The end of the year is frighteningly close. For many people, that means it’s resolution time. Making vows to better yourself is super easy. Keeping those vows, well that is much trickier. Whether it’s sheer forgetfulness or loss of excitement, keeping your resolve sometimes peters out before you can say February.
This year, instead of creating a long list of stress-inducing pledges for your own life, how about making one resolution that benefits your rats’ lives?
If the title did not clue you in, this resolution is about keeping your rats’ habitat cleaner. Yeah I know, yuck. Who wants to clean more? Especially dirty cages! But hear me out.
Rats that are forced to live in a dirty environment are at greater risk for health issues. Wet, soiled areas, for instance, create harmful ammonia and bacteria that your rats could ingest or breathe. Plus, it just makes them stinkier. As rat caregivers, it’s our duty to prevent all this. How? Follow these tips that I hope make cage cleaning tasks a little less grueling.
Task 1: Daily Cleaning Shows Your Love And More
Daily spot cleanings not only prevent the cage from getting super gross, but it also keeps the cage and your rats from stinking up the room.
Tip 1: Use unscented wet wipes or paper towels to remove urine puddles, stray poos (or piles), and spilled food. Wet wipes are also perfect for spot cleaning uncovered ramps and wired bars, the inside of space pods, and the rim of the litter boxes. You can even use them on your rat!
Tip 2: Remove stray poos daily, but leave a few in their litter box to remind your rats where they are supposed to relieve themselves. Keep a small trash can and a rat-sized pooper scooper next to the cage to make this task easy. The easier a gross task becomes, the easier it is not to procrastinate doing it.
Tip 3: If you use a store-bought rat bedding (such as aspen or a paper bedding) to line the floors of your cage, scoop out any large wet or soiled areas daily. If you use cloth to line the floors, swap it out for fresh material every few days.
Task 2: Weekly Cleaning Promotes Rat Good Health
Cages should be fully cleaned at least once a week, or twice, depending on the size of your mischief (group of rats).
Tip 1: Create a cleaning system that works for you. I devise specific steps that smartly lead to the next one. And I do them in the same order every time. This allows me to go on autopilot and get the job done more efficiently.
Tip 2: I find cleaning much less boring if I listen to something while I work. I either stream a favorite TV show in the background or I listen to a podcast. You could also put on fun dance music to liven the mood. Essentially, find anything that’s a welcome distraction to help the time fly by.
Tip 3: Keep all the rat cleaning supplies together for easy access. I use a cart next to my rats’ cage to store the following items:
• kitchen scrubber brush
• bottle of mild dish soap (mine is from Trader Joe’s)
• pack of unscented wet wipes
• roll of paper towels
• pooper scooper (one marketed for hermit crabs works perfectly)
For information on safe cleaning agents and disinfecting cages, I go to the Rat Guide.
Tip 4: A hose or a faucet with a sprayer makes it easier to remove dry or caked-on debris.
Tip 5: Do spot cleanings throughout the week to lessen the severity of waste build up.
Task 3: Monthly Cleaning For Rat Health And Happiness
If you have a Double Critter Nation, or a similar cage with pans you can remove to clean, you don’t need to clean the entire cage weekly — unless your rats are consistently peeing on the bars, of course. If they aren’t, and the bars aren’t soiled, you can wait and clean it once a month or once every couple of months, depending on your rats’ habits. Just make sure all the contents of the cage are being cleaned weekly.
Tip 1: If you have access to a hose, wheel the cage outside for a deep clean.
Tip 2: If you don’t have a backyard or can’t move your cage, lay large trash bags or other waterproof item you can clean or dispose of under and around it to protect your floor. Then use a bucket of water with either a scrub brush, a sponge, or rags to wipe the cage down. This isn’t the optimal way to clean the cage, but you work with what you have.
Tip 3: Remove water bottles and food dishes, along with all cloth and any wood accessories before cleaning the cage.
Tip 4: Allowing a cage and its accessories to dry in the sun not only lessens your work but can also help disinfect it!
Task 4: Tips For Cleaning Rat Bedding
Rats accumulate laundry just like us humans. Whether you use material to line your cage, hang hammocks, provide cloth huts or tubes, or use rat-sized fleece blankets, we all end up with rat bedding that needs to be washed.
Tip 1: Create a laundry basket for your rats’ dirty bedding. Use a large plastic trash bin (or bins) with a lid. Line it with a trash bag and store it either near your rats’ cage or somewhere else convenient. If the material is overly saturated, or the lid isn’t keeping the odor at bay, store it outside.
Tip 2: The amount of extra bedding, hammocks, huts, etc., that you have, determines how often you do rat laundry. After almost three decades of having rats, I have accumulated so many hammocks, huts, and pieces of cut fleece that I could probably outfit more than 20 cages. Seriously, I have an absurd amount! So, I keep several trash bin laundry baskets in our garage, which is attached to our utility room. I do rat laundry about once a month. Just make sure you do their laundry before they run out of clean stuff.
Tip 3: Don’t use overly scented detergents and fabric softeners to clean their bedding. My preference is to wash the heavily soiled bedding twice, on hot. This is for material I line their floor pans with, or any hammocks used for “marinating” (the gross rat quirk of sleeping in one’s urine for long periods of time). If I’m going to run a load twice, then I use a small amount of fabric softener, but only in the first run.
Task 5: Keep Food And Water Fresh
Making sure your rats have access to fresh food and filtered water (not tap) in clean containers is also essential for keeping your rats healthy.
Tip 1: Keep an eye out for leaky water bottles. If one has leaked, remove all the wet bedding right away and thoroughly dry the cage before putting in fresh bedding.
Tip 2: Change the water bottle once a day or every other day to avoid bacteria growth inside. Clean the bottle with a long, bottle brush and warm soapy water every day, or keep multiple bottles on hand instead to swap out. Any daily chore that has multiple steps is in danger of being procrastinated. But having extra, clean bottles ready to go makes this added task much easier!
Tip 3: Remove any perishable foods after six hours and periodically clean the food dish with warm water and soap.
Have A Great New Year!
Speaking of cage cleaning, it’s time I wrap this up and go do some cleaning of my own. I highly doubt many rat caregivers out there enjoy cleaning cages, but I sincerely hope these suggestions make it a tiny bit easier. Think of it as my end of the year gift you!
Happy New Year’s to all, from me and my rattie boys!