The Best Liner To Use In Your Parrot's Cage

The Best Liner To Use In Your Parrot’s Cage

 May 18th, 2012
Posted By:

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

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

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

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!


Facebook comments:

Add New Comment

50 Comments on “The Best Liner To Use In Your Parrot’s Cage”

Donna Torres  06/01/2012 12:37 am

Nobody has mentioned the gravel paper liners that are sold in stores. Are they okay for the cages or not? I use them all the time.

Carolyn Jackson  06/01/2012 12:50 am

I use the paper grocery store is more course and doesn’t allow the poop to go through, that is for my 2 severa macaws, however for my b&g macaw I have to add newspaper on top of the sack. Since I have 2 big cages, after I tear down the sacks to make one long sheet, it takes only 2 sacks per cage. I trust there’s no negatives in using these sacks as it has worked so well!!

Kate  06/01/2012 1:16 am

I am fortunate enough to have a friend that works at a newspaper. She gets me the leftover rolls of paper. Nice and white and sturdy stuff.

Leanne  06/01/2012 1:35 am

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.

kirsi1591  06/01/2012 1:36 am

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.

Terri Braud  06/01/2012 1:51 am

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!

Vicki. Yeppoon Australia  06/01/2012 2:07 am

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!

ryan  06/01/2012 2:10 am

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!

Richard Schultz  06/01/2012 2:27 am

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

Johanna  06/01/2012 3:45 am

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.

Cherie  06/01/2012 7:06 am

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 🙂

Jennifer  06/01/2012 7:16 am

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 …

Lizzie  06/01/2012 7:22 am

Hi, I have a Maroon Bellied Conure and use sandsheets purchased from a local petstore which I cut to size. However, I find Dinky tends to chew the paper and I’m not sure if this is harmful to him. Can anyone confirm if these sandsheets are safe to use for parrots or not? Would eating newpaper be the same? Thank you

Shelley  06/01/2012 7:26 am

We use waxed brown craft paper. My macaw’s poops are huge and newspaper just doesn’t cut it! The waxed brown craft paper roll in 36″ length is expensive and heavy but 1 roll lasts us about 3 years.

Barb Miller  06/01/2012 7:39 am

I always use newspapers, And whenever there’s a picture of a politician I don’t like, or some terrorist or criminal, I line up their picture right under where the birds perch…..

Hassan  06/01/2012 7:42 am

Can anyone provide me with the birds and parrots breeders who can export to Bahrain please.


TeaPartyTessi  06/01/2012 8:28 am

I always use the political section. Lucky likes to poop on BHO.

Martje Bicker  06/01/2012 8:38 am

I go to the local newspaper and get their end rolls of clean non inked paper for free. They are usually great about giving you these as they must recycle the unused rolls. We switched from the pine shavings at a kennel I worked at to the newspaper end rolls for the newborn pups and it was so much cleaner and neater to use. Plus you can cover a large area very quickly. my macaw loves it because he likes to shred–I feel better about him shredding clean uninked paper rather than newspaper.

Ray Hurley  06/01/2012 9:12 am

I have been using plastic kitchen bags for years. I just cover the bottom tray as like a pillow case cover, (insert the tray) and when I need to clean the cage.

I spray the wire mesh that is above the bag with a Vinegar and water mixture to loosen the droppings and then scrub the wire mesh floor with a tooth brush.

After all of this is done I slide out the kitchen bag covered tray and remove the bag by pulling it inside out there-by causing all of the dirt to now be on the inside of the throw away bag.

The tray is always clean and now needs a new kitchen bag.

Janis Warne  06/01/2012 9:13 am

I use newspaper and then put it in the compost–it breaks down quickly and bird guano is a great fertilizer. I’m a bit concerned about some of the posts on using mattress liners, etc–the plastic does not break down and I think people need to think about what their “throw-away” stuff goes–Even when we throw away paper products, that break down, we put them in plastic bags that don’t. Are there any other environmentally aware bird lovers out there that try to reduce, re-use and recycle?

Dave Hey  06/01/2012 9:14 am

I use a roll of white butcher paper. It’s attached easily with a chain on one side of the cage and can be pulled and rolled up through the bottom and sliced off making changout simple and easy with no fuss. A roll cost about $30 and last 9 months with daily change.

Claire  06/01/2012 10:14 am

We switched from crushed corn cob to newspaper, and it has been great. The best thing is that we can put it all in the compost bin when we’re done, and it breaks down much faster than the corn cob in our residential compost bin. I feel like being a responsible pet owner means keeping garbage out of landfills, too!

Donna  06/01/2012 10:20 am

That’s all my local paper is good for anyway……. Crappy news….. seems only fitting for a bird to use the paper to poop on.

Desiree Young  06/01/2012 10:58 am

Yes, I use newspapers too. My question is what’s the best thing to use so that all of their food droppings hit the bottom of the cage and not my floor? Thanks.

Faith Embleton  06/01/2012 11:17 am

Hey Chet
Paper works for my bird and for all the birds I have had since my kids were babies. I agree that those other things are breading grounds for disaster.

Pat Fear  06/01/2012 11:29 am

I have used incontinence pads for my three parrots for several years. They’re not that cheap, but they have absorbent cotton on top and plastic on the bottom to prevent leakage, so cleanup is easy. I just roll the up and throw them out. They come in several sizes that fit the cages.

Alice L.  06/01/2012 11:36 am

Local architects, civil engineers and anyone who uses a plotter has a TON of extra paper that they throw out every day. This paper is only printed on one side and is much heavier than newsprint. This is the perfect cage bottom as it looks white and clean, not messy and tacky like old newspaper. I pre-cut my cage bottoms to make changing about a 30 second job every few days.

Rick Savitt  06/01/2012 12:59 pm

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.

Dean  06/01/2012 1:23 pm

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

Diana Lambert  06/01/2012 1:25 pm

I buy plain newspaper without any print on it fro uhaul 200 sheets for $8.00 can’t beat it and no ink feet

Dave  06/01/2012 1:52 pm

I use a few sheets of paper towels that are kept away by the grate I don’t think the extra cost too much and they are clean.

Barbara  06/01/2012 2:40 pm

Newspaper is great — and free. What could be better? That way I can spend more money on toys. Paper towels work ok too if I forget to save some newspapers when I recycle.

Connie Vasquez  06/01/2012 4:06 pm

You can also purchase newspaper end rolls. They are quite inexpensive, non-printed, and you can cut sheets to the desired size for your cage.gave

Sharon Danner  06/01/2012 9:12 pm

I’ve found that Home Depot carries brown paper rolls in multiple sizes that works best. It’s clean, inexpensive and won’t rub newsprint off on my U2’s as they scrounge around in the paper. I get a larger size for the bottom of the cages and a 12 inch roll to make additional poop landing strip pieces for changing out daily. My U2’s both seem to have their favorite perches from which to poop so I put the 12 inch pieces under them so it helps to keep their cages clean throughout the week.

Carol Newlin  06/02/2012 2:51 am

I was using newspaper for a while. But I found something I like better! For my cats I use 100% corn litter (not corn cob, but corn). It’s called ‘World’s Best Litter’. No additives. It clumps, but no swelling. During the day I just use a pooper scooper and sift out any clumps! It’s easy! Even when my Orange-winged Amazon decides to take a bath inside his cage, and splashes water everywhere, I just scoop out those little clumps. Same with his pees and poops. I also use the corn litter on top of the cage. He occasionally nibbles at it, more out of curiosity, but it’s 100% corn!

Cherie Platts  06/02/2012 8:20 am

Having worked in the print industry for years I would use printed matter with caution. Especially colored ads not so much because of the inks but the types of paper used. While it’s true that most inks today are soy based or UV reactive, papers can be made of anything from cloth fiber to re-cycled previously printed matter that gets bleached, to various types of wood pulps. I have used white food grade butcher paper which I buy at the warehouse store (I get mine at Sam’s Club) An 18″ wide roll lasts me about 6 months lining 6 cages and providing folded and crinkled paper balls for my crew of 7 to play with and shred. Butcher paper has to be “Food Grade” with no additives that could leech into food it might contact. Plus it has a ton of other uses around the house too and at $20.00 for a huge roll it’s well worth the expense. I even bought a paper cutter to hold the roll from Lehman’s non electric store online. You can also get them at Amazon.

Dave Bosomworth  06/02/2012 1:23 pm

I use newspapers under the metal grid that is on the bottom on the cage floor. With this grid being the “true” cage floor, I am not sure that it matters what liner is used as long as it is not accessible to the bird. I am, however, more concerned about those pieces of wood I give my Amazon to bite on. I am pretty sure she doesn’t “eat” the skins or wood, but I wonder what wood is safe to use for chewing?

harleygal  06/02/2012 8:34 pm

Noone has even mentioned using crushed walnut as a cage bottom. I have used it for years and love it. It scoops like kitty litter only finer which makes clean up easy.

Nancy McShane  06/03/2012 8:31 pm

I too choose newspaper, but in one case, my Old Amazon, Buster, will reach down through the bottom and pull it all up off the bottom! He then tears it into pieces, and it is not allowed to do the job! So, I pick up a few (5) of the USPS Express Mailers, which have fabric in them. He is unable to tear it up, and therefore has decided to leave it alone…Lol! It works great, and I replace it as necessary.

George Cox  06/04/2012 5:13 pm

Paper 4 sure : as a additional item I place a clear drawer liner I got on a roll @ Costco on the floor. It keeps the floor organized ,cleans up with just hot water, place it under the cage bottom.

bhavana  06/04/2012 11:03 pm

I use newspapers too and it does a great job.

Janis Warne  06/05/2012 8:50 am

I think that people should also be thinking about the environmental impact of using “throwaway” products that contain plastic or other material that does not break down. In caring about our birds, we should also be caring about our planet. I use black and white newspapers, and plain news print, and I compost it–the bird guano is rich in nitrogen and it all goes back to the earth.

flappy bird,flappy bird hack  03/12/2014 12:02 am

I love the helpful tips you present to your posts. I most certainly will save your blog site and examine once more right here on a regular basis. I am reasonably ‘ will be instructed numerous completely new products perfect below! All the best . for one more!

Larissa  09/05/2014 10:59 pm

Is it possible to use fabric (like old sheets) cut to size? Just thinking it could be shaken off, then thrown in the washer and reused…

Judy McNair  01/21/2015 2:28 pm

How often do you change it. I have a habit of every evening. Brushing off the food debris off the sides of the cage and the bottom. Cleaning the cage and stands every week. Too Clean? just wondering.

Molly  01/21/2015 2:52 pm

I use wrapping paper! After christmas I stock up on plain rolls of wrapping paper that is on clearance. It is super cheap and a good size so I can line the bottom in one piece. Plus, I always have some in case of any last minute present wrapping needs throughout the year!

NuttyMommy  01/30/2015 4:49 pm

You can purchase “end rolls” from your local newspaper. These usually contain a fair amount of clean paper. Just call and ask – usually 2-3 dollars.

vicki  03/10/2015 4:39 pm

I use shredded paper

Karen  04/11/2015 5:22 pm

Seriously, your article is titled the best liner to use in your parrot’s cage and all you do is go on and on about what not to use. You should have named your article “What NOT to use.

Alanna  01/30/2018 5:45 pm

I am trying the small pee pad for dogs. I found some that for almost perfect. They lay flat, are absorbent and I can still see their droppings because they light colored. Any thoughts? Birds can’t get to them.