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Dangerous Litters and Bedding – Pine, Cedar and More…

There are so many litters on the market which are focused on animals of all shapes and sizes that it is hard to work out what is good and what isn’t. Unfortunately many pet shops are in the business to make money and spend as little as possibly on housing, food and bedding for their animals as it eats into their gross profit margins. Because of this many animals are housed in environments which can prove to be less than adequate, using products that have been proven to cause medical issues or sometimes even death due to the side effects. The litter (or sometimes called bedding ) that small animals are normally housed on is either pine or cedar shavings for example, which in turn the customer is told is safe and the customer buys this product because of what they have been told and because it is a relatively cheap product to go with their relatively cheap pet. We are here to tell you that some things that you are being told about litters and bedding WILL actually cost you so much more in the long run, more because of having to seek profession advise due to severe respiratory distress or worse. Please have a read below of some of the products that we have found on the market which should NEVER be used for rodents.


There has been some studies done on the effects of Pine and Cedar shavings on small animals, the reports are shocking to say the least. We know that many of the pet shops recommend this bedding as the first choice but we are here to tell you that you should avoid it at all costs as there is strong scientific evidence that pine and cedar shavings are harmful to the health of rodents (Rats, Mice etc). Both of these woods are what are called soft woods, the shavings give off aromatic hydrocarbons (phenols) and acids that are toxic. The phenols are what gives the shaving the scent that we all think is a good thing as it smells good but it is all bad for these small animals. The phenols that are in Cedar have the ability to repel fleas and moths while pine oil is used in some disinfectants. When animals are exposed to the softwood shavings the phenols are absorbed through the respiratory tracts and enter the animals blood. The acids that pine and cedar produce are very damaging to the respiratory tract of small animals. The acids can also destroy the cells that line the lungs and trachea causing breathing issues. The risk to small animals is intensified due to their high risk of respiratory illness due the Mycoplasmosis bacteria that occurs naturally. Many owners that have previously used pine or cedar for bedding and have changed to one of the preferred litters (see litter) have reported that they have seen an improvement in the health of their small animals since changing to a safer litter. If the pine or cedar shavings have been heat treated or soaked in a solvent it does help reduce some of the phenols present however the effects may not be as great, but do still occur. It is our recommendation to stay away from Pine and Cedar no matter how safe someone tells you it is.


Clay based litter (clumping) -

Although clay litter is not commonly sold as a litter for small animals it is one we felt should be mentioned as it can cause dangers to small animals as well as larger animals. Clay based litters are generally dust and can cause respiratory illness in small animals as they tend to be sensitive to dust and small particles. If the dust enters the lungs this can cause a serious problem to your small animal that may end up leading to constant irritation in the nose, eyes and lungs. As well as the dust, clay litters can cause blockages in the small animals’ body if it is ingested. Clay litters have a clumping ability and should not be ingested but some rats love to try to eat everything so this hazard alone means the clay litter is not a safe option.


Wood Pelleted Litters -

There is a new litter that has entered the market place which claims to be safe for all animals but is mainly focused on the small animal industry. Of the wood pelleted litters available we have yet to find one that lives up to its claims. One of the products that we researched thoroughly claimed to develop a process for converting wood waste from plantation timber (ie Pine) into a wood pellet for use as a professional quality pet litter and bedding. The process takes raw wood shavings and sawdust and places it under extreme heat and pressure while processing it into a pellet. This technique is suppose to extract MOST of the resins, oils, tars, acids and water from the wood fibre. The remaining organic material gives the wood pellets natural odour control properties. Although we do not doubt that these products are sterile due to the processing we are still very concerned about the, all be it small, amount of resins, oils, tars and acids remaining in the pellet and how this could affect our small animals respiratory tracts.

The most concerning thing we found out about this product was what was on the MSDS (Material Safety Data Sheet) :

We would NOT ever use this product as we feel the risk of testing it is too high. +



CareFRESH is another product that we have trialed over the years. It is a very light product made with cellulose fibres and was suitable also for bedding material. Our rats preferred to sleep on the CareFRESH as it is nice and soft and they can really cuddle down.


Carefresh is no longer a recommended SAFE product as we have become aware that the product now contains Bi-Carb (Baking Soda) which is used for odour reduction, however, it is poisonous to rats if ingested and is used commonly in home made rat baits.


Please consider using one of the litters that we recommend on our Safe Litters & Bedding page.