Bedding and Substrate
What is widely considered suitable bedding for rats has changed a lot in the time i have been keeping rats. There is a lot of conflicting information on the Internet. Especially differences between UK and American husbandry.
I have included a few different options that i would personally use myself.
I feel it is important that rats have a cage where they can exhibit natural foraging behaviour. I would always advise using a loose natural bedding made from hemp, pine shavings or cardboard.
Dust extracted pine shavings.
Bedmax, Thoroughbred shavings etc.
Bedmax and similar are primarily designed as a horse bedding but has become popular in recent years with small animal owners.
It is large pieces of wood that come tightly packed but expend to make a good bedding. I find due to its large pieces its less dusty and messy compared to traditional bedding. I personally use this as i find it has great smell control, easily available and reasonably priced.
You can pick this up at equestrian retailers, amazon and rat rations.
Littlemax is the same as Bedmax but in finer pieces. This makes it easier for rats to forage and i think is more ascetically pleasing.
It is less common to get hold off but rat rations do sell this as well.
chopped hemp bedding's such as Aubiose are also a popular option with rat owners. Again this is sold as a horse bedding and can be found online and in equestrian retailers. its smaller light peaces are great for foraging however it is light and can become quite messy. This bedding is also good form smell reduction.
Biocatolet, Back to nature, Paperlit.
This is an expensive option if you were looking to use this type of bedding for a whole cage. Its not very soft either so i wouldn't recommend doing this. However, this type of bedding is brilliant for litter trays or the corners of the cage where rats like to use for the toilet. it doesn't compact making it easier to change regularly. it had good absorbency and smell reduction as well. Its cheapest to buy as a cat litter but its sold commonly as back to nature for small animals as well. you can buy this at pets at home.
Recycled cardboard bedding
Finacard, Green Mile, Walmsley premier bed.
This can be a good cheap option especially if your not keen on using wood based bedding's. Its easily available online websites like finacard do packs with there paperlit bedding. I have experimented with paper bedding's over the years and i don't find the smell reduction the best however there are different opinions out there. It is probably the most eco friendly option and if i had the storage space i would do a mix of this and a pine bedding. the shredded variety is also nice and soft and rats like to nest with it.