I say it over and over and over again, and I’m going to continue to say it. Rats are so dang smart. You can literally teach them basically anything you can teach a dog. Roll over, walk on their hind legs, shake hands, retrieve an object. I mean, it’s really just absolutely incredible. But perhaps the most incredible trick of all is that rats can be potty trained. How awesome is this? You’re going to save time; you’re not going to have to do a daily litter clean on a daily basis and you’re going to be saving some serious cash because soiled bedding won’t have to be removed and replaced quite as often, either. So... let's learn how to litter train a rat.
(More money for fun toys and treats! Lucky rats… and lucky you.)
1. Start by putting temporary litter boxes in every corner of your rat’s cage.
Yep, every corner. Your rats will naturally go potty in a corner. And since you have a box in every corner, they’re always going to get it right. Lots of rat owners say to praise your rat, and you can definitely do this… I’m sure they love the compliments!
The only problem is, you can’t rely on positive reinforcement to litter train. Rats are nocturnal, so they’re probably going to be relieving themselves while you’re asleep. I’m guessing you probably don’t want to stay up all through the night to tell your rat you’re proud of them. But if you do, go for it! Nothing wrong with that. Other than the fact that you may look like a zombie in the AM. You really just want to be sure to make it easier for them so that they can be successful on their own.
2. Use litter that’s different from what’s used in the rest of the cage.
Your rats should be able to understand that the smells of their littler box are different than any other part of their cage, regardless of where it is. Or, if they’re having free roam time outside of their cage, be able to find their litter box and potty there, rather than on your carpet.
Getting your rats to poop in the litter box will probably be easier than getting them to pee there, especially if you have males who think they absolutely must mark everything. Again, having a litter box in every corner means they can’t miss, even if you’re not there watching. If your rat poops anywhere other than the litter box, use something disposable to scoop it up and put it in the litter box. Rats have a habit of using the same spots to do their business, so by placing their poop where you want them to go, they’ll start to catch on.
3. Once you notice your rats pooping less outside of the litter box (or they’re favoring one litter box), remove three of the temporary litter boxes, leaving only one.
You can keep the litter box they do use in the same location, or move it, whatever is your preference. However, if you move it and see that your rats are still using that particular corner, move it back for a while longer, or leave it there permanently.
Once your rats are completely potty trained, you’re going to feel much better. Free-roam time will be more fun, and your carpets will be much cleaner. And that’s a win.