, your pet's cage must be clean for them to stay healthy. Depending on the bedding, it may be necessary to change it as often as every few days or stretch out to weekly cleans.

Some tips to keep your pet's home clean and free from bacteria include using absorbent materials like paper-based bedding, keeping it clean at all times, and removing damp bedding or bedding that shows signs of mold or odd smells or colors. For heavily soiled areas, it's best to spot-clean them right away.

Make the Right Choice for Your Furry Friend

As you've seen, your choice of bedding impacts your pet's health, comfort, and well-being considerably. Then there's the environmental impact of bedding, that's also worth keeping in mind. Hence, you need a reputable pet store that can give you all the rat supplies your rat cage needs. Quality Cage is the store for you, with a great deal of products that will make your pet rat happy, from cages to rat food to toys and everything in between for top rat care.


What type of bedding is best for rats?

The best type of bedding for rats is absorbent, controls odor, and is low on dust. Paper bedding and hemp bedding are two good examples of these qualities.

What do you put at the bottom of a rat cage?

You should put substrate (bedding) at the bottom of your pet rat's cage, but you should be mindful of what type you choose.

What is the best dust-free bedding for rats?

Paper, pellet, and hemp bedding varieties are some examples of low-dust or dust-free bedding.

What is the best thing to put in a rat cage?

The best thing to put in a rat cage is a combination of comfortable bedding, fun toys, and clean food and water.


Have Questions About Rat Cage Beddings?

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Author: Joshua Paulson and Quality Cage Team
Josh is the owner and CEO at Quality Cage Crafters since 2015. During his time at Quality Cage Crafters, he has been able to learn from tens of thousands of pet owners and pet educators. He blends his ambition for manufacturing and passion for animal care to create solutions for pet owners, breeders, animal rescues, and zoos. He has brought together a team of great animal lovers to create high-quality pet care content for the Quality Cage Crafters audience.

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