Rats are not smelly animals.  They are actually extremely clean animals and should not smell bad at all.  If they do smell bad, it is most likely one of two things.  Either their cage or tank is retaining smells, or your rat has an infection or sickness causing it to smell.  These two odors will be very distinct.  A stinky cage odor will smell of urine and/or feces.  A sick rat odor will smell like infection.

Most likely if you are smelling your rats it is due to the cage and bedding not being cleaned often enough or from using the wrong type of litter and bedding. Here are some tips on keeping your rat cage smelling fresh and clean. You will appreciate it and so will your rats!

  1. Use a Small Animal Litter & Bedding that is absorbent and safe for rats.  Even though cedar and pine litters smell good, they are toxic to pet rats and should never be used.
  2. If the cage begins to smell bad, it’s time to clean it.  Generally, if the proper bedding and litter is being used, a full, thorough cleaning once a week is sufficient.
  3. Nesting boxes tend to get stinky faster than the actual litter since these sleeping holes are usually filled with fleece, cotton, or other soft materials.  These materials should be replace every two days to minimize smells.
  4. Once a week pull everything out of the cage, dump all litter, and wash down the entire cage – floors, walls/bars, toys, etc – with warm, soapy water.  Be sure to rinse well.  Put in fresh litter and bedding.
  5. Spot clean daily by quickly wiping down flat surfaces that get a lot of traffic.
  6. Minimize the amount of paper, cardboard, toilet paper and paper towels you give your rats.  It’s great fun for them to shred and stash around the cage, but they are not absorbent and will become smelly very quickly. Do give them these items to play with, but be proactive about removing them by the next day to avoid bad smells.
  7. Sometimes cages have plastic floors or shelving.  Plastic tends to retain urine odors and will need to be cleaned more regularly than wire cages. The same goes for cages that are galvanized and do not have coated wires. If you can, invest in a powder coated cage made for rats

Browse through the forum archive thread below for more ideas from other rat owners.

* The following is the original post made in the RatPalace forum archives discussing how to control bad rat cage smells.

Topic: oh the smell!!!!

Author

  Message

csite  

Recently, my rats have been really stinking! i don’t use any rat bedding since all they do is sneeze around them and get little red noses, so i use toilet paper and shredded paper. OMG this last week, the smell got so bad, i honestly couldn’t step in my room! i removed them from my room to the hall, not only that the small is still in my room (most likely their little evil scent markings where they were running free around my room lol [my room is carpeted])

So i am thinking, just why do they smell so bad? i had my friends over a few days ago, the instant they came in my house i saw it in their face, their whole emotion changed like “oof what a stink” but they were too polite to say anything…

Someone help me! will fabreez spray sort this trouble out? or do i need an extreme measure like bath the rats every week? i wash their cage every 1-2 weeks max, i can’t understand why they would smell this bad, unless it’s due to the food they ate, this last week i ran out of rat food and so gave them rice, carrots, biscuits, bread, apple and abit of cheese.

RougeTheRat   Well what kind of bedding have you been using.

Certain litters are a bit dutier than others. I reccomend you get aspen, hemp, yesterdays news, or eco bedding.

My rats dont sneeze with that

MAke sure you dont put hay in with them. That will just make things worse.

Anyhow cages usually need to be cleaned 2-3 times a week depending on how many rats you have.

It should be scrubbed atleast once a week and the litter changed once or twice inbetween that.

Christy   Toilet paper and shredded paper aren’t the best choice for odor control unless you are changing it several times a day. The best litter I’ve come across for odor control is Yesterday’s News and Cell Sorb Plus. YN you can get at most local pet stores and if you get it in the cat section it’s cheaper. Rats should not have such a stench – a putrid smelling cage equals a dirty cage. A change of bedding should be all you need. Also, if you keep nesting fabric in the cages they should be changed every few days as the ratties tend to marinate them. And if you have a galvanized wire cage it will also retain pee odors – a powder coated cage will prevent this.

On top of these changes – try cleaning the cage every week. How big is the cage? How many rats are in the cage and are they male/female? These things can all be factors in the bad smell.

bcorby   If the cage smells bad to you, imagine how it smells to them–and they have to live in it.

Shredded paper isn’t the best choice for bedding, unless you just toss a stack of it on top of another kind of bedding that you line the bottom of the cage with. It doesn’t control odor well, and it needs to be changed a couple of times a day if you’re using it as your primary bedding. For nesting material, it tends to last quite a bit longer (I change it every three days or so).

What kinds of bedding have you tried? CareFresh and Yesterday’s News, in my opinion, have the best odor control. I’ve had the fewest sneezing problems with Aspen Supreme pellets (which, it turns out, Nibbler is not allergic to, so it’s the litter I use in the upper pan), and they can hold odor very well also.

Ellies_girl   If you are using paper as there bedding/litter, you need to change it AT LEAST twice a day.

Once every 2 weeks is not often enough for any little. Once a week is the minimum.

Yesterdays News has excellent odor control, and doesn’t seem very dusty. Have you tried that yet?

Jendry   I find that Yesterdays News, and The Daily Scoop work really well, they keep the smell down. I actually pick out their cages daily (removing any visable poop, and big wet spots) and add a little litter as needed. This way i have found i only need to give the cage a complete overhawl every 10 to 14 days. Keeps it smelling fresh, and keeps it clean, and (although it doesn’t matter to me too much) keeps the cost down because i don’t need a big bag of litter as often. Just remember to wash you hands when you do a ‘pick out’!

csite   The toilet paper is the thing that makes it stink then… well tomorrow i will be sure to pop round the pet shop and get yesterday’s news. At the time of replying to this thread (time stamp 2.41 am uk time) i just woke up from the horrible smell… Coming to think of it no wonder why everytime i open the cage door they jump out, the smell must be horrible for them too… thanks. Will be sure to bathe them later today too to completely get rid of any smells and will get back here with progress!

bcorby   10 to 14 days is too long for any kind of litter. You’ve got to completely change the litter/bedding every 7 days or when it starts to smell–whichever comes first. Spot-cleaning isn’t sufficient.

Celynny   I change the bedding every few days just to make sure their air is happy and nice smelling (smelling of regular air, not gross icky) ;_;
I can’t imagine the horrible smell after 10-14 days of living in their own excrement!!!
Why didn’t you change it more regularly just as a matter of good practise? If it stinks, why didn’t you change it earlier? I dont mean to sound hrash, but I don’t think your mother left you in dirty nappies for 10-14 days at a dtime, you got changed when you got stinky….you should look at it like that

The rats’ bedding is their nappy. When it STARTS to stink you have to change it..otherwise they will get the proverbial ‘nappy rash’ which is sneezing, sniffling and horrible problems breathing from living in their own excrement and ammonia! Think of their bedding as their nappy and you’ll be fine with them.

Yesterdays news is kind of the ‘premium’ best brand of nappies.
Carefresh is a second, but might cause some allergic reactions.
Wood shavings (ones that are okay to use) are third.
And personally, anything else I would not even use.

Using toilet paper and shredded paper on your rats is like using a single piece of kitchen roll/paper towel on a human baby.

Reeney315   Also- I dont know if anyone mentioned or not- but the first post mentioned using Febreeze on the small pets. I use a lot of febreeze in my house, but do NOT use it on your small pets. It even says on the bottles that it is dangerous for them (which means someone was crazy enough to spray their hamster down with it, killed it, called in complaining so now they put a warning on the bottle- sad. -.- ) Its probably never a good idea to spray random chemicals on your pets, I wouldent even do it on a dog or horse even though the bottle only specifies not to do it on small pets. I Just think…if I would be willing to spray it in my face with my mouth and eyes open- then Id use it on my animals. Otherwise, if I wouldent want that done, I wouldent do it to another.

As far as febreezing their hammocks and such, I would STILL be cautious, I dont know the chemical properties of the febreeze that causes problems, wehter if it bothers their skin, or if it poisons them by digesting it- I dont know. Therefor I only use it around my house, not anywhere near the rat cage.

Jendry   Hey now… I change the whole cage as soon as there is any smell BUT by picking it out, and adding fresh litter to any ‘poopular spots’ it stays really clean. Plus my boys keep their peeing and pooping to certain areas… so spot cleaning works well. I would never leave them in smelly messy cage. So 10-14 days works really well. At that point i take the cage apart and disinfect each peice. With a large cage, and only two rats, this works well. I’m not a bad mum. They aren’t living in soild filth. If it smells clean, and looks clean, I would run with the assumption that my boys are fine.

I wash any of their cloths every few days because they do tend to pee on them, and i wash their bowls daily.

Ellies_girl   Jendry, I did that for a while too, and it works, but it got tiring after a while, so now I just do regular cage cleanings twice a week. Bedding should be changed every few days, since that is normally less absorbant things like cloth and paper 🙂

lydelia   Jendry … I do the same thing with my new cage. I just have one rattie in an R-695, so I scoop out the nasties and wipe down the cage bars daily and then clean the whole thing once a week and dump the bottom once a week and that works well for me at keeping the smell down. Right now I am working on trying to litter train Eugene to see if that will help. I think the litter thing I got is too small though … I may have to get a different one.

Reeney315   I do something kind of weird but its really handy! My whole cage floor is tiled except for the front 2 inches across the whole front of the cage. So I clean with baby wipes, wiping the tiles forward, pushing poop and stuff towards the front of the cage, so it falls through the bars onto the bedding below. I have to worry about it being stinky of course, but I never have to worry about them waddling around in their own filth. I baby wipe whenever I m in there, you know? I mean, I sit down to play with them countless times..if I see pee or poop or anything, I just grab a wipe thats stored right by the cage and clean it up while Im playing.

Then about every other day or so, I pull out the tray underneith the cage with the bedding in it. Of course, only the front inch across the front has any poop on it! So I take my dust devil/hand help bvacuum and just suck up all the bedding int he front..put the vac back down under the cage where I store it, and pull some more of the clean bedding from the back of the pan to the front. I only have to add bedding to the pan once in a while, because the poop is so concentrated in the front, it works great! The only time I really notice baaaad smells is when they have a cardboard box..after like a day and 1/2 its pee soaked and wreeking, so I have to throw it out. But mostly my cage smells clean most of the time.

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