Many people are envious of cat owners because of the whole litter box thing. How nice would it be to have all your pet's waste in one tidy container? If you own a rat, this could be your reality, too. That's right. Rats can learn to use the litter box, resulting in easier cleanup for you when you clean their cage. Discover all the supplies you'll need (like a "pee rock") and follow the easy instructions to have your rat litter trained in no time.
Rats Are Smart Enough for Training
Rats are very intelligent pets, so they can learn dozens of tricks and commands, including litter box training. These little rodents instinctively go to the bathroom in one or a few corners of their cage, which makes it really straightforward to train this behavior. Doing so can save you time and even money because they won't soil as much bedding.
It's important to remember that rats may not be 100% consistent with using the litter box, but with patience and persistence, they can learn to use it for the majority of their waste.
What You'll Need
The supplies you need to get started are basically the same for litter training other pets. The biggest consideration is that everything fits in your rat's enclosure. Make sure you have all the right rat-safe items before you begin litter training your little pet.
Special Litter Box
You'll need to find a small, shallow container that your rat can easily access. Make sure it's large enough for your rat to fit comfortably inside, but not so big it overtakes their cage. If it's too large, they might have trouble getting in and out of it.
Most people have the best success with specialized small pet litter boxes because they fit perfectly in the corner of a cage, which is where rats instinctively relieve themselves. Many clip onto the side of the cage and some even have a little plastic grate that sits over the box to prevent your pet from having to stand in the soiled litter. Rat litter boxes run anywhere from $5 to $20, so you don't have to spend a ton of money on one.
Then, choose a rat-safe, dust-free, and absorbent litter material. You'll want this to be a material that's different from what you have as bedding in the rest of their cage. That way, they understand this area is the bathroom. Try paper-based pellets, but if they don't like that, you can use aspen shavings or hemp bedding.
Avoid using pine or cedar shavings, as they can be harmful to your rat's respiratory system.
Find the Best Spot
Place the litter box in a corner of your rat's cage where they already tend to use the bathroom. Rats usually prefer to use one or two areas for their waste, so identifying these spots can help with training.
If you have the space, it can be helpful to put litter boxes in a few or all of the corners where your rat eliminates. This can help with training. Over time, you'll learn which ones they frequent most regularly. Once you know where they like to go, remove the unused litter boxes to free up room in their cage.
Rats leave up to 50 droppings each day, which can definitely add up!
Rat Potty Training Step-by-Step
After you have all your materials and your litter box set up in the corner of your rat's cage, you're ready to start training. Follow these steps for the best success.
- Soil their box. You heard us right! To help your rat understand the purpose of the litter box, place a few of their droppings or some already-soiled bedding into the box. This will help them associate the scent with the appropriate place to eliminate.
- Try a pee rock. Most rats catch on very quickly to pooping in the litter box, but peeing in there can be a lot harder to train. Some owners swear by a "pee rock," which is just a small, smooth stone you can place in their litter box. How does it work? Well, rats will instinctively mark on a rock, kind of like how dogs will lift their legs on trees. You don't need a special rock, just find a smooth stone and wash it very well, and you're good to go!
- Monitor and reinforce. Keep an eye on your rat's progress and reward them with treats, praise, or gentle petting when you see them using the litter box. Because rats are nocturnal, this can be challenging, but you can make sure you're around when they relieve themselves as soon as they wake up.
- Keep moving waste to their box. You can help reinforce this behavior by giving your rat constant reminders. Any time they urinate or defecate in their cage outside of the box, move their waste to the litter box. The scent will remind them to go there next time.
- Be patient. It may take some time for your rat to learn the new routine, so be patient with them. Never scold your rat, and instead use positive reinforcement whenever they go in their litter box.
An integral part of litter training your rat is keeping up with cleaning. If you don't clean out their litter box every day, it'll get full and smelly, which could prompt your rat to start going in other spots around their cage. That defeats the purpose of having the litter box in the first place.
Dump out the contents of the litter box, wipe it out, and refill it with litter daily. If they went anywhere outside of the box you'll need to spot-clean that, but having most of their waste in one place should definitely cut down on your cleaning time. You can clean their pee rock with boiling water.
Keep Your Rat's Litter Training on a Schedule
Consistency is key when litter training your rat. Make sure the litter box is always in the same spot, and follow the same cleaning routine every day. This will help your rat develop a habit of using the litter box and understanding the routine you have put in place. In return, you'll both benefit from a tidier and lower-maintenance environment.