How Clean Are Pet Rats: Do They Carry Diseases?

There is an awful misconception about rats as a whole. Due to how rats are portrayed in media, mostly in TV shows and movies, a lot of people commonly believe rats are dirty, smelly, disease-ridden animals.

And surprisingly for most of us, this could not be further from the truth.

So how clean are pet rats? Rats are surprisingly very clean and hate getting dirty, they love to clean themselves and each other. They are less susceptible to disease and pests than other common household pets, like cats and dogs.

How Clean are Pet Rats?

Pet rats actively groom themselves -and each other, and they love to be clean all the time.

If your pet rats get dirty, the first thing they’ll want to do is remove the filth away from their body. Even when it comes to their discharge, rats are clean and organized.

If you put a litter tray in their cage, rats will learn how to use it instead of picking and using a general corner to do their business.

Even though rats’ characteristics are incredibly more positive than what you were probably led to believe, there are a couple of things you need to keep in mind.

Pet rats can carry diseases, like any other pet. But most of those diseases have no chance to be transmitted to humans. And the only grooming problem pet rats have is related to their tail.

More often than not, rats do not like to clean their tail, their only weak spot when it comes to staying clean.

And finally, some pet rats tend to hide and bury their food within their cage, leading to unpleasant smell stemming from their cage. That’s something you have to watch out for if there’s a foul smell related to your rat.

Do Pet Rats Carry a lot of Diseases?

Like any other pet, rats can carry different diseases, the same as any cat or dog. But pet rats are nowhere near what popular belief might make you think.

Truth be told, most diseases and germs that rats can get and transmit to other humans is found in the wild. If you keep your pet rat at home, safe in their cage, you have nothing to worry about.

There is something else you need to be aware of, pet rats can hardly get infected with diseases that can affect humans.

In general, pet rats suffer from diseases that are detrimental only to rodents, and you need to be aware of them if you want to take care of your friendly pet rat properly.

Nevertheless, there are rare occasions where a pet rat is carrying a disease that can be transmitted to humans.

But you have to take into account that most, if not all pet animals can find themselves in that terrible scenario.

When it comes to pet rats though, as long as it stays in a healthy home, the chances of contracting such a disease are incredibly low.

Pet Rats Clean Themselves

Rats want to be incredibly clean. They want it so bad, they take care of the business themselves. Rats are well known in the veterinary community to be self-groomers.

Not only they groom themselves, but rats find pleasure in grooming each other.

To get themselves clean, pet rats use their tongues, which are similar to a cat’s tongue. The only difference between rats and cats grooming is pet rats do not have to face terrible hairballs after the work is done.

Pet rats are both so clean and affectionate, owners have reported their lovely pet rats have tried to groom them, the human owner, in the past.

Bear in mind, this does not mean a pet rat needs zero maintenance. You need to clean the poop and urine off their cage, keep their cage clean and take care of your pet rat if they get extremely dirty.

Sometimes, a pet rat can’t clean themselves as much as they want, especially if something got onto their tail, and will need a human hand to help them.

Older and ill pet rats might need a little hand with their daily grooming as well.

But outside of exceptions to the rule, pet rats keep themselves clean and smelling nice, contrary to popular belief.

How to Tell if Your Pet Rats are Getting Dirty

There are a couple of things you need to take into account when it comes to a pet rat’s cleanliness. As you already know, rats are super clean and love to groom themselves.

But they also love to sleep on top of one another. Pet rats, sometimes, pee on another rat and then sleep on top of each other as well.

This might lead to a dirty pack of pet rats you might want to clean. That is the first thing you need to keep your eye on.

If you let your pet rats play outside of their cage, try to keep a look at where they are going and where they are playing or resting.

A tiny bit of dust or dirt might not bother you, or you might not even notice it. But it may be a monumental amount of dust for a rat, quickly making them dirty.

The best way to check whether your rat is dirty or not is checking their body. Check for dirty spots and see if your little pet rat is smelly as well.

A rat smelling bad is incredibly unusual, so that might be the first sign of dirtiness. More often than not, the only problematic dirty spots on a rat are on their tail. That’s where you want to look for dirt the most.

Keeping Your Pet Rats Clean

If your pet rat is dirty enough and you have decided to intervene, keep in mind that even though some pet rats can swim, not all of them will like water.

So you need to slowly introduce your pet rat into their bath to avoid any unnecessary stress.

The best way you can keep your rat clean is by filling a little basin with water and letting your pet rat play in there.

Avoid getting water directly into their ears or eyes. You should also avoid using shampoos or soaps that contain strong chemicals.

If your pet rat is not okay with water, a quick, efficient and safe way to clean them is using pet wipes.

They are especially good when it comes to cleaning their tail, the most problematic part of a pet rat.

Unlike some other pet rodents, rats do not need dust baths to stay clean. In fact, rats should not take dust baths to stay clean because it can potentially affect their lungs.

Cleaning Your Pet Rats Cage

Your pet rats will keep themselves clean by grooming each other and keeping their cage as organized as they possibly can.

But it’s up to us as their owners to keep their cage clean for them. To keep your pet rats clean you should have a daily and weekly checklist.

These can sometimes be done every other day, but daily you should:

  • Wipe down their cage. This cleans any dust that may accumulate in and on the cage when they kick up or move around the bedding.
  • Spot clean their pee and poop. Check for any areas where they may have left any droppings. This becomes more important the more rats you have.
  • Clean around their food bowls. This is important because you don’t want them eating any food outside of the bowls that may have come in contact with any droppings.

Weekly you should:

  • Remove their toys and clean them. Wipe down their toys that they may have peed on to make it safer when they chew on them.
  • Take out and replace old bedding. Remove any old and soiled bedding and replace it with the most dust-free bedding.
  • Clean their food bowls. Dump out any old food leftover in the food bowls and wipe it down. Then replace it with some fresh food.

Only use Rodent Friendly Cleaning Supplies

When cleaning their cage make sure to only use rodent friendly cleaning supplies like pet-safe disinfectant spray.

Always stay away from standard disinfectants because the chemicals in them can potentially harm your pet rats.

Also while refilling their bedding try to find the most dust-free version available. Some off-brand bedding may say dust-free but may actually contain dust that they don’t consider as dust.

This can be potentially dangerous and affect their lungs if they breathe too much of it in.

Remember not everything that is marketed as pet-friendly is actually pet-friendly.

So it’s best to do some research like reading the reviews on the product before you get it for your rats, that way you can make sure it’s actually safe.

Keeping your pet rats cage clean should be an easy task and it’s made even easier because of how clean pet rats are.


Hi, I'm Mason, I've kept small animals as pets since I was 8 years old. I love to learn and talk about them basically every day. Over the years I've adopted small pets like hamsters, gerbils, and guinea pigs.

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