Pet rats belong to the species Rodentia, meaning "to gnaw" in Latin, because of their teeth that grow longer throughout their lifetime. Rats like to groom themselves and stay clean. The rat itself does not usually have an odor, but picks up smells from his environment. Ammonia from urine, moldy bedding and litter from dampness, as well as leftover food causes bad odors in your rat's environment. Basic cleaning and rat husbandry will keep his habitat smelling clean and promote good health.
Keep rat odor down by removing uneaten food, soiled bedding and droppings from your rat cage every day. Give your rat cage and accessories a thorough cleaning once a week. Remove your rat and his bedding, dishes, water bottles and toys and take the cage outside. Spray the cage with water from a garden hose and then spray stabilized chlorine dioxide on all surfaces and allow it to soak for about 15 minutes. Rinse the cage and all items off with a garden hose and allow it to air dry in the sun.
Disinfecting Water Bottles/Dishes
Water bottles and food dishes should be cleaned in hot soapy water each day. Use hot soapy water and a bottlebrush to clean the water bottle and rinse it well before replacing it in the cage. According to Gregory Harrison, DVM, slime in the water bottle is bacterial build-up, which has an odor and can make your pet rat sick. Dissemble the water bottle and place it and the food dishes in the dishwasher weekly to disinfect them.
Your rat cage should be well-ventilated to decrease odors of ammonia from urine and feces. The best temperature for the habitat is between 64 and 79 degrees Fahrenheit with a humidity level of 30 to 70 percent. Thomas M. Donnelly, DVM, recommends these temperatures and humidity levels to maintain a clean, odorless environment. Do not place a rat habitat where it receives sunlight through a window; this will increase both the temperature and humidity in his environment.
In addition to your rat's pelleted diet, he requires gnawing substrates to wear his ever-growing teeth down. Rodent blocks and wooden chew toys help satisfy the gnawing sensation and wear his teeth down. Taking your rat to a veterinarian once a year for oral exams can identify mouth malformations and teeth that need trimming. When a pet rat can't eat properly, he may have tooth decay that has an odor. Pet rats may also eat feces without appropriate chew toys available and proper cage cleaning. Attending to these needs keeps your pet rodent from having a potty mouth.