Cleaning a Rat Cage: A Guide on Cleaning & Keeping Cage Odor-Free

by Monika
cleaning rat cage guide

Keeping your rats’ cage clean, odor-free and comfy requires some regular cleaning activities. In contrast to what many people believe about rats, they are actually very clean animals. They spend almost 30% of their active time grooming and cleaning themselves. But they need our help in keeping their home sparkling!

How often to clean the rat cage?

Some basic things should be done on a daily basis while a detailed thorough cleaning should be done once a week. This will ensure your rats are living in a healthy area, being their happy selves.

Why regularly cleaning the rat cage is essential

When rats pee, bacteria starts to turn the urine into ammonia. Inhaling ammonia makes the rats prone to respiratory illness. This is the same reason why I favor metal cages over wooden ones as wood soaks up rat pee while the metal cage can be easily cleaned. See my list of recommended rat cages.

There is often bacteria on rat feces in their litter and bedding which is also unhealthy for them if inhaled or ingested.

Rat cages start to smell very bad if not cleaned often enough. And as rats have much better sense of smell than us human, we can only imagine how they feel living in a smelly place – I’d say they are not very happy!

Important rat cage cleaning tips

  • have a secondary small cage where you’ll keep the rats while you clean
  • put the rats in another room so that they don’t inhale cleaning products while you clean
  • don’t use perfumed cleaners as rats are sensitive to that kind of things
  • try to do the cleaning outdoors or in a well-ventilated area. If that is not possible, then leave the doors and windows open while you clean.
  • if you have a sick rat, make sure to disinfect the cage thoroughly
  • rinse, rinse and rinse… make sure all the cleaning products are gone!

Daily cleaning activities

Make sure to do this every day to keep your rats happy. They don’t like to live among their own poop just like we don’t.

Daily activities include:

  1. Replace the soiled litter with new litter
  2. Remove the poops around the cage if there are any
  3. Replace the bedding soaked with pee or full of poops
  4. Get rid of any leftover food in the bowl or around the cage to prevent bacteria growth
  5. Replace the water
  6. Sniff all the cloth items and accessories in the cage and if there is any unpleasant smell, wash them in the washing machine with a unscented and hypo-allergenic laundry detergent
  7. You can quickly wipe the cage with fragrance-free baby wipes or wet wipe but it is not required to do this every day

Weekly cleaning activities

Disinfecting and cleaning rat cage

Weekly cleaning is a bit more thorough than daily cleaning and will probably take about 30-45 minutes of your time.

What you’ll need:

Empty the cage

  • Remove all toys and accessories from the cage
  • throw away litter and dirty bedding (but keep 2 poops, I’ll explain later why you’ll need them)
  • put the rats in their temporary cage

Clean the cage

The cleaning process is easiest to do outdoors or in the bath / shower. If you have a large cage and this is not an option for you, you can do it in the room where the cage is located, but have something water-resistant under and around the cage so your floor doesn’t get wet.

  • spray the cage with warm water so the residue softens which will make the cleaning easier
  • prepare a bucket filled with water and a dish wash such as the mentioned Dawn soap or use a cleaning product such as Nature’s Miracle Cage Cleaner
  • soak the sponge and clean the cage
  • use a scrub brush to thoroughly clean the residue
  • rinse it well and do it a few times to make sure no soap is left

After you’ve cleaned the cage with a cleaning product, the next step is to disinfect it.

Disinfect the cage

Disinfecting the cage should be done at least twice a month. You should also disinfect it if you’re introducing a new rat or if your rat is sick. Many people use bleach and water solution to disinfect the cage because the bleach is a strong disinfectant but it can also be harmful to the rat’s sensitive respiratory system. I prefer to use an anti-bacterial spray.

Disinfecting routine:

  • spray the cage with an anti-bacterial spray such as the mentioned pet-safe spray
  • depending on the product you use to disinfect, it will probably be labeled how long you should leave the spray to do its job (mostly it is 10 minutes minimum)
  • thoroughly scrub and rinse the cage
  • smell the cage and check if you can sense any residual cleaning solution. If there is any smell left, rinse once more to get rid of it.
  • preferably let the cage air dry in the sun (which helps to kill all organisms) or towel dry the cage

Clean the food bowl and the water bottle

  • wash food bowl and water bottle in a hot water with a dish detergent
  • rinse it well and let it air dry
  • you can put food bowl and water bottle in a dishwasher but make sure to rinse them again even after the dishwasher to make sure all detergent is washed away

Clean the toys and accessories

Return everything to the cage

  • When the cage is dry, decorate it with freshly washed toys and accessories
  • Put new litter and bedding
  • Put 2 poops in the litter to avoid rats’ excessive marking a.k.a. peeing and pooping everywhere

How to get rid of rat urine smell

We both know how unpleasant a rat urine smell can be. But it won’t be much of a problem anymore after following these tips.

How to keep rat cage from smelling:

  • regularly clean the rat cage as I explained above
  • use white vinegar or deodorizer to clean the cage and to neutralize rat urine
  • use the cage with coated wires – uncoated wires can pick up the smell of urine
  • train the rats to use the litter box to do their business
  • avoid cages with a mesh floor and pull out pans

Be careful about the white vinegar as some rats can be sensitive to its strong smell. If your rats act strangely after you use white vinegar on their cage, stop using it and use an unscented deodorizer instead.

Also read: Rat cage setup ideas & tips to encourage activity


Remember that rat’s sense of smell is much much stronger than ours (they can even smell tuberculosis and landmines) and something that’s a small bother to us is unbearable to them. So even if the cage doesn’t always seem to smell bad, it needs to be regularly cleaned. The cleaning activities that I listed are all you need to do to make sure your rats live in a clean and healthy area, living a happy life!

How do you clean your rats’ cage? And how often?

Let me know in the comments!

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Sara-Elita May 14, 2018 - 5:43 pm

i have 2 male rats. i clean their cage every day. i take them out for free time while im cleaning. i remove everything from the cage and wash the bottom and wires with hot water and dish soap, i wash all the bedding, the litter box, food/water dishes and vacuum up all the food residue. i vacuum every nook and cranny of my room to ensure there is no dust. my little fur babies are worth every second of cleaning

Monika May 17, 2018 - 7:18 am

Sounds like you’re doing a great job taking care of your fur babies 🙂 They are lucky!

Mimmi June 26, 2020 - 2:46 pm

Can i clean my rats cage with regular soap without perfume? Like mixing most part with water in a spray bottle?

Monika July 2, 2020 - 4:03 pm

I don’t see why not, if it has no perfume. And after washing it with soap, don’t forget to disinfect it with anti-bacterial wipes or spray.


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