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Thursday, September 5, 2013

Litter Training

Weasel loved to lay around inside his litter box.
Litter training is something I have never given much thought to. A litter box is a necessity when you use fleece/fabric liners, but just because it exists, doesn't mean they will use it. Our Loki is the best litter trained rat we have ever had - always using the litter box, with never a stray raisin to be found. Our other rats have been decent, with most of the raisins found in the litter box, but the occasional stray raisins left elsewhere. Our girls are still in training - sometimes it takes several months.

Here are some tips to make litter training go as smoothly as possible.
  1. Pay attention to the places where you normally find raisins. Rats tend to have certain preferred spots for this. Place the litter box in their chosen spot. Put a few raisins in the box to get them started.
  2. Place a litter box on every full level of the cage. Rats can be lazy. They will use the litter box if it is there, but not if it is out of sight or an effort to get to.
  3. Use a heavy litter in the litter box. It is always best to use a different litter in the litter box than in the cage (if you also use a litter in the cage). You need to differentiate the litter box from everywhere else if you want to litter train your rats. Using a light and fluffy/airy litter can be messy. Rats can easily toss lightweight litter out of the litter box - either by accident or on purpose. A heavier paper pelleted litter is more likely to stay in the litter box than something like aspen or Carefresh.
  4. Move any raisins you find into the litter box to teach the rats that this is where they belong.
  5. Don't change the litter too frequently at first - keeping some raisins in the box helps remind the rats where they belong.
  6. Have patience. Sometimes it takes a while for them to get it. Just keep up with it. One day, you will likely find that most of the raisins are in the boxes where they belong.
Remember that rats can only be litter trained for poo and not for pee. Rats use urine to mark their territories and to communicate with other rats, and thus will always pee where they see fit.

Don't be surprised if your rats drag other things into the litter box. We have had rats who would drag their treats into the litter box. Sounds disgusting, but there is really no discouraging this. They will do what they want to do. Our rat Weasel also liked to sleep in the litter box. We think that perhaps in the summer it was cooler in the box than sleeping on fleece.

Make sure to choose a safe litter for your litter boxes. Many litters marketed to small animals are not safe for those animals. Cedar and pine wood shavings are aromatic and the oils in the wood can cause respiratory problems in rats. Aspen shavings are a safe alternative if you prefer wood. Corn cob litters are prone to mold and can carry fungi, like Aspergillus. Paper litters, like Carefresh and ExquisiCat Paper are safe. Be warned, however, that Yesterday's News is made partially with sawdust, even though it claims to be a paper bedding. Thus, it may not be as safe as other alternatives. We used to use Yesterday's News (pictured above with Weasel), but have changed to ExquisiCat for this reason.

Also note that paper-based cat litters are safe for small animal use as long as the only ingredient is paper and they do not contain any added fragrances/chemicals/agents. Paper cat litter is usually the same as the paper products marketed toward small animals, but can be purchased in larger quantities for less.


  1. the most important and most difficult thing to do with best regards to your pets Kitten litter training

  2. Do you find a certain type of litter box works better or worse for the ratties. Example a normal rectangle box vs a triangle lower lip pan?