This article is from the WSSF 2008 AFRMA Rat & Mouse Tales news-magazine.
Karen Robbins, Winnetka, CA
At our display at the 2007 America’s Family Pet Expo, we were given a few bags of the Oxbow Eco-Straw litter to use in our display cages. This is a new product I had not heard of before and was eager to give it a try. Eco-straw is a heat-treated pellet made of compressed high-fiber wheat straw that is supposed to be twice as absorbent as newspaper-based litter, absorbing 300 percent of its weight in moisture. Being wheat straw, it is safe if your pet eats any. It comes in 20 pound bags and is listed for $8.25 on Oxbow’s web site.
During the 3 days of the Expo, we did not notice any smell. Of course we only had female mice in the display and one tank of female rats that stayed during the entire time. The rest of the rats were brought in each day by their owner bringing in a new cage of either boys or girls for people to see.
There were a few bags left after the display, and I took them home to try out on several cages of mice—the real test comes with male mice! When you open the bag it has a dry grassy smell, very mild. I was quite surprised with the results of this product. I used this in place of the aspen pellets in the corners of the cages under the aspen shavings. These pellets break down into powder like the aspen pellets when wet and in some cages did as good a job at absorbing odors and wetness as the aspen pellets. I found it usually lasted about the same time as the aspen pellets before the cage needed cleaning. In other cages, it didn’t last as long before the cage needed cleaning and it stunk really bad. When dumping a cage, it smelled like straw—a smell that will forever remind me of my dairy goats I had in FFA.
This is one product you have to try for yourself as I had mixed results. I feel it is an acceptable product worth recommending for others to give it a try.
Carol Lawton, Vista, CA
I have to admit that I was more than a little skeptical when I was first asked to try Oxbow’s new cage litter. Eco-Straw is a heavy pellet-type bedding made from compressed wheat straw that claims to be safe, dust-free, and capable of absorbing 300 times its weight in moisture. At first glance Eco-Straw looks like other cheap, smelly, pellet beddings . . . but I was pleasantly surprised when I opened the bag. The product is very firmly compressed; when it’s poured there was very little dust, and the smell was earthy but pleasant.
Pellet-type beddings can be difficult for rats to walk on, so I put a light layer of Oxbow Timothy hay over the bedding to make it more pleasant. When I put the rats in their cages, they had fun playing with the hay and had no difficultly walking on the litter.
With Eco-Straw in several of my multiple-rat cages, I decided to give it a week to see how it survived. At the end of 7 days I was extremely surprised that there wasn’t any odor or serious break-down of the bedding, but I was certain that it couldn’t possibly last more than another day or so. To my surprise, the first signs of odor and breakdown didn’t come until day 13 from a cage housing five large adult males. At that point I simply couldn’t, with a clear conscience, wait any longer to clean the cages.
While the soiled product broke down a bit, it wasn’t unpleasant to deal with during the cleaning process. However, cleaning the cages was still a bit of a challenge. As with most pellet beddings, Eco-Straw is heavy on its own and after absorbing a huge amount of moisture over a 2-week period, the cage bottoms were now extremely heavy and difficult to empty.
I have to admit that Eco-Straw is one of the most surprising new products I’ve seen—the absorbency and odor control properties were startling. This is definitely a product that I would recommend for pet owners with a small number of multiple-rat cages, but keep in mind that you will need to add a layer of hay to make your animals comfortable on this or any pellet-type product.
And another recommendation for Oxbow came out of this trial—I’ve discovered that rats love hay!!! For additional comfort and entertainment in their cages, try giving your rats and mice a large handful of Oxbow Timothy Hay or Orchard Grass.
NOTE: Eco-Straw is made by Oxbow Enterprises, 29012 Mill Road, Murdock, NE 68407, (800) 249-0366, Fax (402)867-3222, e-mail:firstname.lastname@example.org. Their web site is http://www.oxbowanimalhealth.com/.