If you’ve only recently got rats, you might find that you can sense a bit of odor coming out of their environment and it can even get a bit unpleasant. Fortunately, it’s quite easy to keep a rat’s odor under control and you can have all the benefits of rat ownership without any stink at all.
How to keep a pet rat from smelling? Clean out your rat’s cage every 7 to 10 days making sure you clean down all the surfaces of the cage. Litter training your rats and a simple daily spot clean will make a big difference. Finally, a balanced diet making sure not to feed them too many vegetables will make sure they don’t get runny poo.
Do Rats Make Your House Smell?
Under most circumstances your rats won’t make your home smell. They are clean animals which groom on a regular basis. However, both their poop and pee have the potential to make your home smell if you’re not keeping up with the overall maintenance of your rat’s environment.
The good news is that it’s very easy for you to take care of these tasks and you won’t need to spend a fortune on them, either.
9 Ways To Keep Rat Smells To A Minimum
Let’s start with 9 things that you can do in order to keep rat smells to a minimum before we look at 4 things that you shouldn’t do.
Litter Train Your Rats
If you want your rats to poop in a hygienic fashion, then you need to help them learn to use a litter tray. Now, the good news is that your rat will be very happy to participate in this training as they are clean animals.
The basic process for this is as follows:
- Set up a litter box and fill it with litter. Make sure to use litter designed for rats and a litter box of an appropriate size, you don’t want one to small for the rat to use or one so big you’re always throwing out a ton of extra litter.
- Place some of their droppings in the litter tray. This tells your rat that it’s a good idea to poop in the place that already smells of poop.
- Then reward them for using the tray. Give them little treats, praise them and speak kindly when they do.
- Keep the rest of the cage free of droppings. Until they come to use the litter tray as second nature, keeping droppings out of the rest of the cage reminds your rat that it’s much nicer to live in a clean environment.
Choose The Right Housing
The most important factor in housing when it comes to odor management is to ensure that you have the appropriate level of ventilation which prevents ammonium from building up in the cage and causing a stink.
This is also good for your rat’s health because rats have very sensitive lungs and ammonium build up can cause a genuine irritation or even infection of the respiratory system.
We’d recommend that you go with a rat’s cage with wire walls and that you choose one that is as big as you can afford and accommodate.
Try to avoid wooden toys in the cage as they can absorb urine and pick up the smell.
Line The Cage With Fleece
If you’re finding that you rat’s smell is becoming a bit overwhelming, then you might want to consider lining their cage with fleece. Fleece is a great way to absorb the odor of the cage, but you will need to clean it fairly regularly if you decide to use it.
Rats also love fleece as lining and they are less likely to pee all over the place if they have a fleece under the bed, and they seem to find it very comfortable.
Paper is fine as lining too, but it quickly absorbs large amounts of urine and starts to smell. So, if you want to stick with paper – we’d recommend that you change it daily. This can lead to escalating lining costs for your rat’s cage, so, if you go with fleece, you have a recyclable solution (wash it and re-use) which will save you money.
We’ve found that a little vinegar is the ideal additive to a cleaning solution for fleece it will remove any odors that are left behind by your rats.
Top Tip – if you are lining your rats cage with fleece then I would recommend also providing them with a dig box filled with safe soil or shredded paper. This will allow your rats to exert their natural love to dig through things.
For more ways to entertain your rats why not read one of our other articles how to entertain your pet rats here.
Watch Their Diet
As you might expect a rat’s poop is significantly influenced by the content of the rat’s diet. If they eat the wrong kind of food their stools will start to stink, and their pee can also begin to smell bad.
In fact, it’s even possible for the wrong diet to change your rat’s body odor and leave them smelling funky even when they are completely clean.
This is why you’re best off feeding a rat dry food that has been completely tailored to a rat’s dietary needs. If your rat is pregnant, you should consider changing this to fortified rat food. Don’t buy food designed for other types of rodent as this won’t be tailored to rat health.
You can still give your rats occasional treats and they ought not to affect their droppings or urine but if you notice that there’s a change in these things after a particular snack – it’s probably worth avoiding that treat in the future.
Choose The Right Bedding
You’ll need to experiment a little with bedding until you find the right material to absorb the urine and odor of your rats.
You will find dozens of different options on Amazon but don’t let this put you off there are only a few materials sold for rat beddings, the majority of differences are simply branding differences.
We’ve already written about your options for bedding on this site, but we’d recommend starting with paper and if that doesn’t work, branch out into card or fabric bedding. We’ve found that paper is much more absorbent as a bedding and as long as you change it regularly – you won’t get much in the way of odors.
We don’t recommend sprinkling baking powder into bedding as there’s a chance the rats might inhale it and find themselves in respiratory distress. This is not a certain outcome, but we prefer not to take chances.
Neuter Male Rats
There are many benefits to neutering male rats. Firstly, and foremost (in this context) is the fact that much of a rat’s stink comes from peeing all over the place, male rats do this in order to “scent mark” their territory and to impress the ladies.
Lop off a male rat’s testicles (please use a vet for this) and he loses all interest in impressing the girls and he stops peeing all over the place.
You can also keep neutered males with females, his urge to mount and bother them will be as long gone as his sex organs are.
Finally, you can eliminate the chance of him getting tumors on his testicles in later life and thus, he may live longer.
Sure, there’s a tiny danger of him not doing well under the anesthetic for the operation but the pros heavily outweigh the cons when it comes to neutering.
Invest In An Air Filter
Air filters are not expensive and they’re very easy to install – no technological know-how required. That means it’s a great way to keep the air in your rat’s room moving all the time and feeling fresh.
They reduce the level of odors and, indeed, dust in the air and can make the overall air quality much nicer.
However, it’s important not to put any noisy machinery anywhere near the rat’s cage. So, if you do go with this option make sure to keep it at a distance from your rats. If your rats find that they can’t sleep during the day, they will become stressed and their health may suffer.
Cage Cleaning For Rat Hygiene
You don’t want to go overboard when it comes to cleaning your rat’s cage. It is absolutely essential to change their bedding on a regular basis, but you should only deep clean the cage once a week or so.
It might seem like a silly idea but if you over clean the cage – it’s going to smell sterile to your rats and given that rats prefer to be able to smell themselves. You’re basically asking them to pee all over the place until it does smell of rat.
So, the best way to go (if you want to keep odors to a minimum) is to remove their poop on a daily basis. This is true for pretty much any animal that you keep – poop is not a very nice thing to keep around the home.
If you’re using fleece for lining it can be changed on a weekly basis but if you’re using paper, change that at the same time as you get rid of the poop.
Then do a deep clean every 7-10 days and change their litter, change their bedding (wash the fleece) and give the whole cage a proper wipe down with either soap and water or a vinegar solution.
Once a month you should also take any cage decorations, accessories and any toys out too and give them a proper cleaning too.
If you follow this regime, you will minimize odors but keep enough odor in the cage that your rats won’t want to pee all over the place.
Choosing Your Rats
Female rats tend to spend less time scent marking than male rats and female rat’s urine smells less than male rat’s urine. I have owned males and females over the years and I would say my males have scent marked slightly more than females.
I wouldn’t suggest you choose your rat for this reason, if you want more of a lap rat then go for males and if you are looking for a more playful and energetic rat then females tend to be more active.
4 Things Not To Do To Your Rats In Pursuit Of A Low-Odor Environment
In addition to things that you should do to reduce the odor of rat in your living environment there are three things you shouldn’t do and that’s use scented products around you rats, forget to change their water, forget to clean their larger environment, and bathe them too often.
Fortunately, these things are very easy to attend to and quickly become second nature to most rat owners.
Don’t Use Scented Products Around Rats
Please, whatever you do, don’t invest in scented products to get rid of your rat’s smell. There are several good reasons for this; the first is a health reason – rats have incredibly sensitive lungs and their respiratory system is very prone to infection.
A scented product can irritate this system and make your rat seriously ill. There are even scents which can be completely toxic and might even kill your pets.
Secondly, if a rat finds its home smells of something other than your rat – it’s going to start peeing all over the place to make it smell like them again. So, you’re really not reducing the scent as the extra pee will start to add ammonium to the air.
Finally, the lack of their own scent can make a rat stressed and unhappy, this can lead to health problems if it persists.
So, while it’s a great idea to clean your rat’s cage on a regular basis because it makes their living quarters nicer for them and does reduce the level of smell from the cage around the house, it’s not a great idea to use a scented product for the cleaning. Just stick to washing soap or vinegar for the cleaning agent.
Don’t Forget To Change Their Water
Water can start to stink a bit too if you leave it around long enough. Having fresh water will reduce any negative impact that water can have on the rat’s diet and it won’t affect the odor of their pee or body odor.
You should change the rat’s water supply daily. We know some people insist you can leave it longer than that, but we disagree. Water is cheap and plentiful, why leave your rat with stagnant, unpleasant water to drink?
We also hear that some people say you should add apple cider vinegar to the water – we completely disagree with this. Rats drink water in the wild, not vinegar. The strange taste and/or smell may lead to your rat drinking less water than it needs.
Don’t Forget To Clean Around The Cage
Rats aren’t really all that aware of their surroundings and they don’t tend to think about “in the cage” vs “right through the bars of the cage” when they pee. That means you really need to clean underneath the cage (though this can be reduced by lining the cage with fleece) and around it on a regular basis.
We’d recommend that you cover areas that your rat can spray on with plastic to make this job easier. Though don’t allow your rats to nibble on the plastic if you go this route.
You can also buy guard rails that run around the outside of the cage to help catch bits that fall out of the cage (including pee but also food, bedding, etc.)
You can even drape a blanket down the back of the cage if it abuts a wall to soak up any spray that your rats decide to make. This is much easier than cleaning up the paint work when it gets covered in rat pee, that’s for sure.
Don’t Bathe Your Rats
If you do bathe your rats, it’s a good idea to only do this when it is absolutely essential.
Most of the time, rats take care of their own hygiene and if they need bathing it shouldn’t be a regular thing because you may remove essential oils from their skin and cause them to get irritations or infections.
We hope that you have found our guide to “how to keep a pet rat from smelling?” to be useful in keeping your rat’s odors under control. The truth is that they are very clean animals, naturally, and it doesn’t take very much effort on your part to ensure that they stay that way.
Rats are superbly affectionate pets and while a little odor is always going to be present, you can ensure that it’s their love you remember and appreciate rather than any stink caused by unclean environments.