Are Pet Rats Clean, What’s it’s Like Owning One?

I hear this a lot “but aren’t rats are dirty”. This is often the first question that comes to mind when you mention a rat being kept as a pet. As it would turn out, rats are a commonly misunderstood pet.

Are pet rats clean? Yes, pet rats are very clean animals, it’s said they are actually as clean cats. They will spend a large part of their day grooming, organizing their home and also tend to use a selected corner of their cage as the bathroom.

Pet rats are very clean animals but what makes them clean and how can you help with improving their home (cage) hygiene. Luckily I have some interesting information and tips for you.

Domesticated Pet Rats are Clean

Domesticated rats are one of the cleanest pets you can adopt. Far from the vermin we imagine lurking in the sewers, they are creatures that pride themselves on personal hygiene.

A large portion of a rats’ day is spent tending solely to their fur! This care routine is so essential that rats use social grooming as a method of bonding, and to build trust within their communities. In fact, it’s found that rats are very sociable, empathetic creatures who are exceedingly loyal with whom they share a bond.

The rat possesses much of the same endearing devotion to its owner as we see in dogs. That being the case, rats are beginning to be heralded as the lovable pets they are for their intelligent interactiveness and inquisitive minds.

Besides maintaining a fresh, shiny coat, rats are known to behave in such a way as to ensure overall cleanliness is preserved. For instance, rats typically prefer to use only one area of their cage as the designated bathroom, hence rats can be trained to use the litterbox quite easily.

They will also become irritated should something become stuck to their fur, and will busy themselves with removing it immediately. A happy rat is one with an unsullied coat, an immaculate cage, bright eyes, and a heart far larger than you’d think.

Read on for more interesting tidbits about the hygiene habits of our tiny friends!

Keeping Your Rat Clean

As previously noted, rats don’t need much encouragement to be clean little critters. However, there are some things you can do that will help keep your rat fresher, longer, and we’re sure they would appreciate it immensely. As is the case with rats, you can let them lead the way; they know how to keep clean and don’t require being doted upon.

Teach Your Rat to Use the Litterbox

The first item on our list seems to be the most obvious: get your rat to use the litterbox. This is a fairly straightforward process. Once your rat begins selecting an area or areas depending on the cage size, place the litterbox in this same area.

Regularly placing missed placed poops into the litterbox can help get the message across.

Top tips: Use a different substrate in your pet rats litterbox as to that of the bedding. I use a paper pellet bedding that can be used as a litter and a soft recycled dust-free paper for bedding.

Eventually, this will become the norm, and you will have yourself a litter trained rat!

Another good way to improve litter training and get your rat to pee in the litterbox is to use a smooth shiny rock. Rat love to pee on smooth surfaces for some reason, this will encourage them to use the litterbox.

Be sure to regularly change the litter box Weekly

While most rats will make a point of creating a designated toilet spot in their cage, there’s only so much the occasional spot cleaning will do. Should you notice any scent from bedding or litter, it could be time to change out the material for fresh stuff.

Clean Your Pet Rats Cage Regularly

Your rat will require you to clean out its cage at least once every 7 to 10 days, I clean my rats cage every Friday to keep on top of things. A deep clean can be done once a month. Rats are territorial, they scent mark to let other rats know who they are, if you over clean their cage this could lead to them peeing everywhere as it will seem like a new environment.

Monitor Their Tail

Out of sight, out of mind. Perhaps that applies to the few rats who seem to forget their tail tips when washing. Generally speaking, rats aren’t fond of having their tails handled, so it won’t be their favorite grooming session should it prove necessary.

You can gently wash their tails with some warm water, a damp cloth, or even a pet wipe. Be gentle and handle with care! Rat tails are very sensitive!

Tip Resistant Food Dishes

We’ve all seen our furry friends get a little silly from time to time. Rats can be a rambunctious bunch, so having some heavy dishware to hold their fresh food can help avoid frequent tipping.

Wide-bottomed dishes are usually best and act as the biggest deterrent against being moved. These dishes should be cleaned regularly, regardless if they’ve only been used to serve dry foods.

Removing any leftover fresh food from their cage will also help keep their cage clean and reduce the likelihood of any unpleasant/unwanted odors.

To Bathe, or Not To Bathe

Maybe your rat got themself into some sticky dirt and needs a good wash, or perhaps you’re caring for a special needs fellow. At some point, you may need to give your rat a bath.

While it’s pretty uncommon, there are a few reasons why a bath may be a better idea.

Some rats are physically impaired, and may not be able to perform the necessary cleaning maneuvers. Others may be sporting a little extra weight, and find that they’re unable to reach areas they used to before. Here’s the best way of going about it, no matter what the situation.

Test the Waters

Before dunking your rat headfirst into a basin of water, it’s a good idea to see how they’ll react to it in the first place.

Provide a basin and pour a shallow puddle in for your rat to pad around. Initially, keeping the depth of the water low will prevent your rat from panicking as there’s no way for them to end up in over their heads. Once they seem content to strut around in a puddle of water, offer them an opportunity to swim in a deeper pool of water.

Too Hot, Too Cold, Just Right

Before giving your rat free reign of their miniature waterpark, test the temperature of the water first. A good way of doing this is dripping a few droplets onto the inside of your wrist; the skin here is very sensitive and will alert you if the water could scald your rat. What seems warm to us can be very hot to our rats, so take care when finding the perfect temperature.

Try to keep excessive amounts of water out of their eyes and ears! When bath time is over, check to see if there’s extra moisture in the ear canal, as this could lead to infections should it not dry. If those ears require a little drying, don’t attempt to do so by shoving anything (such as a Q-tip) into the rats’ ear.

Simply pat, and gently press the ear to wick away excess moisture.

Less Is More

There are some times when you’re not going to be able to give your rat the full washdown. Luckily, pet wipes exist, and can quickly and effortlessly act as a sponge bath for your rodent pal.

Just be sure to double-check that they’re safe (they usually are) before using. If you’re concerned about potential skin sensitivities, you could always test a small patch of skin to be sure your rat doesn’t have a bad reaction.

Don’t Overdo It

Normally a pet rat won’t require any assistance with grooming, just like a cat usually require any assistance to clean its coat. Human intervention may actually discourage them to self groom, any products used in the water could make their coat taste odd or even make your rat ill.

Just like our skin, rats’ skin produces oils necessary for maintaining moisture and protecting against drying out. Due to their sensitive skin, if it were to become too dried out or irritated, it could make for a very unpleasant time for both you and your rat.

Rats make wonderful pets for many reasons, one such reason is that they’re reliably kempt. Not only are they natural litterbox users, but they strive to sustain this cleanliness and will actively seek out other rats to attempt to improve their conditions, as well.

Our perception of rats hasn’t changed enough when it comes to giving them credit where credit is due. Myths and misconceptions have followed them throughout the ages when it comes to their rumored filth, but we’re beginning to understand that we may have had it all wrong.

Related Questions

Do pet rats smell? Rats are very clean animals who look after their own hygiene and environment. Your rat will normally have a slight sweet musky odor but it shouldn’t smell but make sure your rats cage is properly cleaned out once a week – it’s only a small area they eat, sleep and you know what in.

Darren Black

I'm Darren Black, the owner, and author of I am from Scotland, United Kingdom and passionate about sharing useful information and tips about properly caring for an animal's wellbeing.

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