Rats are naturally clean animals and are in most cases very easy to litter train. Rats do not defacate in their nests, and does even eat their offsprings droppings to ensure that their nest area stays sanitary.
For this reason does are easier to litter train, but most bucks will also learn to use a litter tray with relative ease.
We have found that our does use their litter tray 99% of the time. Some of our does are so fastidiously clean, they will only use one particular corner of the litter tray! Our young bucks are also very good at using the litter tray, very rarely do we see raisins outside of the litter tray. Our old bucks are now less likely to use their litter tray than they once were. Now that they are older and find getting about harder than they used to, they do not always make it all the way to the litter tray when needing the toilet.
Training your pet rat to use a litter tray is advantageous when allowing them to free range in your house, and also cuts down cleaning time as the droppings are limited to the litter tray, which is easily removed and replaced.
How to Litter train your pet rat
We use a kitten sized litter tray for our rats. Whatever plastic container you choose, ensure that your rat can fit its entire body in it, and that it is low enough for the rat to be able to see over the top with ease.
Fill the container half full with kitty litter. Do not use silicone or clay based litters. A product such as Breeders Choice™ is a suitable medium. See our Substrate for Rats page for other suggestions.
It is important when you first start litter training to completely clean out the cage. Remove all substrate and scrub the floor and walls to remove any detectable smell. Completely replace the substrate, but before throwing it away pick out some of your rats fresh droppings and put into the litter tray. This helps your rat understand the litter tray is where the droppings go, not the rest of the cage.
Most rats, bucks included, will favour one corner of their cage to use as a toilet. Work out which corner is your rats favourite toilet and place the litter tray in that corner.
At first you will find droppings elsewhere in the cage. As soon as you notice, move the droppings to the litter tray. It won’t take long before your rat realises where the toilet is…and isn’t!
It is important to be vigilent for any misplaced droppings until your rat has gotten the hang of using his litter tray. If there are droppings outside of the litter tray, he will continue to use the entire cage as a toilet.
Litter training can be done at any age, but like most things, the younger the better. Our rats appear to learn to use the litter tray from their mum.
Rats can ‘unlearn’ behaviour too. If they do not have a litter tray for a length of time and are then reintroduced to a tray, you may need to repeat the training over again.
Tips for successful litter training!
Use a different type of litter for the litter tray. If you use Breeders Choice™ as a substrate in your cage, perhaps choose Natty Cat™ Litter for the litter tray. These two products look, feel and smell different. This will help your rat understand the difference between where he can ‘go’ and where he can’t.
If you see your rat going to the toilet elsewhere in the cage, pick him up and place him and the dropping into the litter tray. This will help him relate going to the toilet with being in the litter tray.
Keep the living area clean of droppings and place immediately into the litter tray. The longer that droppings are hanging around in the living area, the harder it will be for your rat to understand where he should be going to the toilet.
When you clean the litter tray, use water rather than detergent, and when you replace the litter in the tray keep a few handfuls of the soiled litter to sprinkle on the top of the fresh litter, so that your rat can still smell his toilet.