Reducing and eliminating pet rat odors are often important for pet owners. This is very normal, for any kind of pet really! This is especially important when living in an apartment, which tends to have a smaller space.
In truth, pet rats are very clean and don’t smell bad. We sometimes have these misconceptions about rats, but unless we fail with cleaning the cage, pet rats or any other kind of pet won’t release bad odors.
Just like us and our homes, our rodent friends’ cage needs some care and cleaning to reduce their odor. Generally speaking, keeping the cage cleaned and organized is the most important!
But I made a list with all the things to have in account to keep your home and your pet rat’s cage clean and odor-free!
1- Don’t Use Scented Products!
This might seem like a weird tip to remove pet rat’s odor, but it’s true!
When you use scented cleaning products or toys, your pet rat will want to contest it by covering it up with their own scent. Animals, in general, will feel more comfortable and safe when their home has their smell.
The same goes for pet rats! When being introduced to a new home it will take them some time to get used to it. Everything is new and the scents are wrong. This is why it’s so important to let them acquaint themselves with their cage, before interacting and bonding with them.
They’ll feel very nervous if we’re always disrupting their safe haven! Even today, our girls never really like when we take them out of the cage to clean it. It’s almost like they’re afraid we’re taking it away from them forever.
Once the cage is back in its place, they’ll investigate and be sure everything is in the right place!
As long as you don’t use scented products when cleaning up, they’ll still feel at home and some of their scents will continue to be present on their cage.
If you’re cleaning and changing things all the time, they’ll feel the need to show that the place is theirs by urinating all over the place.
As for what to use to clean, white vinegar or dish soap is more than enough! Here at home, we use vinegar, since it’s always a good disinfectant.
Even though it has a very strong smell when using it, after rinsing everything through the water the smell goes away and our pet rats will never notice!
2- Use Fleece On Your Pet Rat’s Cage!
Fleece is a great way to reduce pet rat odor’s in the cage. It will absorb the odor pretty well and contain it. Just be sure to clean it every few days so that it stays fresh.
For bedding, we mostly use fleece. Especially on their beds! They really love it and this way our girls won’t confuse their sleeping place with a bathroom. For example, in the beginning, we would use toilette paper as bedding as well.
They would make a mess out of it! And, most of the times, they’d bring the paper into their litter. So we gave up on it and kept their beds with fleece or other old fabric we had at home.
Paper or other kinds of bedding, although very good, will start to smell more easily than the fleece. Not only that, you need to change some of the bedding every day to avoid bad odors.
This means spending more money on bedding. With fleece though, you can just change it once in a week, wash it and use it again!
We always have a lot of old fabric cut in pieces to use as bedding. This way, we always have spares when cleaning the dirty pieces!
Tip: Use vinegar when cleaning your fleece so it completely removes the odors!
Again, we sometimes buy expensive cleaning products, but vinegar does wonders! We always have it at home not only for cleaning our girls’ things but for general house cleaning as well.
3- Be Mindful Of Your Pet Rat Diet
Be sure to give your pet rats a healthy diet, as I’ve stated in this article here. A poor diet will cause a lot of health issues for your pet rats and that, in turn, will make your pet’s stools smell bad. Not only that but it will also alter the smell of your rodent’s urine and even the amount of oil that comes from the skin.
This is why I always recommend buying dry food that is designed specifically for pet rats! This way your pet rat will receive the nutrients it needs to be healthy, but it will also help them digest these.
There are some ingredients in rodent food that pet rats can’t really digest. This makes their droppings more liquid sometimes and, in general, more smelly!
These are little things that we sometimes won’t notice but do make a difference. So, again, I recommend getting pet rat food only instead of buying hamster, gerbil, chinchilla and other mixes.
Eating other mixes, not designed for pet rats frequently will not only increase bad odors in the cage but will also be bad for their health in the long term!
I would also like to point out that wet food (like baby food) will make your pet rat’s feces stink more, as well as when your pet rat is taking medicine like antibiotics. So remember that if you think your pet rat’s cage has more odor than usual, this might be why.
Other fresh fruit or vegetables might also have some effect on their droppings. For example, carrots are known to turn the droppings a bit more liquid. If you notice your pet rat’s system doesn’t do well with certain fresh food, cut them out of their diet.
As for dry food, I always recommend Oxbow Essentials (link to Amazon)! It has everything your pet rat needs and it’s made out of interesting shapes for them to grab to while gnawing at it.
But, as long as it’s marketed specifically for pet rats, any food mix will do!
4- Clean The Cage, But Not Too Often!
This might seem counterproductive, but cleaning the cage too often can actually increase the pet rat odor of it.
This is because your pet rats will feel that the cage is missing their scent and will double down on peeing and generally scenting their home to their liking.
It’s the same case with using scented products. If you’re cleaning the cage every second, they won’t feel that the place is theirs and will feel the need to make it so.
This means marking territory. Although this action happens, generally, more among male pet rats, females will also do the same if they feel their scent is missing!
Still, it doesn’t mean that you should rarely clean the cage!
Our Cleaning Routine
Our usual routine is to clean our pet rat’s droppings daily. Either from the litter or around it since they can sometimes be a bit too lazy to do it in the right place.
Other times they miss their litter because they feel it’s too dirty already and don’t want to use it anymore.
Pet rats are very clean and don’t want to live in a dirty place either. That’s why it’s so important to clean their litter daily. Not only droppings but also the excess of litter that is wet from urine!
Then, at least once a week, we exchange their fleece with new and cleaned one!
This is done very quickly and will not take more than 5 minutes of your day, so I highly recommend doing this very light cleaning!
At the end of the week or every 10 days, you can make a deeper cleaning of the cage. For example, cleaning and washing their litter, changing the bedding and even washing the cage with some vinegar and water.
Then finally, an even deeper cleaning of the cage where you remove their toys and cage accessories, to wash them thoroughly. For this last one, I recommend you to actually only do it once per month.
This way, some of their scents will always linger in the cage and they’ll continue to feel at home!
5- Use The Right Bedding To Prevent Odors
Different pet rat beddings will absorb urine and pet rat odors differently. When looking through Amazon or even at a pet store, you’ll notice how overwhelming it can be.
There are so many types of bedding to choose from, made out of different materials. I understand that this could be really confusing at first!
That’s why you should get a good pet rat bedding that will mask and absorb the odors of your pet rat’s cage! But don’t worry, for I won’t leave you hanging. I’ve actually written a post about the Best Bedding for our rodent friends.
There are many options to choose from and even here, I’ve recommended the use of fleece and fabric as bedding. But, for general bedding of the cage, I always recommend the Carefresh Complete Bedding on Amazon!
This is made out of paper, which means that it will not only absorb the odor better, but it also reduces dust on the cage. It makes it perfect for your pet rat’s comfort, but it’s very easy for you to clean as well!
On a side note, there are also recommendations for using baking soda in their bedding to reduce the smell, but I don’t recommend this! There is always a possibility of the baking soda to get into their nose or eyes and cause health issues, so don’t this.
6- Neutering Reduces A Big Amount Of Odor
Especially if you have a male pet rat, consider neutering! It won’t actually reduce the smell produced by your rodent, but it will reduce the amount of scent-marking that your pet rat will do.
As I mentioned before, males tend to feel the need of marking their territory more often. Especially if they’re sharing the cage with other males.
By neutering, your pet rat won’t be as inclined to mark his territory over and over again in every possible space. Which in turn will make your overall cage smell less!
Neutering does have some risks though! Since pet rats are very small animals, there are always risks with using anesthesia.
On the other hand, if you remove their testicles, you can eliminate the chance of testicular cancer and tumors.
Neutering has always some pros and cons, but I think there are more pros at play here!
Plus, if you decide to neuter male or even female pet rats, that means you can have male and female living together.
7- Litter Training Is Essential!
Litter training your rat is actually much easier than you think! Pet rats are very clean animals and they’ll naturally choose a place in their cage for their necessities.
They don’t want to sleep or eat in the same place they leave their droppings at. This makes them very easy to litter train!
I’ve written a step by step post about how to litter train your pet rats and I highly recommend checking it out. It’s really very easy and will be worth it in the long run.
Mostly, all you need is some patience and they’ll be using their litter in no time!
By litter training your rodent friends, you’ll reduce the places your pet rat’s droppings (and even pee) will end up and so it will reduce the amount of odor being spread around.
This way, it’s very easy for you and your pet rat’s to keep the cage clean and odor-free!
8- Keep Your Pet Rat’s Water Fresh!
Having a nice fresh source of water for your pet rats will actually make them healthier and reduce their odor because of that!
I recommend changing it every 1 to 2 days so the water stays fresh.
Some people recommend using apple cider vinegar on your pet rat’s water bottle to reduce their scent, but I actually don’t recommend this at all. Pet rats are very picky about the taste and smell of their food and water, so they might actually start eating and drinking less because of that!
Personally, I don’t like the smell of vinegar, much less the taste! We have vinegar at home for cleaning only and I never use it for food. But that’s my own personal opinion. We have different likings and the same goes for pet rats.
Maybe some won’t mind the different taste on their water, but others might. So better to keep things simple.
Keeping the water fresh takes almost no time. Every 2 days, take out the bottle and empty it. Rinse it through water for a bit and then fill it again!
9- Protect The Surroundings Of Your Pet Rat Cage
Pet rats tend to sometimes spray their urine into their surroundings. This is why you should consider having the surfaces near the cage well protected so they don’t stink the overall space!
I recommend you to cover the walls that are directly near the cage and possibly even on the floor around it.
Our cage has been built by us. When doing it, we actually built a standing for it. This way, it reduces the risk of pee, food or even droppings reaching the floor. Everything stays inside the cage!
Then, since the cage is standing near a wall, we got a blanket to cover the back of the cage. This way our girls can climb freely and any sprayed urine won’t reach the wall.
Cleaning walls can be a headache and it’s so much easier to just wash the blanket that is covering the cage. As with everything, I always recommend having a spare cover, so you can exchange while the others go to wash!
10- Use An Air Filter!
Using an air filter in your house can help keep the overall air fresh and continuously moving around the room.
This way, the room will always feel fresh and odor-free. Not only that, but it might also help reduce the humidity in the room.
A small warning though, pet rats can’t quite stand the noise of machinery near them since they have quite sensitive hearing, so keep the air filter away from the cage.
It can be especially useful if the air filter is silent. If not, be sure to not only use it far from the cage but also turn it on when your pet rats are more active.
Since they’re very sensitive, the noise might not let them sleep, making them even more nervous. This might even make them feel uncomfortable in their own cage. So pick the times when they’re more active.
This way they’ll also be prone to distract themselves with other activities, maybe even playing with you and won’t even notice the noise!
11- Don’t Bathe Your Pet Rat Too Often!
Even though pet rats can swim (and you can even teach them, as you can read in this article here!), in general, pet rats don’t need to be bathed.
They can keep themselves clean quite well enough on their own unless they are sick or have made a mess out of themselves.
One of our rodent friends favorite activities is actually grooming themselves and each other. As I said, pet rats are very clean and they’re cleaning themselves very often.
The only reason you might need to give them a bath is if they have gotten themselves too dirty. For example, they’ve been playing in the dirt. Or they’ve gotten sticky food on their fur.
In these cases, they might need some help with cleaning and a bath is in order.
Still, once you bathe your pet rats, their body tends to compensate for the lack of scent and produce too much odor through their skin oils.
Other than this, if you bathe your rodent friends too often, they don’t have the time to produce their natural skin oils. These are very important to keep their skin and even fur protected.
Pet rat’s don’t smell bad unless they’re sick and can’t clean themselves, so usually, I’d recommend leaving the cleaning for them. Having in account the number of times our girls groom themselves, I’d say they’re having fun with it, so let them have it!
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