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Pet Rats/Smelly rats!


Hi, I've had rats for 3yrs now. My first pair sadly passed this winter. I have 2 girls about 10 months old. A sprague dawley and a smaller pink eyed white. Lately I have been having issues with cage smell. I even bought a brand new "fiesty ferret" cage. They have two glass water bottles (one on each main level) they eat Oxbow rat essentials. I supplement with Oxbow immune support, they get a pinch of flax seeds almost daily and fresh veggies, usually leafy greens, several days a week. They get lots of exercise. They are litter trained but are certainly better at pooping in the litter than peeing. I line the cage floors with towels, I also use towels in the litter pans (environmentally and cost friendly). I have a feeling that one of them produces very concentrated and/or smelly urine. I've tried cleaning with water/vinegar and with dilute bleach. It usually smells of urine by the next day. The cage is IN my bedroom so I've been cleaning every 2nd day for a few weeks now.

Should I be worried about UTI or is it normal for a female rat to have smelly urine? Is the anything I can feed her that will cut down on the smell. I saw a product by Marshall I think it's to be added to the water and makes the urine less smelly, does it work? Is it safe? Perhaps if I fed a lot of iceburg lettuce the urine would be more dilute? Are there any cleaning supplies that work more effectively? I'm ready to try anything. I think my next step will be to buy a range of nature's miracle products (laundry detergent, cleaning spray, cage wipes etc.) Is there some other product I should try in the litter pans? I prefer something flushable, I usually just shake the pans out over the toilet and then throw the towel in the laundry. But if I have to I'll buy something disposable.

Please help!


Hi Gabrielle,
Are your girls spayed?  If not, then you might want to know that a diet high in soybean meal will help to prevent mammary tumors. Oxbow is low in soybean meal, and therefore may not be the best diet for unspayed female rats.  It would also be best to give them a wide variety of fruits and vegies, at least one or two every day.

It is not unusual for urine to start stinking after a couple days. If you don't have anything in the cage to control the odor, it is normal to need to clean every other day or so. I suggest using a little bit of rabbit food in their litter boxes. I use rabbit food in the bottom of all my rat cages because it is excellent for odor control. It is also cheap in big bags from a feed store. I don't know if the oral products designed to reduce urine odors would work. You'd have to try, but it wouldn't stop bacteria from working on the urine, which is what make ammonia.

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Debbie Ducommun


I can answer any questions about pet rats, but you will probably be able find answers to simple questions more quickly on my website at If you have a life-threatening emergency you can try calling me at 530-899-0605. I am not usually on the computer on the weekend.


I have been "The Rat Lady" since 1985 and am recognized as one of the world's experts on pet rats. I have 3 published books and already answer lots of questions about rats daily.

President of Rat Assistance & Teaching Society

I am a monthly columnist for Pet Business magazine, and my writing has appeared in other magazines. I have 3 published books.

BA in Animal Behavior

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