The Best Liner To Use In Your Parrot’s Cage

Rosebreasted cockatoo and congo african grey

The lining on the bottom of your parrot's cage has a pretty straightforward job. It collects the things that land there and makes clean up simple for you. But it’s an important job, too, because it plays a part in keeping your bird healthy and safe.

We all know how important it is to keep our parrot’s environment clean and part of that is changing the cage liner frequently. So one question remains: what liner is best to use?

The answer is PAPER. Hands down, without question…paper. Newspaper, butcher paper, paper towels, paper bags – it doesn’t matter which, as long as it will sit patiently on the cage bottom waiting for your bird to put it to work.

Aside from being the most economical liner, it has one HUGE advantage: it lies flat. One of the only ways we have to monitor our bird’s health on a daily basis is by checking the quality and quantity of their droppings. It isn’t possible to do that effectively on a surface that is broken and uneven.

 

Pine shavings photo by horsemanmagazine.com

There are other types of cage substrate that are available to parrot owners, but they all have disadvantages or dangers:

Wood chips or shavings, such as cedar, redwood or treated pine are toxic to birds should they come into contact with them and even the scent (of the cedar or redwood chip) can be an irritant and cause allergic reations and skin inflamations. Additionally, they create the uneven surface that makes it difficult to view the quality of the droppings.

One argument I have heard in defense of these products is that is masks odors in the cage. However, there should be no odors in the cage of a healthy bird. If your bird’s droppings have odor, your bird is sick. If the cedar chips are covering the smell, how are you to know that your bird needs help?

UNtreated pine shavings, while safe unless ingested, has to be changed or sifted through for debris frequently, making it impractical. Aside from making it difficult to observe droppings, wood chips allow small particulates, like powder down and dander, to drop through the cracks to the tray below. Flight or wing flapping within the cage will cause it to rise up and out into the air space. You can’t sweep or vacuum bedding to remove dander (even with netting over the nozzle, it’s been tried and doesn’t work.)

corncob bedding photo from omlet.co.uk

Other beddings are crushed walnut shells and corncob. While they are natural, they both provide a breeding ground for the growth of molds, fungi and bacteria. Corncob bedding is particularly concerning in damp or humid climates where the aspergillus mold might grow (aspergillus causes respiratory disease and can be fatal). If swallowed it can cause serious impactions in the digestive system because the pieces will swell when moisture is introduced.

Kitty litter is also a poor choice. Kitty litter has two types: clay, which produces dust and has the risk of causing problems to your birds delicate respiratory system, and clumping litter whose recipe includes a substance that grows ennormously in size and clots together when moisture is introduced. If damp food or toys are dropped into the litter and retrieved, either type of litter will adhere to it. I don’t think I need to tell you how bad that would be in a bird’s digestive system, especially the clumping variety. Further, they are often scented.

Sand is also not recommended. While its main concern is in ingestion, especially if wet foods are dropped into it, it has other down sides. It is dense, weighty and abrasive making cleaning difficult and messy. Over time, it will cause problems to the cage bottom, not to mention your back.

I am not convinced this is a valid concern, but I know people who insist sand substrate has caused flea infestationsin their homes. True sand “fleas” are not fleas at all, but tiny crustaceans that live only at the beach. I think that actual fleas that have taken up residency in your house would prefer a more hospitible environment, such as on your dog or in your carpet.

Paper pellets photo from exotic pets.about.com

Paper pellet and pulp bedding are also not recomended. They are safe to use, but I know of two people who are SURE their pellet loving birds have eaten them. They are not known to cause problems in the digestive system because the paper is broken down and passed through the system, but aside from not wanting your bird to fill up on paper products, you have to wonder if anything was stuck to it. Pulp flies everywhere as soon as the bird becomes active in the cage. Neither allow for good monitoring of droppings.

If you have cockatoos, cockatiels or another ground foraging bird, bedding is a fun place to search for old food that you may have missed during clean up. Unfortunately, old food is laden with dangerous bacterias.

And, dangers aside, bedding doesn’t allow for the proper measures of cleanliness needed in your bird’s cage and changing it frequently prevents it from being cost effective.

Newspaper is non-toxic and safe, almost all newspaper inks throughout the world are no longer petroleum based. It’s the best choice for a cage liner and very inexpensive. In fact, it can be free! If you notice the local paper being delivered to your neighbor, go to them and explain that you have a parrot (chances are they already know) and ask them to save the daily papers for you to pick up periodically.

The local library (yes, they still exist) usually subscribe, as do department stores or other establishments that do advertising. If you ask nicely, I am sure they will be happy to let you have their copies once they are done with them. That makes newspaper the most economical, ecological, safe and smart choice as a cage liner for your bird!

Author Patty Jourgensen specializes in avian health, behavior and nutrition and has been working with and caring for rescue birds since 1987. 

61 comments

Rick Savitt

Chet- I assume from your article that you have not had a chance to use Prevue’s T3 Cage liner paper rolls, otherwise you would have addressed this product. Of course, being a “sold product” and not free discarded news print or other paper that is basically free, it wouldn’t have met your criteria. Never the less, T3 offers some properties like debris cling and anti microbial odor control that newsprint and butcher paper simply doesn’t, while still laying flat in the pan and being the right size for most all Cage Pans on the market, as it can be purchased in correct pan common sizes.

Rick Savitt
Dean

I use “Bathroom tissue” but it’s hard to get the birds to stand still long enough to wipe their ass.

Dean
Leanne

I’m curious to know if anyone has every thought of using soil? I’ve thought of ‘planting’ the tray with something bird friendly, like cat-grass, and letting nature do what it does best – recycle itself. Our conure is kept away from the tray by a grate, so I wouldn’t worry about his ingesting the soil, but I wonder if there would be too much ‘fertilizer’ to make the experience practical. Anyway, just wondering if anyone has thought of this, has tried it, or has some objections I haven’t thought of. Thanks, Leanne

Leanne
Jennifer

I also use newspaper for easy cleaning of my cage. However, it also provides entertainment for my birds as they tear it, strip it, hide under it, and carry pages of it up to their perches. It’s so amusing …

Jennifer
Cherie

we too use newspaper on the bottom of the birds’ cages. i start off with a layer of wax paper and then add two to three layers of newspaper. each bird seems to have its ‘favorite’ spot where droppings tend to collect for a majority of the day. that is why i add a double layer of newspaper in that area so i can make a visual assessment and reach in to remove that layer at any time during the day. it is especially nice that the width and length of the newspaper fit nicely across the surface of the bottom of the cage. since both birds get ‘outside of the cage time’ i add a couple of layers of newspaper around the areas where they hang out mostly – mostly on the top ledge of the cage door. now you tell me, just who is potty trained :)

Cherie
Johanna

If you go to a storage unit business where they sell moving supplies you can get boxes of newsprint cut into individual sheets. They were the perfect size for my grey’s cage. I used regular newspaper before that, but I had to carefully select the surface facing upwards because any printed faces would freak him out! If you do get the boxes of newsprint…which is sold for wrapping breakables and such when moving…ask to open the box each time to loo at the paper to make sure it is cut in uniform sizes and alxs to see if the paper has at least one polished side instead of two matte sides. The polished side is a little more resistant to moisture and won’t seep through as many layers.

Johanna
Richard Schultz

I don,t use any liners just the plastic tray that comes with the cage , first thing I do every morning is scrub the tray dry it and put it back ,takes about 3 mins and you can see exactly what he has done and what food he has left or chucked out

Richard Schultz
kirsi1591

I have been told not to use newspapers and ads that have color print or a gloss finish as they is toxic to birds. I have also been told to avoid paper with ink from printers, or any paper with a coating. Recycled paper can contain bacteria and contaminants. I am wondering about recycled paper bags as they sometimes have a coating. I suppose these all would be safe to use if your bird does not have access to them. Hopefully they won’t reach through the bars to chew on. Patty, can you comment on this please. Thanks for your great posts.

kirsi1591
Vicki. Yeppoon Australia

I use newspaper too. Folk save them up for me and I just change them every day. Paper goes into the compost heap where it gets its third good use! Of course it is vital that when you place your newspaper on the floor, place bad politicians and criminals pictures (in the court section) up, so that your birds can poop on them…! Cheers!

Vicki. Yeppoon Australia
Terri Braud

I use unprinted newpaper, available in pre-cut bundles from a local supplier for a reasonable price. Its wonderful, but doesn’t provide the reading material that I’m sure she would enjoy!

Terri Braud
ryan

I tried beach sand for a bit. It worked well. but went back to newspaper. The problem i have is my one grey likes to tear the newspaper. So I always find her with newpaper in her claw and all the dirt on the floor!

ryan

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