This article is from the Sept/Oct 1996 AFRMA Rat & Mouse Tales news-magazine.
By Nancy Ferris
I have been keeping rats and mice since 1982 (Yes, I do have rats). Although the life expectancy of rats is supposed to be 2–3 years, I couldn’t seem to get them to live much past 18 months, and usually less than that. I was having a lot of respiratory with the rats, even though it was the mice that were being shown. The rats were strictly pets. I couldn’t figure out how they were being exposed or what was going on. Treatment with Tylan had little effect.
A few years ago, an article was published in AFRMA Rat & Mouse Tales telling of the toxicity of pine shavings. I had just bought a bale of pine shavings and was in the process of using it up, when I went over to Karen’s to drop off or pick up some mice. She berated me for still being on pine.
I switched over to using a layer of Sani-chips® with a layer of Aspen Chips on top. I didn’t like the looks of straight Sani-chips® —too sterile and laboratory looking for my taste. The mice liked making nests in the Aspen Chips, moving them around, etc. About a year ago, the Aspen Chips became unavailable and we had to switch to Aspen Bed I, which is shredded Aspen. The mice really like this stuff. They can make all kinds of nests with it.
My current group of rats have been totally raised on Sani-Chips® and Aspen Bed I. Of my 14 rats, one female who is 2 years and 3 months old (bought from a club member), two male littermates who are just turning 2 (bought from a pet shop), another female (bought from another club member) who is 19 months old, four littermates from my first rat litter in 4 years that are 15 months old, one who just turned a year (bought from a pet shop), and three young rats around 8 months. The 2-year-old rats are showing no signs of aging, no wheezing, sneezing, or rattling. Their coats are smooth and glossy, even the 2-year-old males.
A couple of other things I noticed while using the pine shavings–every time I cleaned cages I would have sneezing fits, my nose would run, and I seemed to have more than my share of sinus infections. I thought I was becoming allergic to the critters, and thought I might have to get rid of them. I don’t have this problem on cage cleaning days now. Also, when holding my rats before, I would have a reaction to their nails on my skin—red welts. I no longer have this reaction. I wonder if it was the phenol in the pine shavings I was reacting to and not the rats. The incidence of mites and/or scabs has also gone down drastically. I am quite pleased with the changeover.