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Can I Litter Train My Pet Rats?

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Question: Can I Litter Train My Pet Rats?
Answer: Rats are pretty clean animals so it is certainly worth a try. However, as with other pet rodents, you may not have success getting your rats completely litter trained (mine, for example, almost always defecate in the box, but also almost always urinate elsewhere in the cage!). Rats will often choose one part of their home to use as a bathroom area most of the time, so putting a small litter box in that location makes sense. They may still either mark territory or have accidents out of the box, so the goal should be to get your pet rats to use a litter box most of the time. This will definitely make cage cleaning a lot easier and help keep odors to a minimum. Here are some tips to get your rats to start using a box, at least most of the time

Choosing a Litter
I recommend a paper-based product (Yesterday's News, CareFresh, etc) for the litter box. Clay litters tend to be dusty and there is always the risk of ingestion. Do not use clumping cat litters (to much risk of ingestion/obstruction or the litter getting stuck to your pet). Choose a different product that what you use for the cage bedding, though. Yesterday's News is a product that works well (assuming you are not already using it as bedding!).

Litter Training Tips

  • Choose a small, shallow container for a litter box. A small plastic storage container might work as long as it not too easily tipped. Small corner litter pans are available and are a good choice as many animals prefer to use a corner by nature.
  • Keep an eye on the cage to see if there is a particular area that your rats have already picked as a "toilet" area. This is a good place to put the litter box.
  • Place some feces and urine soaked bedding in the litter box. This helps give the rats the idea that this is the place to go.
  • If you do happen to catch your rats using the box, give them a treat!
  • Clean the litter pan out regularly, but at least for the first while, always leave a little bit of waste in the pan so to mark it as "the place to go." You can try scooping the litter if you wish, but it is probably easier to just use a shallow layer and dump and replace the litter (saving a bit of waste) every day or two.
  • Don't expect perfection -- the idea is to contain most of the wastes to make cleaning easier. Your rats will likely still want to mark other parts of their home with urine or feces, and may also have times when they can't be bothered going to the litter pan.
  • If you have your rats out of the cage for playtime, you can provide a box outside of the cage, too. Remember to give a special treat anytime your rats go to the litter box.
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