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Cleaning and Caring for your Wood & a Science Lesson in Fungi

Scientist JijiKeeping your cage clean and safe is one of your most important jobs as a pet owner. And if you have a rodent, it is even more imperative! Rodents teeth never, ever stop growing and are filed by chewing. Most rodents do not consume the materials they chew; however oils, tannins, and bacteria are then transferred into their mouth and ultimately into their system. Make sure you know the safe wood list of your species thoroughly. Never offer woods that aren’t safe to your pet. Offer a variety of chewing surfaces for your rodent… they need to wear their teeth down and a variety of toys and ledges can help them reach each tooth. This is very important for their health and life span. 


Caring for your wood:

  1. Care for your wood accessories as you would anything else in your cage. We keep packs of WaterWipes baby wipes near our cages for a quick wipe down in the evening if we notice urine sitting on our wood. A quick scrub with a water wipe and air dry can prevent a urine stain from sticking or growing bacteria. If you notice a stain took, it may be on it’s way to growing something funky! Buy a steel brush at the hardware store along with a variety of sand paper. We recommend doing a scrub with a steel brush (avoid steel wool. It breaks down in vinegar) and vinegar if your wood appears stained to prevent any kinds of bacteria growth. On a monthly basis, a light sanding will revitalize your wood. Afterwards if it appears dirty, wipe down with vinegar. 
  2. We cannot stress this enough- sanding. Rodents chew irregularly. It can make the edge of a shelf sharp or splintered. If you notice this occurring, plan to pull your wood out and sand. You don’t need any special tools. Just sand paper and a well ventilated area. Breathing saw dust is not good for you or your pets.
  3. Many people worry about losing their wood investments to ringworm or other fungal outbreaks. We have some tips and tricks for preventing fungal outbreak in your pets. Some pet owners with dusting animals use anti-fungal powders in their dust. We are on the fence about this because dust is already irritating to the eyes so personally we wouldn’t want anti-fungal powders ending up in our pet’s eyes. Another preventative measure is a simple, extra step when cleaning. If you have never heard of a Wood’s lamp before, it is essentially a bulky black light. Veterinarians and dermatologists use these to easily diagnose fungal outbreaks. Buy one on Amazon. You can purchase black light flashlights online for this task. Once a month, you should pull your pets from their cage and let them sit in a carrier. Turn off the lights and check over everything with a handheld black light. You’re going to feel like a crime scene investigator, but really you’re just a super proactive scientist. Fungus and urine will fluoresce under black light, meaning they glow. (How can you tell the difference? You can see urine with the naked eye. When those stains light up, you are seeing urine under black light) Note where you saw glowing (we’re talking bright pink, green, blue green) and put straight vinegar on the area. Clean. Repeat. Sand if necessary. If sanding an area you believe to have a fungal growth (ringworm tends to be blue green), please use elbow length gloves and take caution to not inhale dust. For this we would recommend a wet sanding with vinegar and a hard brush to prevent airborne dust. Then set the wood aside for 48 hours. I’m personally not a fan of drying anything you suspect is contaminated in your oven. Your goal is to isolate and prevent reinfection. 
  4. The wood’s lamp method does not make a wooden cage a safe investment. There are many reasons why a wooden cage is a poor option. One of the biggest is that I can help you find fungus, remove, and attempt to treat it. This is not possible to do with a section of a cage. Dry wood thoroughly after cleaning. 
  5. The wood’s lamp method on your pet. Your eyes and your pet’s eyes are not immune to damage from black light. Please cover your pet’s eyes when checking them. Also note on a chinchilla, you will see mild fluorescence inside the ears and on the pads of the feet where dry skin scales. This is not a reason to rush into the veterinarian. Also consider location before attempting to treat at home. Plenty of people attempt to treat fungus around the eyes and mouth without oral anti-fungals and find themselves in a messy situation. These ailments can be dangerous and typically require oral anti-fungals.
 Treat small areas… not infestations. If you see a considerable amount of bacteria or fungus on your wood. TOSS IT. This is irregular in clean cages however – fungus and bacterium need moisture to breed and spread… preventative measures such as regular wiping down of your cage prevent such heinous outbreaks. If the outbreak occurred, it’s possible you have a humidity problem and redrying your wood is a moot point. Correct humidity and replace.
 Do not… and I cannot stress this enough… purchase wood toys from the store that appear to have layers. Pressed pine is not safe for chewing rodents. It is essentially plywood and contains chemicals and glues considered unsafe for consumption.
 Wood glues used on your products should be food safe, animal safe, and child safe. 
 Do not purchase bird toys without asking the manufacturer about their coloring process. We find more often than not during sourcing that colored items for birds contain sugar. Sugar can cause seizures in chinchillas and other animals not adapted to consume fruits. 


  At the end of the day whether you purchase products from Whiskers & Fluff or another trusted vendor, please be proactive in ensuring the safety of your pets. Pet store brands are often unsafe. Even if modified due to the use of pressed pine, sugar containing colorants, and unsafe glues.