Mastering the Basics: How to Litter Train a Rat

by Joshua Paulson

Mastering the Basics How to Litter Train a Rat


Rats are smart, social, and entertaining pets. In fact, they’re so intelligent that they can be litter-trained just like cats. Litter training a rat can be quick and easy with the right supplies and methods. Beneficial for both owner and rat, it helps reduce cage odor, makes for a cleaner rat cage environment, and boosts overall hygiene.

Here, we’ll discuss how to litter train a rat, the necessary supplies, and some challenges and solutions.

Why Litter Train Your Rat?

So you’ve brought your pet rat home, and they’re just getting used to their new environment. Besides nutrition and playtime, you’ll also need to train your rat for the best hygiene habits. That’s exactly where litter training your rat is most helpful. Rats are incredibly smart, and they pick up litter training relatively easy.

Here are some of the main benefits of introducing litter training:

  • Cleaner environment – By introducing litter training, rats tend to perform their functions in one place. By limiting it to a single location, rats can have a cleaner environment to play and reside in.
  • Overall hygiene – More urination within the cage can spread ammonia buildup, which can be particularly dangerous for a rat’s respiratory system and human health.
  • Easy cage cleaning – You’ll most likely need to clean your rat’s cage once a week. By introducing a litter box and training, it will be that much easier to clean up messes and keep the cage spick and span.
  • Mental exercise – Many don’t associate litter training with mental exercise. However, teaching your rats to do their business in one place can help them develop their cognitive functions, providing the mental stimulation that rats need.
  • Observing health – Having all your rats’ litter in one place makes it easy to observe their health through any changes in their droppings. It can even potentially enhance your rat’s lifespan.
  • Many users have also remarked that it’s easier to minimize accidents while having out-of-the-cage playtime with their pet rats.

    Choosing the Right Supplies

    Rat on a litter box (1)

    Once you’re committed to litter box training your rat, you’ll need a litter box and materials for basic training and cleanup. However, some other optional and convenient rat supplies include:

  • A poop scoop
  • A cage cleaner
  • Gloves
  • Treats
  • Bedding
  • Barrier or playpen
  • Toys
  • Some items, like gloves and a cage cleaner, make the cleanup process easy. Other items like treats and toys help make your pet rat comfortable and reward them for a job well done.

    The Litter Box

    The first consideration should be the litter box. Typically, these boxes should be shallow, so it’s easy for your rat to enter and exit. It should also be wide enough for them to sit in comfortably.

    Regrading material to a ceramic or plastic litter box is your best bet. These materials are easy to clean up once soiled. You’ll not often find a litter box made specially for rats. Usually, they’ll be sold as litter boxes for smaller rodents and might be used interchangeably. If your rat is comfortable, it’ll do the trick.

    Litter Material

    You can choose litter material once you’ve chosen your rat’s special litter box. Choosing the right litter material is important because it acts as an absorbent, drying out feces and urine while reducing the odor almost completely. Likewise, rats will need a litter material that’s guaranteed to be non-toxic, safe, and dust-free. Otherwise, it can cause respiratory issues.

    Here are some of the main litter material options:

  • Paper-based litter – Typically less dusty, sustainable, and bio-degradable, paper-based litter is a good choice as it’s highly absorbent. At the same time, it might need more frequent changes as it’s easily saturated. In 2005, a study published in “Laboratory Animals” mentioned that paper bedding has low contaminants and the least dust.
  • Wood-based shavings – Besides being absorbent, they can also smell nice, greatly reducing cage odors. However, they can also be dusty. The type of wood is crucial here, too. Owners should avoid pine and cedar since they can cause respiratory problems for rats. Fir or cypress could work instead.
  • Commercial rat litter – Commercial rat litter is also a good option as it has a combination of benefits, including optimal absorbency and odor suppression. However, the exact quality and safety might depend on the brand. Some commercial rat litters will have additives that make them dustier.
  • Location, Location, Location

    Like other litter-trained animals, rats can learn to go to the bathroom in (mostly) one place. They do tend to mark certain areas with their urine, anyway. But litter training them significantly reduces this behavior. To make the process even smoother, finding the right place in your rat’s cage is essential. It’s best to place rat litter boxes in the cage corners where rats usually go. It’s also a great option since they’re tucked away.

    Rat on a litter box (2)

    Training Steps and Tips

    Rats are intelligent animals. They pick up on queues quickly and can be easily litter-trained. However, they still need the right guidance and habit formation. When litter training your rat, the key is consistency and patience. You might think you’re not making progress, only to find that your furry friend finally left droppings in the box.

    Let’s closely examine the terminology associated with litter training your rat.


    The first step includes observing and understanding where your rat tends to relieve itself within the cage. After examining this a few times, you’ll want to place the litter box and material in that spot. Also, consider moving some of the droppings into the litter box whenever you can. This will help your pet rat associate droppings with the designated area.

    If you catch them doing their business somewhere other than the litter box, you can move them closer to it to encourage them. However, be gentle and don’t frighten your rat in the process.

    Positive Reinforcement

    Once you’ve observed your rat’s tendencies, it’s time to encourage them to use the litter box more frequently through positive reinforcement. Whenever your rat enters the box, give them a tasty treat as a sign of praise and reward. Rats will catch on quickly and be motivated to return.

    Here are some suitable treats:

  • Small pieces of fruit like apples or bananas
  • Vegetable slices like broccoli
  • Sunflower seeds
  • Nuts
  • Mealworms
  • Pieces of bread
  • Don’t overdo it with the treats, as it’s easy to overfeed a rat. Give them small pieces and reward them when they go in the litter box.


    To further encourage your rat to use the litter box, you’ll need to keep it clean. Despite what many people think, rats are relatively clean animals and prefer to do their business in odorless places. If droppings and urine accumulate in the litter box, it could deter them from going again. As this becomes a habit, the rat will find a new place to go, which can be hard to correct later.

    Clean your rat’s litter box daily and replace it with new material. Your entire cleaning process should go something like this:

  • Removing the old litter box and disposing of the material and droppings. Make sure to use gloves for this.
  • Rinse the litter box with warm water.
  • Scrub off any stains.
  • Create a soapy mixture before rinsing again thoroughly.
  • Dry the litter box before adding fresh material and returning it to the same spot in the cage.
  • Wash your hands toughly once complete.
  • Dealing with Accidents

    At some point, accidents will happen when you’re learning how to litter train your rat. This is normal and should be expected in the first few weeks. While some rats are quick learners, others might need more time before they get the hang of the process. Fortunately, there are a few strategies for dealing with this problem.

    Firstly, you can move the droppings to the rat’s litter box and clean off any urine in other areas. It’s also a good idea to ensure the material is only in the box. This way, many rats will seek out the material whenever needed.

    Common Challenges and Solutions

    For the most part, rat litter training will be easy if you encourage the same habits and use the tips above. However, there can be unique challenges, such as inconsistent use and training with multiple rats. Fortunately, there are some easy tips for solving this, too.

    Inconsistency in Use

    It might be frustrating to see your rat using the litter box only to quit a few days later. While some accidents are bound to happen, changes in behavior can signify different things:

  • Cleanliness – A rat with a clean environment is a happy rat. Your rat’s litter box and regular weekly cage cleaning should be cleaned every day.
  • Litter material change – Rats may prefer some litter materials to others. If you want to replace yours, do so gradually instead of suddenly. One study suggests that different bedding and litter materials can influence a rat’s health more than cage cleaning.
  • Health conditions – Make sure to monitor your rat’s health. Change in droppings or appetite can indicate a deeper health condition. Take them to a vet if you notice any issues.
  • When learning how to train your rat to use a litter box, make sure to encourage consistency as much as possible.

    Rat on a litter box

    Multiple Rats

    Rats prefer company. They’re especially happy to live in the same cage with other rats. However, this can complicate litter training. The process takes extra patience but can be done with the right strategy.

    Due to their social nature, rats within the same cage will likely go to the same places or close to each other. It’s important to note any deviations in individuals.

    You then place the litter boxes where needed. Make sure to positively reinforce this with every rat. As one begins to use the litter box, others will quickly follow.

    Some extra helpful user tips include:

    “It’s also pretty important to make sure the litter you use is not the same material you use for bedding, as they get confused as to what place is appropriate to potty or not.”


    Whenever I found poop, I’d put it in the container closest to where I found it. They like going in corners, so usually, it was near the container. I monitor where they’re going the most based on which containers have the most poop. Once I’ve narrowed it down to which corners they liked the most, I could remove the containers that were not being used and replace them with actual rat litter boxes.

    Level Up Your Rat Care With Quality Cage

    A big part of rat care is litter training. To do this, you’ll need your pet rat, cage, litter box, litter material, cleaning supplies, consistency, and patience.

    Some of the key takeaways include:

  • Observe your rat’s favorite places to go and place their litter boxes in these areas.
  • Place their droppings within the litter boxes whenever they have an accident.
  • Also, make sure to positively reinforce them.
  • Clean the litter box every day and avoid spruce and pine material.
  • Quality Cage is the perfect place to get rat food, supplies, and anything else your rat needs for litter box training. Head to our website and select from a wide range of supplies to help you train your rat.


    How long does it take to litter train a rat?

    The exact time it takes to learn litter training will often depend on the individual rat. While some may catch on as early as a week into the process, others might need over a month of consistency and practice before forming the habit fully. In either case, don’t get discouraged. Rats will eventually learn how to go in their litter box as they are incredibly smart animals. Generally, two months is a sound measure, but it be shorter or longer as there are many types of pet rats.

    Are rats easy to potty train?

    Rats are generally easier to potty train than larger animals like cats and dogs. One reason is that their droppings are much smaller, making cleanup easy. They also naturally tend to relieve themselves in one place, making it easier to introduce a litter box. Since rats live shorter lifespans, it also allows them to mature and learn faster. A rat can be fully potty trained within two months of solid, consistent practice, while a puppy might need slightly more.

    Is it worth litter-training rats?

    It is. Once a rat is litter-trained, cleaning up after them will be much easier. Likewise, you won’t have to worry about the risk of ammonia buildup that could harm your rat’s lungs. While it may seem like an effortful process, it will save you time and energy in the future.

    Can rats be trained to go in a litter box?

    Yes, rats can be trained to go in a litter box. They usually go mostly in one place, so a litter box won’t be much of a stretch for them. However, it does take regular training to achieve these. Besides a litter box, owners will also need the right litter material to get the job done.


    Have Questions About Rat Litter Training?

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    Author: Joshua Paulson and Quality Cage Team
    Josh is the owner and CEO at Quality Cage Crafters since 2015. During his time at Quality Cage Crafters, he has been able to learn from tens of thousands of pet owners and pet educators. He blends his ambition for manufacturing and passion for animal care to create solutions for pet owners, breeders, animal rescues, and zoos. He has brought together a team of great animal lovers to create high-quality pet care content for the Quality Cage Crafters audience.

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