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Hi,I have been looking into getting rescue rats, but my housemate is not too fond of the idea and he have tried to convince me to get another kind of rodent, but I really believe rats could be wonderful pets. He works with lab rats and mice a couple of times a month and he seems to have a very strong opinion about them. His arguments for not getting rats in our household is that he has experienced rats as very smelly and nasty biters when they bite, yet of course very intelligent. At work they change their cages every 3-5 days and they keep 3-4 rats per cage. I plan on not getting more than three rats and they are going to live in a huge cage: 3x3x6,5 feet, so I don't believe they are going to be that stinky in a big cage, but I would love to hear you thoughts about rats smelliness. Also how often would I have to change a cage of this size? As far as the biting goes I always say: everything that has teeth have the possibility of biting, and I might get bitten with rescue rats, but I honestly don't believe it's as bad or as frequent as my housemate says (he has been bitten quite a few times, but it has always been fear biting from lab rats). They might be able to give nasty bites, but so are a lot of other pets.It's important to note that my housemate is not going to participate in caring for the rats (unless he wants to of course) and they are going to be in my room, so he don't have to see them very often. Have you ever been in a similar situation?
 

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I don't find them smelly at all! Litter training and vinegar+water are saviours. The bigger the cage the less it will smell as there will be no buildup. I prefer fleece when it comes to smell because it doesn't have any original smell like aspen or carefresh however some people prefer otherwise! If he finds that one bedding is super smelly let him know that you can change it. Fleece also is great for easy litter training and daily poop scoops. I clean my cages every 2-3 days, toss the fleece in the wash with some vinegar and the cages don't smell like anything after a good scrub! And thats coming from someone who has 22+...
Rat bites can be pretty bad when they do occur. Speak with the person/shelter/breeder/store you adopt from about whether or not their rats will bite. If there is the risk that they will bite, possibly consider adopting elsewhere so you don't get a big "I told you so" or be ready to do some training! In owning a few hundred rats I have been bitten once, and that was by accident and not severe whatsoever :p It shouldn't be difficult to find a "no bite guarantee" so to speak when you are adopting.
In comparison to other pets including hamsters, mice, ferrets, chinchillas etc. rats are, in my personal experience and in the majority of cases, the least smelly and least likely to bite.
 

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If you keep the cage cleaned, they shouldn't smell bad. Males tend to smell worse than females, so that's something to consider. I agree RatEmporiumToronto that liter box training, and fleece will be a savior. Your roommate works with lab rats/mice. And while they are technically domesticated, they aren't raised to be little companion animals. They're raised for experiments, so the behavior they display is going to be quite different. I have owned many rats, and while I have been bitten twice, its been an accident on both occasion by the same rat. (Gawaine sees food and he goes nutso, so he grabs like a viscous heathen)
 

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I've not experienced a rat bite so can't offer advice there. My boys are super friendly! As for smells, their cage is pretty big (just two rats at the mo) and I can only smell them when it's fleece and litter cleaning day. I usually do the fleece every 3/4 days and empty the litter box when I see it needs it.
 

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Properly socialized rats don't bite. It's best to adopt rat pups from breeders if possible and raise them right. Adult or older rescue rats are a mixed bag. Some come from good homes and are very social, some come from horror show homes and can very challenging to socialize and yes some of those will bite. Most can be socialized, but you might lose some blood along the way.

I had a part wild rat and she tore a chunk out of my hand and she shredded a neighbor's hand when he grabbed her... She also terrorized the local feral cats in the yard when she lived outdoors for the summer... Rats can bite... wild rats bite, fast and furious and will go right for your face and eyes. It's not that domestic rats can't bite, because they most certainly can, its that they don't.

My 5 year old daughter used to dress our part wild rat in doll clothes and play 'toss the rat into the air' with her, which she put up with and she never bit my daughter, no matter how much she abused her... One of our domestic rats got a serious tail injury going down a slide with 5 kids and didn't bite... But you really need to think of rats like dogs. Good dogs don't bite, that doesn't mean they can't.

As to the smell, some people are more sensitive to the smell than others.

Basically, if you are thinking of adopting rats, pretty much think of them as small dogs. You will need to raise them and teach them and socialize with them in order for them to become little family members. They are smart and emotional and can be perfect household pets... Well almost... today Misty pushed a dish off the kitchen counter and broke it and I'm a little annoyed at her right now... so she isn't perfect but she does live free range most of the time in the house. And yes she's swiped most of our plastic trash bags to build a winter nest with, but Ill get over that too.... And she unrolls and steals toilet paper, but that's kind of funny... But overall she's a housepet. And lastly NEVER leave sweets unattended... rats can smell a snickers bar or a twinky from miles away and even your oldest most feeble rat can somehow levitate up to the top shelf in your kitchen to magically make it disappear. In fact, left along in the dark a single rat can make a whole bag of snicker bars evaporate in less than an hour.

If you want an exhibit animal.. I'd go with turtles... if you want a real pet like a dog then rats would be perfect for you.

Best luck.
 

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This won't be the most popular opinion, but I DO think they can smell, they can smell rather badly if the circumstances are right. If they are to be in your bedroom, you need to consider that before making your decision. How much they smell depends on a lot of factors that I'll list below. Please note that by "smell" I'm not referring to body odor, just the odor of the pee / poo produced by the rats.

1. Number of rats / cage size
For a beginner, I'd recommend NOT getting more than 3. Start out with a trio and see how the maintenance goes.. Then add more if you feel that you can handle it. The larger the floor space to rat ratio, the less it will smell. That said, a lot depends on the bedding you use and also how easy the cage itself is to clean.

2. Cage cleaning and peeing on surfaces
Cages with small mesh, mesh levels, or solid plastic levels tend to smell faster because those surfaces get peed on and the pee dries between the bars / mesh and on the plastic. These areas (including the sides of the cage and sometimes the wall behind it) need to be cleaned on a weekly basis to help with odor. I use a 50/50 mix of vinegar and water. Some people use a brush to clean with, some a rag, some people take the cage outside and wash it, etc. If the cage is small enough, it can be sat in the shower and you can use that to clean.

Odds are, if you don't find a way to deal with the urine on the bars and levels, the cage will still smell, even if freshly cleaned. I had the petco rat manor for a while and that cage had this problem. It was almost impossible to get the urine fully out from between the bars and mesh so the cage always smelled.

Honestly, the least smelly cages I've ever had were plastic-sided bin cages that I made. There were no places for the rats to pee, and the bins were easily sprayed down and dried / cleaned.

3. Furnishings
-Avoid wood... it is porous and you can't get the pee out of it. For things like chews it is OK, but houses and other permanent things will absorb pee and be unusable.
- Anything soft, like fleece, needs to be changed out about 2-3x a week usually to keep smell down. Having spare sets of hammocks and things helps. These things will need to be washed with unscented detergent. I usually pre soak mine in vinegar water.
- Using plastic or other washable houses helps. If you can wash it with soap and water, then dry, it helps get the smell out pretty well.
- Using a lot of discard-able things helps too. I use a lot of cardboard boxes and tubes as toys and houses. I just toss them when dirty and replace with new ones once a week.

4. Bedding
I did not have a good experience with fleece. Most rats will chew it (destroying it in some cases) and even when I used an absorbent material under it (U Haul pads), it would still stink in about 3 days. I got tired of changing it out every 3 days (and mind you, I had a DCN without many rats at the time, 4 females) so I switched to regular bedding. I use about 1" of shredded aspen now with a thin layer of horse stall pellets underneath to absorb urine. This works well for me and the bedding doesn't start to smell until the second week (I use litter boxes also).

-If you use fleece, use something absorbent underneath it. Wash it on hot water at least 3 times before using (to get the sizing out) and keep spares on hand. I would start out with cheap fleece and see how it goes first before investing in expensive stuff.

5. Ventilation
It really helps to have a window you can open or a vent fan you can turn on. I can't even describe how much this helps. If your room has no windows or ventilation, I think it'll be a lot harder to deal with smell issues. If you were planning on keeping the cage in an enclosed space, like a closet, it will intensify the smell.

6. Over-marking
- Cleaning everything at once can cause rats to scent mark more, so it is better to change things out on different days (i.e. change out hammocks one day then change out bedding a couple days later). I also leave a little dirty bedding on top of their fresh bedding so that it still has their smell, this seems to help also.


I'm sorry if this post seems negative, I just wanted to give you some things to think about. Rats are not the smelliest small animals (I think sugar gliders, mice, and ferrets smell worse) but they smell more than animals like dwarf hamsters, chinchillas, and guinea pigs. If the smell is a real concern, you might want to see if you can visit someone that has rats in a pet setting so that you can realistically see what to expect. I can tell you that the rats smelled more than I expected when I got my first group and I wish I had known that beforehand.

Your friend that works in the lab is probably exposed to a lot of odor due to the large number of animals housed together.. Mice also smell far worse than rats (I've heard), so that could contribute to.

As far as temperament goes, a rat bite can be a big deal (not always, but it is possible). They can do more damage than a hamster or mouse but not as much as a cat or large dog.

I know someone with permanent nerve damage in their hand due to a bad bite. That is why it is important to choose your new rats carefully... I'd buy from a good breeder that breeds for calm well-mannered rats. This isn't necessarily the same thing as socializing (some breeders will not breed animals that have bitten, some will.. a lot of temperament is genetic, so it is important to know, as a genetically unsound animal that has been socialized might get scared and revert to biting given a new situation).

If you are looking at adopting rats with an unknown background, buying rats that are younger (pups) will help, as you can train them not to bite as they grow.. with either pups or adults, select the calmest most curious animals. Those that don't fight and squeak when picked up.. an animal that is terrified is more likely to bite from fear even if they aren't aggressive. Picking ones that act interested in you (come up and seem to seek attention) are also a better bet than those cowering in fear.
 

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There's a lot of good advice above, the only thing that I would add is to invest in an animal safe odour neutraliser spray. Don't be tempted to buy regular air fresheners, neutralisers, scented candles ect. Not only do they not work, but they would be harmful to your rats respiratory system.

A really good product, like ONA (Odour Neutraliser Agent) or Safe4 (both of these may be uk companies so I'm not sure if you will get them) make products that are completely safe to use around rats, and effectively eliminate odours.

We breed mice, and sometimes have over 300 at a time, and we keep them in what is essentially a large, unventilated cupboard. We have to leave the door to this "room" open with a fan running for air circulation, so the whole house would stink if there was an issue with smell. Between regular cleaning, good substrate, and a strategically placed jar of ONA crystals, there really is very little smell.

If we can manage that with 300 mice, I'm sure you can keep 3 rats without offending your flatmate's olfactory senses ;)
 

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Almost everything has been said here. Rats do not smell bad, they smell wonderful! Some days they smell like blueberries, other days they smell like smoked sausages. :) Rats smell great! But their pee and poop smells bad, depending on diet also. I have no idea how - as some in this thread have said - you can keep fleece for a week or longer. I have to change fleece lining on shelves every 2 days (3 days at most). The paper bedding I have in the bottom pan will last for a week+, but fleece is one of the worst smelling materials. The only big advantage is that it's cheap and reusable. There's no way I could afford enough paper litter to put on 4 levels if that had to be.
The cage itself is not a problem but everything outside it can be. If your rats free-range, they will mark furniture, and other items in room. My two sofas are the main source of foul smell in my rat room. And there's not much I can do about it.

Anyway, you can manage the smell but it does take some work and commitment, but hey, you don't get to have an animal if you're not ready for those in the first place. :)
 

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I can small a cat from 4 feet outside the front door, but I don't smell rats until they have really fouled the place up. I mean like a public restroom in a dive bar kind of stunk the place up...

Many if not most people aren't very sensitive to rat smells and I suspect that's to some degree by design as rats are designed to be stealthy... and their odor might give away their location. But some people really can smell a rat or the smells rats leave behind from a great distance. This is more a fluke of their nature than a an indictment of the rat owner's level of care. Someone that actually has a sensitivity to rat smells will drive you nuts, no matter how clean you are.

There is a point however... about twice a year where our rat's secret nest gets so funky that it will make even me gag and the rats will push the materials out of the nest and start on refurbishing it with new trash if I don't get around to cleaning it out... So yes there is a point where even average people will smell your rats if you aren't clean enough.

But to some degree you will notice some folks here clean their rats cages every day, while other's might do it every couple of weeks. It's not so much that some rats smell worse than others, but that everyone has their own sensitivity to the issue.
 
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