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Pet Rats/Follow-up: Re: cage&cats


QUESTION: Hello Debbie,

Thank you for your knowledge and help in all 'ratty' topics. I have two gals, Lexi and Willow, who, before I adopted them spent their first 4 months at my exotic vets office.  I adopted them in the 5th month of their lives, and have had them at home since.  They are very well adjusted and basically 'bound' everywhere when they are out for play time (free range time, in the condo).  They will turn 2 years old this September. Lexi is very bold and adventurous, and Willow is very curious, cuddly, and gives kisses all the time.  She is so comfortable at home, and out during play, she'll lie on her back, on the couch to eat her treats!

I had previously loaned my other travel size cage to my vet, for awhile, and in it, she housed a guinea pig, then a chinchilla at one point. Two days ago, I went to pick it up, to use it for an upcoming trip with the girls.  It was cleaned before I got it, by my vet's assistant, but regardless, I filled the bath tub with soap, and hot water, and soaked it overnight.  Then I used a natural type disinfectant and sprayed it, rinsed it again, and let it dry. Since its arrival, Willow has been 'terrified'...she sniffs around all the time, and is 'low to the ground' when out during play (not bounding in a relaxed way any longer).  She is hiding in my hoody a lot like she did when I would go spend time with her before adoption (at the vet's office).  Yesterday, she bolted so fast that I had to get her back to her main house before she dove off my shoulder.  Lexi has climbed all over this cage, and seems completely unaffected.  Willow sniffs at it from afar, and only went inside the base, when there was an almond milk liquid treat in a little dish. The whole time she was stiff as a board.  

Is there anything else I can use to completely eliminate all other 'animal' odors in this cage?  Or is it beyond that, and Willow is picking up the 'energy' that was once inside it?  This used to be their own cage, when they were housed at the vet's before I took them home. When I took them home, they received a new cage, the full size 6 foot tall (almost) Critter Nation.

If I have to order a new cage for travel (theirs is way too big its Critter Nation full size) so be it. I will do so.  I just wanted to see if there is any suggestion you may have for odor control, or for reducing Willow's fear of this smaller travel size cage that they once resided in. Willow avoids the carpeted areas that the cage has been placed on, even after the cage is moved elsewhere.  

Thanking you in advance,
Anne (Willow&Lexi)

ANSWER: Hi Anne,
Well, this is certainly different from the usual questions I get!  I'm not sure I've heard of anything quite like this before. I wouldn't think the smell of a guinea pig or chinchilla would be that frightening. Some rats act like this with the smell of a cat.

I would suggest putting the cage out in the sunshine for a day or more. That might help dissipate the odor or energy or whatever is scaring them.

---------- FOLLOW-UP ----------

Thanks for your quick response.  This cage did have a cat in the base sitting in it before I retrieved it, and 3 of them live in the vet's office full-time (rescue animals).  So I guess Willow is far more afraid than Lexi. Lexi just sniffed at it, climbed all over it, then peed on it!  

So if the sun doesn't work then I suppose a new one is the only answer? She is just so breaks my heart to watch her barely want to come out for free range time.

Anne (Willow&Lexi)

Seems like the scent ought to fade eventually. And rats who are afraid of cats can get used to them and their scent and get over their fear. You'd just have to see how it goes. Maybe try a product that is specially designed to get rid of pet odors?

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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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