Substrates and Bedding, what works best for mice?
With so many diﬀerent options on the pet market when it comes to suitable substrates and beddings, are we sure that all the options available to use are safe for mice? Well this piece will cover some of the options that we suggest to new owners who aren’t sure!
Mice naturally are inquisitive and adventurous creatures that would burrow in the wild, this helps to shelter them from the elements, predators and also keeps their claws short. With this in mind, mice should have a deep substrate in their enclosure to allow for this natural behaviour. There’s also the option to not use a single substrate type, using multiple products allows you to utilise the aspects of each product.
Another issue that needs to be taken into consideration is that mice have sensitive respiratory systems and can suﬀer from infections from high levels of dust or ammonia, and diﬀerent products can eﬀect mice in ways that they may not other species that they are aimed at on the market.
Aubiose - this is a hemp based horse bedding that is used at Burford Mousery, available in most farm feed stores it is unfortunately only available in 20kg bales, however, rodent based web shops may sell by the kilogram such a Rat Rations. If you have the space to store such a big bale, this isn’t a problem! Aubiose is good at wicking liquids away from the surface ensuring that your mice stay nice and dry, however due to a slightly harder feel and smaller shredded pieces, aubiose doesn’t maintain good tunnelling structure well as it’s own substrate.
Wood Shavings - there are many diﬀerent brands of wood shavings on the market available to pet owners, options often used by breeders being Snowﬂake and Bedmax, larger shavings are more suitable for mice to avoid additional dust and reduce the risk of eye injuries. Larger shavings also allow for better tunnelling systems and allow your mice to express natural behaviours. The positive of wood shavings is that they are readily available in various diﬀerent sizes and many retail stores stock this option.
Paper beddings - the main substrates on the market in this category are carefresh and Kaytee clean & cosy. These are highly absorbing, insulating that hold their structure excellently for tunnel systems. Paper based beddings are often compacted, so what looks like a small amount actually puﬀs up dramatically once removed from its packaging and also comes in bright colours using pet safe dyes. The issues surrounding such paper based beddings is that due to their ﬂuﬀy nature, can have high levels of dust that can vary between batches, they also have no natural smell to them and so ammonia can easily be noticed, this issue can be rectiﬁed by regular spot cleans between full cage cleans.
Newspaper and shredded paper - although this may seem like a cheap option to use as a substrate for mice, we do not reccomend it. Ink transfer from old newspaper could cause irritation to your mice as well as stain their fur. Using unprocessed newspaper and shredded paper is not as efficiant in absorbing liquids and will lead to soggy enclosures with high levels of ammonia, unless you are willing to clean out a cage potentially up to twice a day to keep the issue down!
Pellets - pellets can be useful for litter trays and for a base layers in a mixed substrate setup due to their eﬃciency in absorbing liquids and containing their smells. It is vital for mice that these pellets are made up of a paper base rather than wood or clay as seen in some cat litter products. The main brand for paper based pellets is “Back 2 Nature”, compact paper pellets like these have minimal dust issues and this product is readily available at pet shops throughout the country.
Cotton - we are starting with this ﬁrst to make a point... WE DO NOT PROMOTE THE USE OF COTTON BASED BEDDING. In recent years, many issues with multiple rodent species have arisen from the use of cotton based beddings. Synthetic strong ﬁbres can wrap around limbs causing wounds, infections, loss of limbs or worse. If this bedding is ingested, can cause impaction to your pet and cause serious pain and distress to your pet... or worse.
Hay - a natural option with excellent insulating properties, hay provides enrichment by providing the opportunity to help keep teeth short by being chewed and is safe to be ingested. Hay has a sweet, meadow smell taking away from any unwanted smells in the cage. It also has the opportunity to provide more structure to tunnelling systems in the cage substrates that may otherwise not hold tunnel spaces open easily. Please take into consideration when buying hay as a bedding for your mice that although it may have already been treated before being sold, it should be placed into a freezer for 24 hours before being used on your pets to reduce the risk of ringworm, a fungal infection that can occur in small rodents and is ZOONOTIC and can be spread to people.
Tissue paper/ toilet roll - a cheap option that is readily available in the home, tissue paper and toilet roll make for soft, insulating nesting material. Although it is a processed material, a test commonly used by pet owners is to submerge the material in question into water, if it breaks apart, is safe to have been ingested by your pet in small amounts. The rolls and boxes from these materials also make cheap, inexpensive hides for you pet mice that they will enjoy sleeping in or chewing.
These are just a few options available to you as a pet owner to use in your mouse cage with many combinations that can be tried to see what works out best for you and your pet. We would love to know what you have found works for yourselves in the comment section below!