Just something that has been bothering me for a while, and quite honestly I don’t know how much I will be able to do about it … but I’m going to at least try.
I’m not going to go into all the details or studies about how “bad” aromatic wood is for rats. By aromatic wood, I’m writing about pine and cedar. It’s not so great for other small animals either, but for rats it’s especially bad!
The oils that create the scent will eventually cause scarring in the lungs of rats and dramatically reduce their life expectancy and their quality of life.
There are plenty of other commercially available nesting materials that are much more safe for rats. You can even use clean rags, or clean pieces of fleece, or even old clean clothes if you wish … and if you are of the environmentally friendly persuasion, you can re-use these materials by simply throwing them in the laundry and using a “scent-free” detergent (no fabric softener, preferably … again due to scent).
So, if you happen to come across a pet store that is using pine shavings or cedar shavings for their rats, let them know that it’s not healthy for the little guys and girls. Perhaps make suggestions to use some of whatever non-aromatic wood nesting materials they already stock.
Depending on your zeal you may need to buy the correct litter for the store’s rats yourself to drive the point home to the owner/manager of the store! If they still don’t get the idea, you could offer to rescue them all, since they they are not adopting out these rats in my not-so-humble opinion, they are selling chattel!
I don’t name names in my rants … but this issue might change that …
Provided for reference purposes:
Both cedar and pine shavings contain phenols, the oils in the wood that give them their fresh and woodsy smell. Phenols are poisonous, caustic, acidic compounds present in soft woods, and are routinely diluted for use in disinfectants (such as Pine-Sol and Lysol) and cover the smell of animal urine. Because phenols are caustic, they constantly irritate the nasal passages, throat and lungs which gives an easy opening to bacteria. Phenols affect the kidneys and liver, the organs responsible for filtering blood and urine and eliminating toxins from them. Long-term exposure to phenols can cause liver damage and make the animal very sensitive to anesthetics. Exposure to phenols can also depress the immune system, thus causing lowered resistance to diseases such as respiratory infection. Pine and cedar shavings are toxic to small animals and should not ever be used.
from the RMCA.org FAQ http://www.rmca.org/Resources/rmcafaq.htm