Trust and Love: Potty Training Pet Rats

Pet Training


September 15, 2020

Oh no! Your rat peed on you again! Or maybe your friend picked them up to cuddle and ended up with a wet hand, how embarrassing! But not to worry, this problem is easily fixable. All you have to do is potty train your little furry pet. This might sound difficult, but it’s really not! Let’s look into it.

How to Litter Train Your Rats

Rats are very hygienic little creatures, meaning they usually stick to one spot to make number one or number two. Now, the challenge is to get them to do their business somewhere other than the ground. For that, you have to place a litter box in a strategic place to get your rat to understand the concept.

Get a Litter Box

Potty training small animals has become super popular, so much so, that you can buy a small litter box online, or even make one yourself! But, even if you are not so crafty or not into online shopping, you can most certainly find one in any pet store.

However, rats have a flair for interior design. Meaning, they like to redecorate and move stuff around their cage, even their litter. To avoid that, please make sure that you buy a litter box you can attach to the cage’s sides.

Pick the Right Place

First, before placing the litter box inside the cage, check on your rat and try to identify where they pee and poo inside the cage. As previously mentioned, it is usually in the same spot, so step one is relatively easy. Unless, of course, your rat likes to challenge the norm and pees anywhere in their cage. In that case, place the litter box as far away from their food as you can.

Get your Rat Familiar with the Litter Box

  1. After finding your rat’s favorite peeing spot and locating it, your next task is to empty and clean the cage completely. Throw away the dirty bedding, but not all of it. Make sure you leave some of the dirty bedding aside (you will see why later).

  2. After thoroughly cleaning the cage, replace the bedding inside. Also, please remember to set some clean bedding aside so you can fill up your brand new litter box.

  3. The third step is to make the cage homey again by fastening your brand new litter box to the side and adding a bit of clean bedding on top.

After that, please take some of the dirty bedding you set aside in step one and put it on top of the clean bedding-filled litter box. Gradually remove the dirty bedding until it’s completely gone and only clean bedding remains. If you do this, your rat will feel more comfortable using the mysterious object that is the litter box.

How to Train Your Rat

Well done! The cage is clean. You’ve replaced the bedding and fastened the litter box. Now it’s time to introduce your small friend to their new and improved home. 

For them to like it, please make sure to place your furry friend directly on top of the litter box, and to repeat that process as often as you can. Meaning, if you take your little friend out for a cuddle session, put them on top of their new potty once you get them back. That way, they will slowly get used to having a foreign object in their living space.

But what if that does not work? Let us look at a different option.

Clicker training Pet Rats

Rewarding your pet with one of their favorite treats every time they use the littler box will make them feel more inclined to use it. So, with that in mind, let us look at clicker training. It is a reward-based system aimed at teaching your animal that something they are doing is right by using clicks followed by rewards. Think of it as a way of saying, “Great job! Keep doing that!”

Now, clicker training a rat is incredibly easy, considering that you only need to follow three simple steps:

  1. Buy a clicker

  2. Buy some tasty rat treats

  3. Start working on some positive reinforcement

“What is positive reinforcement? How do I do that?” I hear you say. Well, no worries, it sounds technical and challenging, but it’s not! 

Positive reinforcement is just getting your rat to associate an action with a reward, like a treat. In this case, we want your rat to associate using the litter with getting a treat from its beloved human.

So, to apply your recently acquired positive reinforcement knowledge, all you have to do is click your clicker every time your rat uses the litter. Then, just give your little friend a treat, and repeat this process for a minimum of 15 times. After that, using their little cage potty will be a habit for your pet rat, and they will do it without even noticing.

Using a clicker is a great way to teach your rat that poo or pee only go in the litter and nowhere else, including your hands or new white pants. Nevertheless, some rats can be a bit aggressive or rebellious, and clicker training might not work right off the bat. But worry not! There are a few things you can do.

How to Tame Your Pet Rat

Rats, like humans, have different and variant personalities. Because of this, some rats can be skittish, anxious, or even aggressive. Luckily, just like with humans, rats can learn to trust other people. This process might take a while, but I promise it is totally worth it.

  • Step 1: Give Your Rat Some Alone Time

It will be best if you leave your rat alone for the first couple of days, especially if they are anxious or skittish. That way, your rat will get used to their new cage and settle in before getting used to you.

But wait! Giving your rat some alone time does not mean that you should leave them completely isolated since that might make them even more anxious or aggressive. You want your rat to be aware that there are people around. 

On the other hand, you should not expose your rat to a part of your home with heavy traffic (like the living room). Place their cage in a lightly frequented room (like the bedroom).

  • Step 2: Be Patient

It is very important to get your rat used to your voice. They need to know that you live with them and mean no harm. To do that, you can have phone conversations around your rat, just so they get used to your presence. After they’ve heard you for about three days, it is now time for the most exciting part: talking to them!

For a nice chat session, you can crouch in front of the cage (but not too close!) and say nice things in a soothing voice. Remember not to yell, and make sure your tone is calm and relaxing.

  • Step 3: Contact

After you have spoken to your new furry friend in a soft, calming voice, wait until you notice they relax when hearing your voice. This process might take up to a week, so fear not if your rat is still skittish after a few conversations. When you notice that they are starting to trust you, it is now time to have some physical contact. You’re getting one step closer to cuddles!

Let’s start easy. Just open the cage and continue to speak to your rat in a calming voice. However, please do make sure not to try and touch them just yet, since that might overstep your pet’s boundaries. Respect is not only limited to humans!

  • Step 4: Interaction

After your rat has gotten used to you, it is a great idea to let them know that you love them. You know what people say, “The key to a rat’s heart is through their stomach.”

Just drop a tasty piece of a vegetable or fruit inside your rat’s cage. Make sure that the treat you’re offering is safe for rats. Whatever you do, avoid attempting to feed your pet directly with your hands, as they are just getting to know you, and that might scare them a little.

After a few days, you will see that your rat gobbles the treat up with gusto and stays relaxed around you. When that happens, you can gently begin to try and feed the rat directly from your fingers. Please remember not to shove your fingers in your rat’s face. Be patient, and understand that you are much bigger than them.

Tip: When your rat approaches your fingers, allow them to sniff your hand and lick it if they want to. That way, they will get familiar with you even faster.

Now, when your rat takes treats out of your fingers with no fear or stress, you can try to pet them gently with one finger. Please do it very softly and with a lot of love! After your rat gets completely comfortable with your presence, you can start to train it to pee or poo in one specific place.

Benefits of Potty Training a Rat

From aggressive to tame little buddies, every single rat benefits from being potty trained. It makes their cage cleaner, which gives them a better environment to live in. Not to mention that it significantly lowers their risk of infections by helping them not walk in their own waste.

It’s also an extra perk for you, since you will have less cleaning to do (both in their cage and around your home). Not to mention you’ll enjoy cleaner pants and smaller laundry loads. Amazing, right?

Happy sharing!