Which litter should I use for my pet?
There are some materials you should avoid, but this can depend on your pet in question, so always research as specifically as possible before buying. Something suitable for a rabbit may not be good for a smaller hamster.
There is also a general rule of thumb to avoid anything with chemicals or dust. Small noses are sensitive to these as they can harm lungs – avoid dyes, scented litter, and softwood (pine and cedar) shavings.
Cedar and pine shavings contain phenols, the same compound used in Lysol and Pinesol. These fumes irritate nasal passages, lungs and throats, causing vulnerability to bacteria.
Also, avoid clumping cat litter. It is not uncommon for small animals to have a nibble on what is in their cage, whether it be their bedding, toys or even their cage! Ingesting clumping litter will cause blockages in their digestive system which will be fatal.
People also like to avoid shredded newspaper – the ink can come off easily on their feet and fur, so would be ingested if they clean themselves.
Don’t use clay litter made for cats, as rabbits are nibblers and clay could cause blockages. You may want to avoid materials which could also be used as food such as alfalfa, oat and wheat. Not only can this be confusing for them, but they will also likely eat it.
The only cat litter that is safe for ferrets is a corn-based cat litter such as World’s Best Cat Litter. Do not use a sand based cat litter as ferrets burrow a lot and could ‘sniff’ the sand, forming a sand clot in their sinus passages.
Certain cat litter products can usually be used here. But you must avoid deodorisers, clumping agents, and dust, as well as cedar/pine shavings. They love to groom, so dust can easily be ingested. Therefore, many rat owners will use material which can be used for bedding but just choose a different one from what is used to line their cage. Paper is commonly used too.
Soft materials such as paper, chopped straw, wood pulp, or dried plant material are good. In the wild, hamsters like to burrow and nest, and while this will likely be done in their bedding, you can’t guarantee they won’t also try it in their litter tray. Try to avoid general cat litter as they will not be able to digest the pieces they eat.
How do I train my small pet to use a litter tray?
Watch how they behave in their cage or hutch. Is there a particular corner they seem to like to go to the toilet in? If so, place the litter tray here.
You may want to place other things in the other corners to stop them from going here, such as their food, toys and bed. Small animals tend to go backed up into corners, and in the same spot repeatedly.
If they need some encouragement, rewarding them with treats after they have gone is a good idea. You may also want to dangle treats or toys over their tray, to encourage them to spend time in the area.