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Discussion Starter #1
I have a critter nation that i buy the fleece pan covers for on amazon. That worked out great for the first couple months when tbey were really young but now they are chewing giant holes in all the corners of the fleece...which has made them not reusable anymore. Does anyone have ideas of how to stop them from doing that or ideas of something else to use for the bottom pan aside from paper bedding or fleece? I just would hate to have to spend the money to buy yards of fleece and throw them away every time because that gets kind of pricey.
 

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I had issues with this when my rats were younger, I have an older boy who REALLY likes to be squished under fabric so he'd chew his way under all the time and also absolutely demolish whatever I was using to catch the urine underneath.

First, I make my own liners, which is a LOT cheaper and very quick. If you have a WalMart nearby they usually have thin fleece blankets for $2 or so. I make mine in the style of pillowcases so they can be reversed if one side gets damaged, this helps extend the life of them a bit. One blanket can make one pillowcase style liner for the bottom, or two pillowcase liners for the shelves; the scraps make excellent nesting material or you can make a dig box out of them. If you don't have a sewing machine you can just cut it a bit larger than size and clip it down, but I like the way the pillowcase liners look!

You have a couple options then with the bottom pan: What I'd try first is get a bunch of large binder clips and clip the corners down. Two per corner, one on each side. Take the bottom metal bit off so the pan can lay flat, but leave the top one on and you can cross them over each other to make a little barrier. It doesn't guarantee they won't chew the liner, but it often makes it more trouble than it's worth.
If they're STILL chewing the corners at this point, which mine did somewhat, here's what I did: Take one of the old chewed up liners and slip it on over the first one but don't clip it down. That way they can play underneath something snug, which might be what they want.

One other thing you can try is to put heavy things on the corners! I have a litter box in one corner, then in the others I had their food and water bowls, which are heavy ceramic dishes. You could also put down heavy ceramic tiles, which the rats will probably enjoy lounging on.

So barring all of that, if they're still destroying it or you'd rather just not run trial an error on fleece (who can blame you, honestly) you could put a trimmed concrete mixing tub in the bottom of the cage and fill that with paper bedding. It does take up a good bit of room, and I personally don't like how it looks, but that's a thought for you! Home Depot has one that's just about the perfect size, you'll just need to trim the edges of it a little to fit it in, or you can take out the bottom wire rack of the cage, and drop the mixing tub in, but that depends on how comfortable you are having a plastic wall to the cage!
 

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Discussion Starter #3
I will try the clips and see if that discourages it. Maybe it will cuz the fleece woukd be tight to the pan instead of more loose like it is now.
 

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I had zero luck with any type of fleece liner that wrapped around the pans. My boys would always try to "untuck" them and when they found they couldn't, they'd chew the crap out of them. If I tried to hold the liners in place with binder clips, they'd chew the fleece around the clips first.

I had much better luck with fleece/absorbent layer "mats" that were just set on the floor of the pans. The Ratropolis blog has instructions with dimensions for Critter Nation liners. Personally, I didn't even use binder clips to hold the mats down. I just set them loose on the pans. My boys would sometimes flip the corners over and sleep under them but it was no big deal. The nicest thing about not clipping them down was that they were really quick to swap out every few days as they started to get smelly. My boys didn't completely stop being terrible fabric chewers but it decreased a lot with the mat-style liners. For purchasing fleece, go cheap. JoAnn fabric has a "remnant bin" of cut-offs from the ends of the bolts. They're usually a yard or less but they're 50% of the current price. If fleece is already discounted, it's half off of the discounted price. You can also find cheap fleece throws at stores like Dollar Tree, Ikea, and Walmart. For liners, you want urine to wick easily so the cheaper and thinner the fleece, the better!

As for fleece alternatives, there are definitely real benefits to using a loose substrate bedding (like wood shavings or paper based bedding) instead of fleece. Fleece, even with an absorbent layer, is garbage for controlling odors and fabric liners need to be changed 10 times as often as a loose substrate. Fleece also doesn't facilitate natural behaviors like digging and foraging.

The shallow CN pans aren't deep enough to hold a loose substrate but there are options if you want to go that route. Bass Equipment sells metal pans for Critter Nations. You can also make your own diy pans of of something like coroplast. The Home Depot mixing tub (mentioned above) can also be used to hold a deep layer of a loose substrate. You can remove the floor grate and slide the mixing tub down into the frame of the CN (the lip may need to be trimmed slightly). While this will take up most of the under-cage-storage-space, you'll actually increase the internal dimensions of the enclosure.

 

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Thank you for finding the picture of what I was talking about with the tub Corbin! I'm also glad you can talk more to the benefits of loose bedding, I personally really don't like it, I kept hamsters before I had the rats and cage cleaning was a nightmare to me but I do agree it's actually really good otherwise.

With the fabric liners: I have noticed that if they're not flush against the pan or the absorbent layer is crinkled the rats lose their minds about it, someone on the forum described it as they don't really like weird or irregular surfaces so they chew to "fix" it.
 

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Yeah the crittern nation pan is not flat, it dips in about a couple centimeters or something so when u put the liner around it the fleece is not tight to the pan. I could see that being very enticing to try to get underneath. Im thinking the clipping method instead of doing it like a pillowcase might be better. I am going to experiment a little with that before switching to loose bedding. I just have never cared for it and my rats are very well litter trained so i dont want them to start pooping willy nilly in loose bedding.
 

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Also the mat style but with fleece like you said corbin, how do i fo that? Do you have something under the fleece that is more stiff so it can just lay on the pan? Cuz i thought about using a bathmat of some sort to just set in there and wash often.
 

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I think I meant to say I also have a CN but I may have forgotten!! So yeah I know exaaaactly what you mean about the pans and I think that's 100% it, that it makes them want to dig into it. Making sure your absorption layer is a little thicker can help on that bottom pan especially, combined with the clips, I think!

If you did have to end up going the loose bedding route you'd probably want to have two different kinds of paper bedding, one specifically for the litter box and one for them to play in.

Unfortunately I don't know anything about the mat style liners, so I'll leave that up to Corbin!
 
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