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Hi there - my first forum post :) I'm here in Cape Town, South Africa, and about to adopt my first two baby rats from a rescue organisation. I've read up a lot about how to set up a suitable cage and what litter and bedding to use. But partly because of where I live, and partly because of lockdown restrictions, it's very difficult to get most of the things that get recommended on USA or UK sites.

The only cage I could get has a wire bottom and a plastic tray below the wire, and wire shelves.

The only bedding / litter I can find in the petshops is pine, which I know I should not use. Also, corn cob, which seems to be problematic too? None of the things that are recommended in the sticky thread on bedding and litter is available here. So I'm thinking of using a combination of fleece, towels, and shredded paper and cardboard.
Would it be a crazy idea to make a sort of pillow of fleece, fill it with non-dusty cat litter and put it in the tray below the wire floor? I'm hoping that way the rats won't have access to the litter (inside fleece pillow, and under wire floor) and any pee that drips through will be absorbed better than if it's just toweling or paper absorbing the pee?

Any other advice much appreciated. I'm still struggling to get my head around how all of this bedding / litter stuff works.
 

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Hello there Klip! I'm in USA so I cannot give you advice from a South African perspective but as for your suggestions I think it'd be a great idea to use left over fleece, newspaper, etc. etc. Non dusty cat litter should also be fine for rats since I know a lot of owners use it to litter train their own rats. The bedding I use could probably be homemade if you really wanted to. It's just made of newspaper of some sort, there's quite a few resources online on how to DIY make rat bedding.

When I couldn't go out and buy any bedding I did the same. As for food to eat, I give my boys fresh vegetables such as green beans, carrots, lettuce and kale. Dried corn or corn on the cob should be okay as a treat every now and then just make sure there's no butter/seasoning on it obviously. You can also make a blend of seeds/some nuts (just make sure they aren't too fatty and not in abundance) and something like dog food. Some bird seed blends and other rodent food can work as well. I also know you can make home made treats and so on. Oh, and mealworms are good treats if you have access to those.

Pine isn't good for them but I don't know about other wood based beddings. Other wood based beddings would be okay in moderation (?) just keep a close eye on so they aren't chewing it or digesting. I think I heard somewhere you can soak wood beddings ?? And it'll make it so in case they do digest it it will be digested easily. Cover any wiring with fabric especially the wire shelves.

Put wood or sticks, branches in the cage to encourage healthy gnawing and chewing instincts. Other chew toys or things to gnaw at will keep them from eating the bedding if you do use wood based. Keep in mind the sticks must be all natural! Another tip, herbs are great. We use mint, parsley, chickweed, and more. This will keep them nice and healthy.

Good luck! <3
 

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You'll want to either remove the wire grated floor or cover it completely. Wire flooring isn't appropriate for rats.

If pine has been kiln-dried or heat treated, it's probably just fine. If it has not been heat treated, it will have a very strong pine wood smell and should not be used. In the US, our pine options are all kiln-dried but I couldn't make any assumptions about a different country. Corn cob bedding could be a suitable option as well as a hemp auboise substrate or something like Carefresh. You may be able to find newspaper pellet litter or wood pellet litter.

Avoid anything scented. I wouldn't use any sort of clay/clumping/silica cat litter.

Fabric liners are an option. Fabric is not good at controlling odors/ammonia so fleece liners would require much more regular maintenance. I make [fleece mats] with an absorbent inner layer for the platforms in my boys' cage and they need to be swapped out every few days.
 

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You'll want to either remove the wire grated floor or cover it completely. Wire flooring isn't appropriate for rats.

If pine has been kiln-dried or heat treated, it's probably just fine. If it has not been heat treated, it will have a very strong pine wood smell and should not be used. In the US, our pine options are all kiln-dried but I couldn't make any assumptions about a different country. Corn cob bedding could be a suitable option as well as a hemp auboise substrate or something like Carefresh. You may be able to find newspaper pellet litter or wood pellet litter.

Avoid anything scented. I wouldn't use any sort of clay/clumping/silica cat litter.

Fabric liners are an option. Fabric is not good at controlling odors/ammonia so fleece liners would require much more regular maintenance. I make [fleece mats] with an absorbent inner layer for the platforms in my boys' cage and they need to be swapped out every few days.
The pine bedding definitely has a very strong pine smell, so it's not an option. And I don't have access to Carefresh, hemp, or any of the other things you mention, CorbinDallasMyMan. The only other thing I've seen in the petshop is the corncob. Maybe I could use that in the litter tray, and use fleece / paper / cardboard elsewhere in the cage. I'd like to have a different kind of litter in the litter tray than elsewhere, so it's more likely they use the litter tray for its intended purpose.

I'm thinking of lining pieces of fleece with old towels for absorption, and clipping those over all the wire flooring bits.

Any advice on how to wash the fleece bits most efficiently? I know not to use fabric softner or scented products. And vinegar seems like a good plan. But exactly how do you do it? Soak the bits first? Handwash? Machine wash? Separate from your other laundry?
 

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Any advice on how to wash the fleece bits most efficiently?
I shake off fleece mats outside then machine wash them with a fragrance free detergent and vinegar.

I would not suggest using cut up fleece "bits" like a loose substrate. If you want to use fleece, it would be easiest if you used solid pieces that covered the entire floor in one solid sheet.
 

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I shake off fleece mats outside then machine wash them with a fragrance free detergent and vinegar.

I would not suggest using cut up fleece "bits" like a loose substrate. If you want to use fleece, it would be easiest if you used solid pieces that covered the entire floor in one solid sheet.
This is how I do it too, white vinegar is a godsend for all rat cleaning, and you can get 10 litres of it for an ok price online.
I dont know what delivery to Cape Town is like though!

Are there local vets that treat pet rats in the area? There's lots to consider :)
 

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Discussion Starter #9
I do have a vet that treats rats, thankfully. Thanks for the vinegar tip.
 
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