Keeping your pet rat cage tidy and smell free is extremely important and should not be taken lightly. While ratties can clean themselves and maintain a tidy appearance, they can’t do anything about their enclosure… Apart from making it messy!
Even though pet rats can be litter trained, it’s virtually impossible to make them pee in one place, especially if you have boy rats. Depending on how many furry friends you house in one cage, you might need to give it a clean more often, but once a week is the absolute minimum. It’s vital that you keep an eye (or should we say, a nose!) on the ammonia smell in the enclosure as this is the main culprit when it comes to your rats having respiratory issues.
So to make sure your rats stay happy and healthy for as long as possible, you should follow our advice on how to clean their cage the right way. And if you need some handy tips on setting up the perfect rat cage, check out How To Set Up Rat Cage.
3 Step Routine For Cleaning Pet Rat Cage
No matter how many rat you own, cleaning their cage can be a breeze if you follow a simple 3 step routine. Based on feedback from many rat owners and our own experience, the following cleaning regime is the most efficient way to minimalize bad smell and to keep your rats happy.
Daily Spot Checks
Whenever you take your rats out for a free-roam session (or even when they are still in the cage sleeping or eating), have a look around for any debris, rogue poops and scraps of old food laying around to stop it from rotting and creating a bad smell.
If you have a litter tray, empty it if needed and replace with fresh material (proper small animal litter – but not cat litter – or other kind of substrate can be used). You can also wipe any flat surfaces to clean up visible pee puddles and replace any badly soiled fleece or blankets (it’s most likely that you won’t find any significant dirt after one day but it’s still to keep an eye on it just in case).
Make sure to wash any food bowls and replenish water bottles, as well as put fresh food in. These simple steps shouldn’t take longer than 5 minutes.
If you own 2 or 3 rats, a weekly clean is the absolute minimum to keep any health issues at bay. If you have a bigger group (especially boys, as they pee mark their territory all the time), you might need to do it twice a week, but after a few times you should be able to tell what’s needed depending on how much mess your rats make.
While you clean the cage, take your rats out and put them in a spare cage (you can use a travel cat carrier if you have one) or let them free roam in a designated, safe area. This way there will be no one disturbing you and you can get on without worrying.
- Firstly, take out all the hammocks, baskets, toys and other items you might have inside the cage. Pile them up on one side, ready for sorting through and make sure not to mix the soiled items with clean ones.
- Next, spray the inside of the cage and any ledges that are permanently fixed with a pet safe cleaner. There are many commercially formulated solutions available to buy in pet stores but you can also use a mixture of white vinegar and water (read on for the detailed ‘recipe’). Do not use kitchen or bathroom disinfectants as they are not suitable for animals to be around. To wipe down and disinfect everything, you can use paper towel or un-fragranced baby wipes. Try not to use cloths as you will be rubbing the germs back in, instead of getting them off. A couple pieces of paper towel or a few baby wipes should be enough to do the job. If there’s any grime or stubborn pieces of dirt on the ledges, use a scouring pad or brush to get them off and then wipe again. Leave the cage to air dry while you deal with the toys etc.
- Before putting anything back inside the cage, you must clean and dry it first. Any plastic baskets, litter trays and wooden hideaways are good to use again when wiped and disinfected. Do not put any fabric hammocks, fleece liners or blankets back in, if they have been used during the previous week. Even though they might not smell bad to you, it’s most likely covered with tiny specks of urine or hair and your rat’s sense of smell is much stronger than human’s. Remove any metal or plastic clips used to attach the hammocks before washing them. You can do it by hand in a mild baby shampoo and vinegar solution or simply put them in the washing machine on the hottest setting and use a non-bio, sensitive (kind for babies works great and is gentle) washing powder. Skip the fabric conditioner as it’s way to ‘smelly’ for your rattie’s senses!
- Once clean, you can go ahead and fix the plastic baskets, shelves or wooden hideaways inside the cage and add some fresh hammocks, ropes and cosy huts. Replace any old substrate or nesting materials, rinse the inside of water bottles and put a clean food bowl in. That’s it! Let your ratties in and watch them explore their new diggs!
Monthly Deep Clean
This is by far the biggest job when maintaining any pet rat cage. You should do everything as you would during the weekly clean but focus more on the cage itself. It’s good if the enclosure you use can be broken apart into pieces for easy cleaning.
Best way is to take the cage into the bathroom and wash in inside the tub or shower. You can pour hot water straight from the shower head to rinse everything first and then get down to the nitty gritty stuff!
With an abrasive brush (or even toothbrush!), scrub all the nooks and crannies of the cage, focusing on deep cleaning the bars. There’s often dirt stuck to them where your rats touch them with their paws. Also make sure to check any grooves and corners of any permanent shelving as grime and old hair can accumulate inside them.
Once that’s done, wipe everything down with a disinfectant as usual, let the pet rat cage dry and repeat the weekly clean routine.
Pet Safe Cleaners
Pet shops usually stock a range of cleaning solutions suitable for use around animals, but it’s good to know which ones are safe for rats. In the UK the most popular brands are Johnsons Clean ‘n’ Safe, Out! Natural Cage and Hutch Spray Cleaner and PetsAtHome own brand. All of them work well and it’s really up to you whichever one you choose. It’s important that you rinse the disinfectant well before drying the inside of the cage, just to make sure the smell doesn’t irritate your furry friend’s noses. If you notice your pet rats overly sneezing after a cage clean, it might be worth to change to another brand or use a bit less of it.
Another way to clean the ratty habitat is to make your own solution consisting of equal parts of distilled white vinegar and water. You can mix both liquids in a spray bottle and keep it handy for whenever you need it and it can be cheaper than a store bought cleaner. White vinegar is a natural disinfectant, that will do the job perfectly, but has a one drawback – the smell, so it’s down to you whether you mind it or not. It should not bother your ratties if used in moderation and the pet rat cage is rinsed thoroughly afterwards.
And if you are desperate for a mid-week refresher product, the Baephar Cage Fresh Granules can be a God’s send. When sprinkled inside the little tray or over substrate, the granules soak up the liquids and eliminate nasty smells, giving the cage a whiff of cleanness. It’s definitely worth a try!
Clean Clean Clean. Repeat.
Cleaning a large rat cage can be a big job, but it doesn’t have to! If you follow a simple routine and do regular spot checks, you can save yourself loads of time and keep your rats happy in a tidy, odourless environment. And while you don’t have to follow this article to the letter, we hope it will be a straightforward guide to making sure your furry babies live the best life possible. In time and with experience you will find a routine that works best for you, as well as your rats!If you enjoyed reading this article, please share it with your friends and on your social media! Also leave us a comment below with your thoughts or questions.