When and how to Clean your Rodent's Cage
to make it Happy
Best Bedding for Rodents
Bedding for small rodents needs to be coarser than sawdust
but less coarse than wood shavings. For larger rodents,
shavings of woods other than cedar or pine will work, as
will shredded hay or straw, or a commercial preparation.
Fine beddings such as sawdust for rodents can cause nose and
eye allergies or irritation both in the animals and in you
or your family members. Pet supply shops and some feed
stores usually carry a wide variety of sterile commercial
animal beddings, and they are your best bet, as you won't
have to worry about insects or other issues.
Most rodents will also enjoy smaller pieces of newspaper
(Check that your newspaper uses the new "green" nontoxic
inks before giving newsprint to your pets.), paper towels
and toilet paper, pieces of sponge, cardboard, small pieces
of cloth such as old tee-shirt or towel material and the
like. We don't recommend shredded office paper as a bedding
as it is not very absorbent and can actually give even your
pets paper cuts. If you choose to use wood shavings for your
larger rodents, make sure they are not cedar or pine (aspen
is recommended), are dust free and haven't been treated with
Good rodent bedding should not only absorb feces and urine
well, but preferably be comfortable for the animals, provide
warm insulation for the nests, and give them environmental
enrichment by allowing them to do the things that come
natural to them such as burrowing, digging, and gnawing.
A study by the Department of Zoology, University of Oxford
in the United Kingdom and the University of Guelph, Ontario,
Canada determined that the most absorbent and so the best
beddings for rodents were, in order of value, shredded
corncobs, then the commercial shredded paper beddings such
as Alpha-Dri™ and Omega-Dri™), or reclaimed wood pulp (Tek-
Absorbency is such an issue for pet beddings because
dampness leads to bacterial growth, and excessive ammonia
can cause damage to an animal's respiratory system and eyes.
It can also cause skin damage if the animals are too long in
contact with bedding damp from urine.
So, any and all bedding must be kept dry to prevent disease
and injury to your rodent pets. One to several times per
week, depending on how many animals you have and how large
the rodent cage is, change at least the dirtiest parts of
the old bedding for fresh. Try to avoid disturbing and
especially handling any nests of babies when you do this, as
mother rodents will sometimes kill and eat their babies if
they smell different when she returns to the nest.
Cleaning and Disinfecting Rodent Cages
Rodents need a cage large enough to allow for exercise and
environmental enrichment, as well as to provide some
territorial space and hiding places for individual members
or mated pairs of a rodent colony. The cage should be well
ventilated but with no holes small enough for the smallest
rodent to fit its head through.
At least every two months the animals should be moved to
another cage and their main cage should be washed well with
dish detergent or some similar nontoxic cleaner, and then
disinfected with a solution of ten percent bleach to water.
Rinse the cage well with clean water and try to sun dry it
for at least thirty minutes before setting the cage back up.
This procedure will go a long way toward preventing illness
and infection in your pet rodents.