Why is My Pet Rat Eating His Bedding?

Have you seen your rat gnawing on his bedding and are concerned about what’s happening? Are you worried that your rat is swallowing his bedding?

Bedding is unlikely to make your rat sick, but if he is eating his bedding, you’ll want to look at the wider causes.  Let’s explore the reasons why your rat is eating his bedding:

  • Looking for food materials
  • Treating an upset stomach
  • Stressed
  • Lonely
  • Bored and needs a stimulus

Why is My Rat Eating His Bedding?

There are a number of possible reasons why your rat is eating his bedding. For most, there are simple actions you can take to steer your rat into other activities.

Hunger Drives a Rat to Eat Their Bedding


It is possible your rat is hungry. Rats’ stomachs are empty after six hours so they need food often.  If the only available food option for your rat is his bedding, then he may eat it. 

Organic-based bedding such as corn cob bedding might be especially appealing.  Switch to another bedding type such as:

  • Paper
  • Straw
  • Cardboard
  • Fleece fabric

Find ways to ensure your rat has food regularly.  You can incorporate this regular feeding with play and mental challenges for your pet. 

For example, you can add a few hard-shelled nuts, though not too many due to their fat content. Another idea is to wrap a treat in a scrunched-up paper ball.  Your rat will enjoy shredding the paper while hunting for his treat.  

A series of climbing boxes with treats hidden in out of the way places will also ensure your rat gets plenty of exercise.

You may also want to consider a small animal automated pet feeder.  This can be especially helpful if your regular day means that your pet may go longer than six hours between feeds.

Your Rat Has An Upset Stomach

To settle an upset stomach, rats in the wild will eat clay or dirt.  You may have seen similar behavior in your pet dog when he eats grass. Similarly, domesticated rats will similarly use available materials, hoping to neutralize the acid that is causing their upset stomach.

This behavior may go hand in hand with disinterest in his regular food. Typically, rats will quickly finish the food items you provide. So if your rat is off his food, then consult with a veterinarian, especially if he is eating his bedding.

Rats are so focused on their food that they can often be seriously ill before you notice a change in their eating habits.  If your rat starts eating his bedding, then his normal eating pattern has changed and should be monitored.

Kitchen scale in grams
Digital scales offer quick and precise measurements.

To help you monitor your rat’s health, get into the habit of weighing him once a week.  When you measure your rat, try and use a kitchen scale with gram increments (as ounces can be too big and may not be accurate). Since obesity is a common problem in rats, this regular measurement will help regulate his food intake.

An adult rat should have a stable weight.  If this fluctuates, then consult a veterinarian.

Keep Your Rat Stress Free

New situations and circumstances will stress any pet. If your rat has a new cage or their cage is moved, they will experience anxiety related to being in a new place. If your rat is eating his bedding, this could be a form of anxiety-eating called pica and can occur in rats as with many other pets.

Sad mouse

Some changes can’t be helped (such as moving into a new house), but try and minimize the changes that your rat experiences. Don’t move apartments, get him a new cage, and add a new rat friend all at the same time.

If you know you will need to use a travel carrier with your pet, introduce this well before his journey.  Make it a familiar, comfortable part of his world.

A routine and daily socializing will help set norms for your rat.  As with his feeding, observe him regularly.  Look for changes in behavior, such as eating his bedding, that might be indicators of stress.  Red staining around his eyes is also a sign of stress and warrants a veterinary visit.

Rats Don’t Like Isolation

Rats are social animals, and they do best when not in isolation.  If your rat is lonely, he might be stressed, and this can lead to him eating bedding.  Daily socializing with you is a great way to ensure your rat does not feel so isolated.

Crocheted rats hugging

Taking on a second rat is a big step, and you should evaluate this idea carefully. However, loneliness may be the root cause of your rat’s stress and lead to him eating his bedding.

If you do decide to introduce a second rat, start with the animals living separately. Introduce them progressively in a common play area, with lots of treats and toys. Make sure you supervise things closely until you are happy that they have bonded.

Rats Get Bored and Eat Their Bedding

It is likely that one of the things you love about your rat is just how smart he is. This mental agility means that rats quickly become bored though. 

Rats being held

If you provide a range of interesting stimuli, you can ensure that your rat is far too busy to worry about eating his bedding.  Great toys and other challenging objects will help ensure his brain is well occupied.

Mix up the toys and provide different adventures for your rat. Your selection can include

  • Exercise wheels
  • Balls
  • Tubes
  • Pots
  • Branches
  • Paper
  • Tissues
  • Cardboard boxes
  • Hard plastic chews

Be imaginative, and you’ll soon have a stimulating selection of rat toys.

How to Check if Your Rat is Eating His Bedding

It can be difficult to know for sure whether or not your rat is actually eating his bedding. One step that might help you find out for sure, is to switch the rat’s bedding to fleece rather than loose bedding. This may not stop the issue, but it can make it easier to identify exactly what is happening. 

An Alternative Explanation for Eating Bedding

It is possible that your rat is gnawing and chewing rather than eating his bedding.

Like all rodents, rats have teeth that are always growing; just like your fingernails are continuously growing. Their front teeth can grow as much as 5 inches in a year. Rats must chomp, nibble, and gnaw to help keep their teeth filed down and ensure their dental health.

Rats are so attuned to their need to chew that they have evolved a skin flap inside their mouths, which divides their teeth from the remainder of their mouth.

Small Flap Prevents Swallowing

When your rat is chewing, that small skin flap closes, separating his teeth and the chewed material from the rest of his mouth. Once the rat has finished with the gnawed material, he will spit the remaining material out.

These particles are so small that it can be difficult to see, and so it’s a reasonable assumption to think the gnawed material has been swallowed. In fact, the material usually doesn’t even reach the back of your rat’s mouth.

The process of chewing is also a way for the rat to stimulate his mind and is a good exercise for his jaw.

In Conclusion

As we’ve covered, there could be a number of issues causing your rat to eat his bedding.  As with any pet, a stable routine, good stimulation, being observant, and learning your pet’s regular behavior, will help you identify when your pet is not feeling great.

Lee Cameron

When I was younger, I had guinea pigs and hamsters as pets. There was limited information back then as to how to take care of rodents, and indeed information on the various types of rodents that could be kept as pets. In this website, I hope to make it an easy, one-stop information portal on raising rodents!

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