Softwood Bad for Animals
By Joel Freedman, Chairman
Animal Advocate of Upstate New York
I provided a succession of hamsters with well-ventilated, spacious cages. They enjoyed climbing, treadmills, wholesome food, regular cage cleanings and frequent out-of-cage time. Nevertheless, they all died far short of normal life span.
   After adopting two mice, I learned about the shavings I had used for the hamsters' bedding. Softwood shavings, particularly cedar and pine, have aromatic oils that have been linked to respiratory, liver and immune function diseases in animals constantly exposed to them. Softwood compounds are also know skin irritants. The Association of Veterinarians For Animal Rights suggests, "It is best to be on the safe side by using other types of bedding." Most veterinarians I contacted agree. Initially, you notice nothing unusual. Later on, you never think the animals' illnesses or deaths could be    related to traditional beddings. But autopsies have      revealed afflictions associated with softwood exposure.
   People report improvement in animal's conditions after switching to other beddings. One study found that when given free choice, animals reject softwood shavings in favor of other types of beddings. Most animal research laboratories, even though they often do horrible things  to animals, avoid softwood shavings; their toxic qualities would offset the finding of other toxicity tests.
   In the mid-1970’s, a University of Illinois laboratory study revealed that baby rats raised on cedar wood shavings showed 60 percent mortality over a
three-week period compared to less than three percent for those raised on beddings other than softwood. This, along with more recent studies, prompted the federal government to warn all laboratories about the toxicity  of cedar and pine beddings.
   If softwood beddings are too dangerous for laboratory animals that will eventually be killed by other means, then they are certainly too dangerous for animals we take into our hearts and homes. But people devoted to their pets are largely uninformed. Studies have found that people in the woodworking industry who are exposed to softwood dust have higher-than-usual incidences of squamous cell cancers of the respiratory tract. Softwood shavings can cause or aggravate other human respiratory ailments.  R. Kelly Wagner who directs Guinea Pig Rescue in Austin, Texas, says that many people, believing they have become allergic to their pets, want to give them up. Wagner suggests they discard these shavings and try a non-softwood product for a week.

Almost all report that their allergies disappear. Pet stores usually use softwood beddings for animals  waiting to be sold.
   Many homes and pet supply stores sell only softwood beddings. Why is this allowed?
My mice are doing well with a non-toxic bedding made from reclaimed wood pulp waste. They also like soft tissue paper. Other safe beddings include those made from aspen, pressed paper pellets, alfalfa, grain by-products, straw or recycled newspaper printed with soy ink (regular print can be harmful).

For further action:
- Write letters to the editor of local and community newspapers. Every published letter prompts many people to switch beddings and countless animals' lives are saved.
- Pressure local pet shops, home supply stores, supermarkets, home and garden stores not to sell softwood beddings or, at the very least, to stock non-softwood beddings so that consumers can choose from all available beddings.
- Ask elected officials and consumer protection   agencies to require warnings to be printed on cedar and pine shavings packages.







Special Thanks

to Steve Faris for all of his dedicated work as a Coordinator in the Try-State Singles. We’ll miss you!!


Terri Warm is our new head coordinator for the Try-State Singles. Dave Novakoff has volunteered to assist her. If you wish to become more involved with the singles group, call Terri (609)261-4470. However she prefers to be contacted through e-mail:



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