Rats make great pets and they really don't have a lot of odors. However, just as with most pets they can get smelly if you don't take care of them right. You can prevent all the rat odors with proper housing, bedding, care, and training! You won't have to worry about odors, whether you are looking at getting a pet rat or you have some now!
Choosing Your Cage.
Finding the perfect rat cage isn't always easy to do. There aren't many on the market, especially if you aren't doing your shopping online. Large aquariums can work, but they have to be large and will need to be cleaned more often because they don't have ventilation. You can choose a ferret cage as long as your rats are full grown and large enough that they won't be able to slip through the bars. Another option is to build your own. You can do this from wire, totes, wire clothes closet organizers, and old furniture. You just have to apply a little creativity and have a little fun with it. The thing that you are going to want is a large cage and the more ventilation it has the better. You can even choose whether or not you want to build your cage or buy one! To find out more information check out the article Rat Cages: To Build or To Buy.
Many people choose wood chip bedding such as pine and cedar because it does a good job absorbing odors and keeps the cage smelling fresh. However, many rats are prone to lung disorders and diseases which are worsened by the oils in the woods. It is best to choose a recycled paper bedding such as Carefresh. This does a good job absorbing waste materials and smells fresh the longest after wood. You don't want a pressed pellet bedding because it is likely to smell bad.
Clean the Cage Often.
Cleaning the cage doesn't have to be a huge chore, but it should be done regularly. Add fresh bedding daily or every other day as needed. Once a week dump all the bedding and put new in. Every other week or once every three weeks clean out all the surfaces with distilled white vinegar. Wipe dry with paper towel. Then spray down with hydrogen peroxide and let it dry. These two will deodorize the cage and kill any bacteria.
Most rats can be potty trained. It isn't hard to do and is well worth it. The basic process has to do with getting a litter pan. Put a different material in there then you use as regular bedding (wood chips are okay for this small amount). Place it in the corner that they use as a bathroom the most. Most rats will go in one or two spots in the cage and not the rest of the cage. Then each day pick up their droppings and put it in the box. Don't clean this box out for a couple of weeks and when you first dump it don't wash it. Instead put it back smelly. Don't wash it for four or five months. They will start going in the box most of the time and then you can use the box in and out of the cage. You can then dump the box to remove most of the odors in the cage. New rats added to the group will follow the behavior of the group and use the box!
Give Your Rats a Bath.
Most healthy rats won't have much of a smell. Occasionally they might smell a little or you might want to clean them so they put their best foot forward in a relationship with a person who is sure they are dirty creatures. To give them a bath you will want to follow one of the procedures listed here:
- Bath tub- One easy way to give rats a bath is to fill the tub with a few inches of water. You want just enough that the rat has to swim or they may jump right out of the tub. Let the swim around for a few minutes to get wet. Using a small animal shampoo (never use dish soap or people soap) suds up their fur from the neck back and wash their tail well. Place them back in the tub and let them swim around for awhile to rinse off. Then place them in a towel to dry off and warm up.
- Sink- You can wash your rat in the sink. Do this by gently holding the base of their tail and splashing them with water. When they are wet get them soaped up with small animal shampoo and rinse them off.
It should be noted that some rats do really well with baths, others love it, and some hate it. Those that hate it will try to climb out of the water and will use your hands and arms to try to do that which can leave scratches. They may also have bowel movements during this process. To find out more on giving a bath check out the article Rats: Giving Successful Baths.
You can also give your rats dust baths. To do this buy some Chinchilla dust. It comes in great fragrances so you can pick the smell you like. Then sprinkle them with it (I use a spoon to sprinkle mine). Take a soft cloth and wipe the dust off. It will clean them, leave their fur shinning, and leave them smelling great. You can do this every now and again, but shouldn't do it too often because it can dry out their skin. Once every two weeks or more is good.
There are also sprays available that you can use to spray down your small animals. These mostly make them smell pretty and are kind of like using perfume on your small furry friend. This shouldn't be done regularly because the ingredients can become a hazard if used too often. Instead save it for first impressions. If grandma is coming over then it is a good time to make them smell great.
Make Sure Your Rats Are Healthy.
Healthy rats with appropriate homes and bedding don't smell a whole lot. If your rat is really stinky then it is a good idea to look for the cause. Rats with poor diets often show signs such as loose bowel, bad smelling urine, and the habit of eating their own droppings trying to get additional nutrients from them. If your rat shows any of these signs it is important that you evaluate their diet. Rats should also be excited to see you and spend some time moving about though most of this often occurs in the evening hours if there isn't day time stimulation. If your rats are lethargic or inactive it is a good idea to take them to a vet familiar with treating and taking care of rats.
You don't have to worry about rat odors. They are fairly good smelling furry friends and usually don't have bad odors with proper care, cage, and bedding. Throw in a bath or two here and there and they will be smelling great!