Sawdust and Wood Shavings

Rats and mice carry micro-organisms in their respiratory tracts called Mycoplasma pulmonis - Myco for short - which sadly makes them prone to problems with their lungs and respiratory system. Because of this extra care is needed when choosing litters and anything that is dusty, fragranced or gives off fumes of any kind is really best avoided. Sawdust and softwood shavings both fit into this category.

The main problem with sawdust is that it’s just that - dust! The fine particles disturb as the mouse moves about, getting into the eyes, nose and mouth and often causing irritation and sneezing. Wood shavings also often contain a lot of dust, but even the more expensive dust extracted ones can cause a lot of damage to mice due to the phenols they give off. Many reports have been written on the effects of these phenols and it has been shown that when inhaled they can affect liver function and aggravate the lungs - which with rats and mice carrying myco and being particularly vulnerable can lead to chronic respiratory disease and even pneumonia. This to me is enough reason for me to have decided not to use wood or wood based litters. As with anything though there have been counter reports saying that softwoods don’t cause any health problems but I think that:

a) There is too much evidence for it all to be purely circumstantial, and

b) If there are so many easily available alternatives to shavings why take the risk?

There are hardwood shavings available, namely aspen, but these are difficult to come obtain and are neither very absorbent nor soft on the mice’s feet. Because of this my advice would be to steer clear of wood litters totally, or at least until further evidence proves to us that it is safe to do otherwise.

Further Reading:

The Toxicity of Pine and Cedar Shavings by Debbie Ducommun
Respiratory Toxicity Of Cedar And Pine Wood by Jeff Johnston
The Problem With Pine: A Discussion Of Softwood Beddings by Elizabeth R TeSelle
The Truth About Pine Shavings by Corinne Fayo

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