Ask any owner of a pet rat and they will immediately tell you how rewarding, hilarious and affectionate rats are. Rats have a bad reputation, there is no denying that. So, if you are thinking about getting a rat as a pet, you will likely have some additional questions. Some of the most commonly asked are around their smell. I decided to research the topic and related questions. I would like to share what I have been able to find with you here today.
So, do pet rats smell? Pet rats should not smell. Rats are very clean animals and should not be smelly at all. Pet rats groom themselves often, so any bad smells that owners may encounter are often easily avoided. It could be that the smell is coming from their cage and not the rats themselves. Thorough and proper cleaning of a pet rat’s cage can help to eliminate odors.
Pet rats have distinctive characters and personalities. They are inquisitive, playful, and smart – your pet rat will love to learn new things!
Pet rats are sociable and can build strong bonds with their owners. There are so many wonderful things that make rats amazing pets!
However, some people are put off the idea owing to the reputation of a rat. In the wild, rats are typically scavengers, many hunting for their next meal through garbage in urban settings.
This has led to the misconception that rats are smelly, filth loving creatures. The reality is quite the opposite!
Let us now take a closer look at the subject and clear up some of the most common misconceptions with this rodent.
We’ll even be covering how to properly bathe them so be sure to keep on reading until the end!
Do Rats Smell Bad?
Pet rats are known to be incredibly clean creatures, so any bad smells that they cause are often attributed to the cleaning of their cages/enclosures.
The ammonia that can be found in the urine of rats (and many other small creatures) can often have a pungent smell if not cleaned thoroughly and regularly.
Cleaning your rat’s cage is an important part of their care and in doing so properly, bad odors can be avoided.
By providing your pet rats with the correct housing, bedding and cleaning, rat smells can be avoided altogether.
There are some simple actions every pet rat owner can take to ensure they don’t experience any unpleasant smells such as:
- Cleaning their home out thoroughly at least once per week,
- Spot cleaning any urine/faeces daily,
- Litter training your pet rat (we did say they are intelligent!),
- Providing a home for your pet rats with ample ventilation.
Pet rats can have different smells depending on their gender too.
Male rats tend to have far stronger smelling urine than female rats.
This is due to the fact the male rats are territorial and have a tendency to scent mark their homes. Or even you!
This also means that male rats have a tendency to urinate all over their homes, making spot cleaning a little more challenging!
Don’t let this put you off though, there are plenty of great products like this Kaytee Clean and Safe Cage Deoderizer available on Amazon.
By using a deodorizing product, in your pet rat’s home, even the strongest smells can be eliminated.
Remember, your pet rat is just marking their territory, so some scent residue will be healthy for your pet and make them feel safe and at home.
Female rats tend to be a little bit more controlled and less carefree with where they urinate.
Typically, a female rat will stick to the same location of their home and their urine is far less smelly than that of their male counterparts.
Because rats are such intelligent and clever creatures, they can easily be litter trained.
Litter training your pet rat can help to reduce smells by making spot cleaning quicker, easier and more effective.
To start litter training your pet rat begin by selecting an appropriate area of their home as their ‘toilet’.
Then each day as you spot clean, move a little of their dirty bedding, pee and poop to that area whilst removing the majority.
After a while, your rat will form an association with this area and begin to urinate and defecate in that area of their own accord.
Ensuring the home, you have chosen for your rat is suitable can also help to prevent them from smelling bad.
Rats thrive in cages where there is good ventilation, so avoid glass or plastic tanks.
To help prevent odors, opt for plastic toys and accessories in your rat’s cage rather than wood. This is because wood is more absorbent and can retain smells such a urine.
Why Can Rats Smell?
The primary cause of pet rats smelling is often totally unintentional and has little to do with the rats themselves. Insufficient cleaning of their housing is the main reason that rats might smell.
To avoid this, pet rat owners should seek to clean their rats cage thoroughly at least once a week and spot clean their cage daily.
It could also be that the wrong type of bedding is being used. We recommend using a bedding that is suitable for small animals and absorbent.
Always check that your rats bedding is safe as that is the most important thing.
Replacing the bedding fully is advisable once per week, throwing away all of the dirty bedding bar a few small pieces so that the smell of your rat’s cage remains familiar to them.
If your rat’s like to sleep in a nesting box, try switching the material lining every couple of days so that they remain clean and fresh smelling.
When completing the weekly clean of the whole cage, remember to clean the bars, base, toys, food bowl, litter, sawdust, bedding – everything!
Remove the entire contents of the cage and disinfect or wash with safe for pet products.
Remember to rinse everything thoroughly, removing any residue that is left by the soap/products you are using.
Should You Bathe Pet Rats?
Pet rats tend to be extremely clean and hygienic animals. They groom themselves regularly and often spend a long time doing so. There is conflicting advice on whether or not owners should bathe their pet rats.
If an owner is worried about their pet rats being smelly, we would recommend thoroughly cleaning their pet’s housing as a first step to eliminating odors that have built up.
Bathing your pet rat may then be necessary if they are still a bit smelly.
Other reasons owners may choose to bathe their pet rats include:
- To reduce dominance urination (or to wash the effects of such off another rat),
- If your rat is sick or injured and therefore unable to groom themselves,
- If your rat is old and struggles with grooming,
- To control odours.
It should be noted that whilst bathing your pet rat isn’t necessarily vital in their care, there are certain aspects of bath time that your pet rat may enjoy!
The warm water and attention are pleasurable for rats!
Making sure that your rat is comfortable going in to the water is often the first step in bathing your pet rat.
As an owner, you want to minimise the stress and trauma for your pet rat as much as possible.
Allow them time to build up their confidence around the water rather than forcefully submerging them in it.
If you are choosing to use a shampoo or similar product to bathe your rat in, be sure that it is safe for animals.
Oatmeal shampoo, like this Oatmeal and Aloe Natural Pet Shampoo available from Amazon, is generally recommended for its nourishing and gentle properties.
Ensure that all the product is rinsed off your pet rat before carefully lifting them out of the sink or bowl you have been bathing them in.
Allow your rat some time to groom themselves after, before towel drying lightly and returning them to their cage.
Pet rats are creative, full of personality and rewarding to take care of. Ensuring that your pet rat is properly cleaned can prevent any odors.
The ammonia in rats’ urine can become pungent if left to build up over an extended period of time, however regular and thorough cleaning of their home and toys will prevent this.
However, these clever little creatures make amazing pets and so long as you appropriately take care of them and their environment, there should be no reason why the risk of smells put you off from owning one.
A rat should not make your house smell, so long as their cage is regularly cleaned out. Failing to do so will result in the buildup of urine that contains ammonia. This can lead to an unpleasant chemical smell that is often considered to smell musky.
Keeping rats from smelling is a matter of ensuring their cage is clean and no urine/feces collect in their home. Rats are typically very clean rodents, who will spend hours per day naturally grooming themselves. You can look to bathe them if and when you deem it necessary – such as once per month or if they have accidentally acquired poop or urine in their fur.
I am a practiced pet owner with decades of experience owning a number of different pets. I am also the main writer and chief editor here at Pet Educate; a site I created to share everything I’ve learned about pet ownership over the years and my extensive research along the way.