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Why Do Pet Rats Smell?

Why Do Pet Rats Smell_

Why Do Pet Rats Smell? Rats are one of the best pets readily available around the whole globe. They are among the top 5 pets according to popularity. One of the first things every rat owners want to know is, do pet rats smell? And if yes, why do they smell?. To understand these questions, please continue reading

Why Do Pet Rats Smell / Reasons

Yes, sometimes they do give off a bad smells, but under certain conditions. They usually do not smell bad. Rats are usually clean animals.

So, if they do smell bad, it is most likely one of these two reasons. 

  • Either their cage or tank is retaining a lousy smell
  • Or your pet rat has sickness or infection that caused it to smell.

These two odors will be very different from each other.  A stinky rat smells is due to urine and feces.  A sick pet rat odor will smell like an infection. Pet rats often smell due to insufficient care and cleaning provided to them.

Why Do Pet Rats Smell_

The so-called rat smells are usually ammonia from their urine, which can be quite intense when left for long periods. Rats are, in fact, extremely clean animals. They often groom themselves and do not smell under normal conditions. If you encounter problems with your pet rats smells bad stinking or are concerned about this as a potential problem, rest assured it can be avoided.

How Long Does it Take for a Pet Rat to Stop Smelling?

Usually, it takes up to three to seven days to remove that smell if your pet rats are too much messy and you never care for their hygiene. But most pet rat owners are curious and love their pet rats, so smell is not a problem for them. It also depends upon the pet’s rats’ owners.

If they keep their pet rat cage and rat bedding clean, they do not have to worry about the smell. Rat owners must change their bedding whenever required, and they do not have to worry about any unpleasant odor.

Cross ventilation is necessary to remove or dissipate the foul odor. Opening windows and use electric fans that are also helpful. Disinfectants and deodorizing air fresheners can also help to eliminate smells.

Do Female Pet Rats Smell Scent?

Yes, female pet rats smells scents, but in low quantity, compared to male pet rats. Usually, male rats smell more than female rats. Male rat’s urine is much very potent and has more concentration of ammonia in it. Male rats also mark their territory around enclosures/cages to show other fellow rats to be aware.

Why Do Pet Rats Smell_

So, their urine can be anywhere and on anything around the cage. This makes the cleaning of rat enclosures much harder, and they are challenging to manage. However, female rats are limited to urinate in individual/specific areas, and their urine is not as pungent and smelling as males. Therefore, keeping female rats is one of the best options for reducing rat stinks and making the environment more pleasant.

On the other hand, if you already have male rats, neutering them is the best possible solution. This will help significantly reduce territory marking behavior, and they smell less.

Do Rats Really Smell, or is it Down to Owners?

As we discussed, rats are incredibly clean rodents. Pet rats frequently groom themselves and should not smell. If rats are adequately housed and cared for, there is no or very little smell that you never detect. Usually, Rats do not smell bad.

If their housing/cage is not right, they are stressed or not enough groomed, then ammonia in their urine is responsible for that pungent smell. So, the smell of pet rats is purely due to the negligence of rat parents.

Tips for Controlling Bad Rat Smell

If you smell your rats, it is due to the cage and bedding not being cleaned often enough or using the wrong type of bedding and litter tray material. Pet rat parent must keep their cage clean.

These are some tips to keep your pet rat cage clean and fresh. You will appreciate it, along with your rats!

  • Use a small animal litter and bedding that is absorbent and safe for pet rats. Although pine and cedar based rat litters smell good, they are toxic to pet mice/rats and should never be used.
  • If the cage is stinky, it’s time to clean it up. Generally, a proper and thorough cleaning once a week is sufficient if the right bedding and rat litter tray material are used.
  • Nesting litter trays/boxes smell more than other big litter trays/boxes because these sleeping holes are usually filled with cotton, wool, or other soft material. These materials should be replaced every two days to minimize odors.
  • Take everything out of the enclosure/cage once a week and throw away all the used litter, and wash the entire pet rat cage starting from walls/bars, toys, floor, etc., with warm soapy water. Be sure to rinse thoroughly. Put in fresh bedding and pet rat litter.
  • Clean the spot daily so that the flat surfaces are cleaned quickly.
  • Minimize the amount of cardboard, paper, paper towels, and toilet paper, and you provide to your mice/rat. It was fun for them to cut these items into pieces. But they became smelly very soon. To minimize their amount or remove them daily to avoid bad smell
  • Sometimes cages have plastic shelving or floors. Plastic retains the odor of urine and will need to be cleaned more regularly than wire cages. This same issue is with cages that are galvanized and do not have coated wires. If possible, invest in a powder-coated enclosure for all type of rats

A Common Scents Guide to Banishing Pet Rat Cage Odor

What Kind of Bedding are You Using? 

Avoid using cloth bedding. Instead, use plain newsprint that is inexpensive and easy to replace daily, which dramatically reduces pet rat cage smell/odors.

Do you have any Cardboard or Wooden Objects Inside Their Cage?

Both materials readily absorb urine. So avoid using these wooden objects in your pet rat cage. These wooden objects should be replaced regularly if you use cardboard boxes and wooden toys inside your rats’ cage. Please get rid of used wooden toys and add new ones to their cage every week. Because wooden objects are so tricky to clean

Are there any Cloth Items Inside their cage?

Hammocks, T-shirts, and fleece floor linings can also absorb and retain the odor of urine. The healthiest way to keep clothes smelling fresh is to add a cup of distilled white vinegar to each laundry load. An alternative solution is to add bleach instead of distilled white vinegar and add it to the washing machine. This will also cut any urine smell in cloth items. Also, be sure and use a laundry detergent that’s labeled “Free and Clear” (i.e., No dyes or perfumes).

Are Your Rats’ Litter Box Trained?

If not, this is an excellent way to both make cleaning up after them more comfortable and help eliminate your pet rat cage odor.

Are Any of Your Rats’ Male?

If so, are they neutered? Unneutered pet rats often have a musky scent. Some pet rat parents love the smell, but some find it offensive. Unneutered males also are prone to urine marks. Neutering can sure reduce the musky scent. It also often helps reduce or even eliminate urine marking. Some rats, however, can be trained to stop urine marking.

Why Do Pet Rats Smell_

Do Pet Rats Smell? 5 Tips To Keep A Rat Cage Smell from smelling

Train your Rats to be Litter Friendly

Rats are smart animals and can be trained to pee in specific places, making spot cleaning more comfortable, especially females trained easily. So train your cat to pee in the litter, not outside or on the cage wall.

Clean the Rat Cage Regularly

Cleaning of cage regularly is one of the most necessary steps. How often you clean the rat cage depends on the cage’s size, the number of rats in it, and whether they are litter trained. The best thing to do is to try a weekly schedule

But Don’t Clean too Often

Also, do not clean too often because it will disturb the housing and privacy of rats. Also, rats are territorial animals and like to live in the environment of their smell/scent. It makes them feel safe. If the rat owner is too vigorous or frequent with cleaning their cage, then the rats’ usual smell is lost, and they have to work more to create their typical pleasant smell to mark their territory.

Spot Clean to Control the Rat Stink

Scoop out the dirty litter and change any damp hammocks or dirty furnishings, leaving the rest of the cage as it is. Clean the spot after every few days and strip the whole cage weekly to fortnightly (depending on how many rats are in residence). Never strip it all out at once with the giant horde cage – instead, try to clean and renovate sections on a rolling basis.

How to help with Rats and Mice

Use Absorbent Substrates

The most considerable source of the smell is not the rats themselves but the substrate they were on (rat pee only really smells if they wee on it). That means selecting the right substrate for your cage is one of the easiest ways to deal with any smell.

With the rising popularity of flat-based enclosures, many rat parents prefer materials such as fleece or newspaper to loose substrates. However, neither newspaper nor fleece is incredibly absorbent of wee or its smell – that means your rat’s litter or cage will be very stinky and smelly. So take care of that while using absorbent substrates.


Rats are often very clean creatures. They also groom themselves daily. But rats usually smell due to ammonia in their urine and because they are territorial animals that mark their territory by scenting urine. Male rats often smell more. So due to this, you have to clean their litter and litter box every week to ensure that they do not stink.