As a rule of thumb most rats don't need a bath. They do very well at grooming themselves and contrary to popular belief they like to be clean. However, there are times when a good bath is in order. You can give your rats a successful bath and many of them do an excellent job at getting a bath.

Reasons To Bathe a Rat.
There aren't many occasions that you should give your rat a bath, but there are a few really good reasons to do so.

  • While you should work hard to make sure that you clean your rats cage frequently, there are times when you may not have the time and it may be a chore that is pushed off. In these times your rats may get smelly and giving them a bath can be a great way to get rid of the smell quickly (after cleaning the cage of course). For more on cleaning the rat cage you should see Rat Cages: Cleaning Your Rats Cage.
  • Giving a bath before the rats meet someone who is anti-rat can often be a good thing. It is hard to resist a great, furry cutie that smells good!
  • If you have given your rat a food that they shouldn't have had or too much of a good food and it has cause diarrhea you may need to give your rat a bath to clean up.
  • Every now and again a dirty problem arises. I had a food mix once that colored my white rat orange when she licked herself. I had a rat get muddy once. Sometimes dirt happens.

A Dry Bath.
For a quick and easy bath that will leave your rat smelling good you should do a dry bath. They are fast, easy, and very few rats complain about these.

  1. Gather your materials. You will need paper towel, a paper plate (or a real one), and some chinchilla dust preferably with a great fragrance such as vanilla.
  2. Get one of your rats. Set your rat on the paper plate and sprinkle a bit of chinchilla dust over them.
  3. Take the paper towel and gently brush the dust off. It absorbs dirt and cleans away leaving a refreshing scent.
  4. Repeat with other rats.

It should also be noted that it cleans away oils. Because rats don't have a lot of excess oils it often causes dry skin if used too regularly. Make sure that you don't give this sort of bath more than once a week.

A Bath In The Sink.
Your first option for a real bath is in the sink. You will need a rodent soap. It isn't a good idea to use dish soap (because it is poisonous) or shampoo (because it may be poisonous and it may leave harmful chemicals behind). You will also need a wash cloth for washing and a small towel for drying.

  1. Add a little water to the sink. Check it in to make sure that it isn't too warm. If it feels hot or cold then your rat will have a problem with it.
  2. Gently place your rat in the water. This is going to depend on your rat as to how easy it is to do. Some rats love baths, others tolerate them, and some hate them. Those that hate them often try to climb up your arm.
  3. Lather a little soap on your hands and then gently rub it onto your rat.
  4. Rinse thoroughly. It is important to get rid of all traces of soap. Using the wash cloth speeds this up.
  5. Dry your rat with the towel.
  6. Repeat with other rats.

A Bath In The Tub.
For giving a bath in the tub requires the same materials as giving a bath in the sink. It is faster and often easier if your rat is one that doesn't like a bath. You should know that rats can jump really high and will be able to jump out of the tub if they can reach the bottom.

  1. Add water that is warm, but not hot or cold. Filling it up a few inches so that your rat can swim and can't touch the bottom is often helpful.
  2. Place your rat in there and let him or her swim a bit to get wet.
  3. Lather some soap and rub it in.
  4. Then use your wash cloth to rinse them. Be thorough, it really is important.
  5. Dry the rat with the towel.
  6. Repeat with other rats.

If your rats like getting a bath you can even put them all in the tub together and you can let them swim a bit. If they don't like it then you should make sure that you hurry through the process to limit unpleasantness.

How Often.
It is important that you don't give baths too often because it can really dry out the skin of the rats. You should give a bath no more than twice a month. You can give a dry bath and a wet bath or two wet baths, but limit them so as not to cause discomforts. If you need to give more baths for some reason, just make sure not to get carried away and don't give them long term.

Preventing Dry Skin and Coat.
While making sure you don't give your rats too many baths will go a long way in preventing dry skin and coat you should also make sure that they get a variety of foods including fresh fruits and vegetables. Once a week or less you can also give some olive oil. A great way to do that is to soak small pieces of whole wheat, whole grain, or rye bread in olive oil and offering that to them.

Really Smelly Rats.
Rats shouldn't be really smelly as long as you are taking care of their cage. If your rat is really smelly all the time then you should check their diet and make sure that it is meeting their needs. You can read the article Rats: Feeding a Great Diet for more information. If your rat has a good diet and still smells bad then this is a sign that there is something wrong with his or her health and you should take them to the vet to find out if they are okay.

For more information on preventing odors see the article Preventing Pet Rat Odors. All in all, rats can be given baths. Not all rats will like them, but there are occasions when it is necessary and they will live through it. Just remember not to get carried away and give too many baths.