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I am paranoid about preventing respiratory illness in my younger rats since I have one dying of it right now. Would it be smart to just have the naked plastic critter nation tray bottom and just use fleece in their sleeping areas?

They are fleece shredders. They have my fleece liners literally destroyed within 12 hours of it going in the cage.
 

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I keep cardboard underneath the fleece, a big piece that they can't move around. I just cut a new square of cardboard every time I clean the cage. Or maybe some Lino tiles?
 

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The plastic of those CN/FN cage shelves is probably more likely to cause issues since it has a bad habit of absorbing urine and odors. You can put tile or linoleum down as erin suggested, or you can buy a plastic concrete mixing tub which won't absorb the urine. However, with a bare plastic/tile surface, you'll need to be constantly wiping up urine.
 

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If you do go with a bare plastic bottom then you will need to check the corners of the cage a few times a day for pee puddles.. a rat that has sat in a fresh pee puddle looks and smells awful but it can be done with care.
 
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