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How to Keep Your Rats From Smelling

Updated on April 20, 2018
NicholeRLovi profile image

I am a mother and wife, I have an amazing husband and 5 beautiful kids. I am here to share m knowledge and experience on my large family.


Rats are Very Clean Animals

Rats are very clean animals, but there are times when a bath will be necessary. Most rats are great at keeping themselves groomed and clean. Recently I have noticed a few questions and post about how to keep your rats from smelling. So I want to go over some tips with you about bathing, cleaning and general maintenance your rats need to keep everyone happy, healthy, and never smelly.

A clean and rinds cage, well have almost no odor.
A clean and rinds cage, well have almost no odor.

Cage Maintenance

First things first, a clean cage! Even the best kept rats will become dirty and smelly if you do not keep the cage clean. It is also important to have a clean cage for your rats health and wellbeing. A dirty unkempt cage and be the number one reason your rat may be smelly. Also the bedding you use can also contribute to having smelly rats.

Here are my first suggestions

1. Do a Deep clean of your entire cage. Make up your own rat safe cleaning solution of water and vinegar. ( 1 part water to 1 part vinegar)

2. replace all your bedding. I highly recommend using fleece with incontinence pads under the fleece on every level of your cage. This wicks away any moisture from their urine or water that gets spilled, and keeps them from walking or laying in their own urine.

3. clean all their toys and hammocks.

4. Pay close attention to where the rats poop the most in their cage. Once they have picked a spot they will likely keep using the same spot. So put a litter pan in the spot they have chosen with some rat safe litter. Examples: shredded paper, paper towels, medium sized rocks, or even scraps of fabric.

5. Give all your rats a bath.

depending on how dirty your rats are, you can opt for a full bath in your sink or bathtub or a simple and relaxing wipe me off sponge bath. I like to keep my bath times few and far between. Rats have natural oils in their skin that they need, bathing them to often will strip these oils and cause you to have itchy sickly looking rat. So don't bathe to often.

Good Reasons To Bathe Your Rats

Sick, over weight, or injured rats.

These rats will need more care and may not be able to clean themselves, therefore you would have to do it for them. until they are well enough or have lost enough weight to do so. Make sure during this time you take extra care to keep your rat clean, as poor hygiene can cause other health issue and, could make the injury, or illness worse.

Buck Grease
Some intact males you will notice and orange/yellow oil on their backs. This is caused by testosterone secretions. This is nasty looking and is very oily. It can also cause your rat to smell if they are not properly grooming themselves. If you have a particularly greasy rat I would use original dawn dish soap. Then after that I love a shampoo called hogwash. Its a pet safe shampoo for hedgehogs, but it works great for all my small animals. You can find the shampoo here.

Introducing new rats
In this case making everyone smelling the same can help a ton with introductions. Some say you can just add vanilla to their back, but for me a good scrub down seems to work best. It also seems to cut down on the dominance urination, which is another reason for a bath ha-ha.

Parasites or other skin issues
For any of these condition you will need a vet prescribed treatment and possibly medicated shampoo.

Smelly rats
Some rats just don't clean themselves and tend to be more smelly or have a muskier odor. I notice this more in my male rats than females. Males are lazier and I don't think clean as often or as well as my female rats. Other times rats just get dirty or get things on their fur that would call for a bath. like the days they have berries!

The best soap for small pets.
The best soap for small pets. | Source

Shampoos That Are Safe For Your Rats

Shampoo you can use

Dish Soap (original dawn dish soap)

oatmeal shampoo

Baby Shampoo (original)

Hogwash (My personal favorite)

Before you start giving your rat a bath you need to make sure you have all the supplies you will need. I like to keep all my stuff in a Rubbermaid container under my bathroom sink. Since that is where I give all my rats a bath. The other thing you may want to do before you give your rat a bath is trim their nails. Some rats will hate a bath, screaming, and fighting the whole time, others will love it and just have fun floating and relaxing. So a good nail trim never hurts.

The supplies you need to have handy for bath time.
The supplies you need to have handy for bath time.

My Bathing and Grooming Kit

This is what I keep in my bathing /grooming kit

1. Q-tips(to make sure their ears are dry)

2. Shampoo- I use hogwash for all my small pets and its amazing!

3. Tooth brushes (one for brushing my rats and one for cleaning them and their tails.)

4. Nail trimmers ( I use baby nail clippers)

5. A few old rags and a old towel

6. A small Ziploc baggie of very special treats

Other things you could include could be any special shampoos, such as medicated shampoo, or sensitive skin shampoo.

Now for the actual bathing. Fill up your sink with warm water, and get your rat wet. If your rat hates water let him sit on a towel while you lather him up with shampoo. Use the toothbrush to gently scrub the tail, Then use an old damp rag to get the face and ears. Make sure you don't get soap in their eyes. When it is time to rinse of your rat, turn on the faucet and rinse him off using the running water. then place on a fluffy towel and dry him off. Dry out their ears with a Q-tip(DON'T STICK IT IN THE EAR) I also like to use my blow dryer on low to keep them warm and dry them a little faster. None of my rats seem to mind this, but I have been doing that since they were babies. Brush them with the dry tooth brush and your all finished.

All About Bathing Your Rats

Cleaning Your Rats Tails

Tail cleaning!
When you start cleaning your rats tails, always make sure you start at the base and clean down to the tip! If you clean in the opposite direction you can cause debris to get stuck in the scales the tail causing infection and bacteria growth. Also, make sure you always clean the tail very gently. Rats tails are important for many things and are also very sensitive.

I think that about covers all the rat bathing how to's. I hope this helps you and makes bathing your rat a fun enjoyable experience. Do you have any rat care or bathing tips? I would love for you to tell me about them in the comments below.

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