American Fancy Rat & Mouse Association

This article is from the WSSF 2016 AFRMA Rat & Mouse Tales news-magazine.

Critter Critiques

SmartStraw™ Bedding Review
SmartStraw™ Bedding
SmartStraw™ Bedding
SmartStraw™ processed straw bedding.

Nicole Housel, Black Wolf Rattery, CA
I tried this bedding out on some rats I had in quarantine. Between three bins, I had three males in one, three females in a second, and five weanlings in a third. This bedding is very low dust and seems to be very soft. Although I did not try it for such a purpose, I expect it would make a nice nesting material for mothers with babies. With a deep enough layer, the rats can also push underneath it a bit, and although it would not hold enough structure to make tunnels, such opportunity does provide some enrichment for the rats. The smell is non-offensive, I thought it almost smelled like honey. It also controls odor very well, even after 5 days without a bedding change I could not detect an ammonia odor. Moisture absorbency is about average when compared with more popular bedding choices (such as aspen or paper-based bedding). My chief complaint about this bedding type: allergies. Since I suffer from hay fever and other seasonal allergies and this bedding is made from straw, it did cause me to sneeze a bit. Other allergy sufferers should take this into consideration before trying this bedding.


Jozzette Hagemann, Jozzy’s Rat Pack Rattery, CA
This straw is great for new litters. It is very silky feeling. Mom animals love it. It lasts about 4 days before needing a change.

SmartStraw™ Bedding Review

Karen Robbins, Winnetka, CA
We heard about this new bedding from an e-mail telling us about this bedding made from straw and asking if we would like to try it out. Being always eager to try new things, we of course said yes. We received several bags right before our show so were able to pass some out to others to do a critique on.

According to the manufacturer, this additive-free chopped wheat straw has been briquetted, heat treated, then broken back down into loose straw, screened to remove dust, and has very low moisture. It absorbs 500–600% of its own weight and out absorbs wood products. It has superior durability and cushioning. Testing has been done on several species of animals including pet rodents.


This chopped processed straw looked like finely shredded gold paper and was slick and shiny feeling. It didn’t really smell like straw, just had a very mild smell. It looked like it would be dusty but wasn’t. One downfall was that it was easily kicked out of wire cages and made more of a mess than the shavings.

I was able to try this out on several rat cages as well as the mice and found it worked better than expected. With the rat cages that only had straw, there was no ammonia smell but the corners were wet and soggy, when it was used with the Shepherd Paperchip® pellets underneath in the corners, then there were no soggy corners. I found it worked best this way rather than being added with the NEPCO aspen chips® on top. One male made a nice comfy nest with this. My normal mix for the rats in the wire cages with the trays is the Paperchip® pellets underneath in the corners, then aspen chips on top with a sprinkling of Nepco aspen shavings (I found the aspen shavings on top of the aspen chips helps to have not as much bedding kicked out). In the solid-sided (lab) cages, I use the Paperchip® pellets underneath in the corners with aspen chips on top.

With the mice I tried it by itself or in place of the aspen shavings with the Aspen Supreme™ aspen pellets underneath in the corner. I found it either had ammonia, especially when I broke the pee corner, or some smell. There was one breeding cage with two mice that had no smell at the first cleaning and just some smell at the last cleaning. My normal bedding mix is the aspen pellets underneath the aspen shavings which produces great results with generally little to no smell.

Overall results:

  • smell of fresh product: very mild smell
  • no dust: good
  • not colorizing the critters: good
  • x odor control: mixed on this as some cages were good, others had ammonia

NOTE: SmartStraw™ is available in multiple sizes, manufactured by Renew Energy Systems, P.O. Box 385, St. Ansgar, IA 50472, 1-844-RenewES. [Ed. Note: SmartStraw™ is no longer being made.] *

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January 17, 2019