Rat bedding doesn’t cost very much, but making your own would save a few dollars over the course of a year. People keen on the green lifestyle might also appreciate the recycling opportunity, and you can compost the soiled bedding later, basically recycling twice.
The simplest rat bedding is just plain cardboard. Old cartons, egg boxes and the tubes from toilet paper are all perfect. Tear the cardboard into one or two-inch diameter pieces and store in a plastic bag until needed. One shopping bag full of cardboard pieces is sufficient for one rat cage.
Paper, the softer, the better, torn into thin strips also makes a suitable rat bedding. Do this by hand, tearing along the grain -- i.e., in the direction in which the paper tears most easily -- or with a shredder. Preferably, use paper without ink. Used envelopes minus the plastic windows and gummed strips will do, and you can just add any paper to the cardboard pieces if you don’t have much.
To line their nests, rats like a softer material. The best stuff for this purpose is not the packets of cotton wool-type material sold in pet stores, which can be a tangling hazard. In this case, homemade is vastly preferable, and you probably have plenty of appropriate supplies already. Plain white toilet or kitchen paper torn into thin strips forms a comfortable, safe nesting material. Never use colored or fragranced paper, which may be dangerous to rats.
Avoid using printed or colored paper or cardboard. The inks can stain rat fur and might be toxic, or at least cause an upset stomach, if ingested. The same goes for shiny, coated paper, which also happens to be completely useless as bedding because it is not absorbent. Opinions vary on newspaper, with some rat owners regularly using it to line cages and others wary of the ink. If you do decide to use newspaper, it is probably best used as a liner, with a thick layer of another bedding on top.
Judith Willson has been writing since 2009, specializing in environmental and scientific topics. She has written content for school websites and worked for a Glasgow newspaper. Willson has a Master of Arts in English from the University of Aberdeen, Scotland.