Litter Box Literacy: The Finer Points of Teaching Pet Rats to Urinate in Litter Boxes
August 26, 2016 by
About Pet Rats in
Behavior, Intelligence, Litter Box Training, Training
Your Questions | About Pet Rats Answers
I ran into some issues when training my pet rats to use their litter boxes for urinating: 1. I’m obviously not always there when it happens. 2. It is hard to move them to their litterbox quickly if they are in a hard to reach place or not in close proximity to their litterbox. And 3. When I do pick them up and put them in the litterbox they’ll usually just stop peeing and instead start doing something else.
ABOUT PET RATS ANSWERS:
Here are ideas and suggestions for each of your three excellent points:
“I’m obviously not always there when it happens.”
When training, it helps to spend extra time with your rats to help them learn. Even just 30 minutes in the morning and 30 minutes in the evening can make a huge difference. Being there and praising them when they DO urinate in their litter boxes helps reinforce the desired behavior. Similar to us humans, our rats love being recognized for their talents and intelligence.
“It is hard to move them to their litter box quickly if they are in a hard to reach place or not in close proximity to their litter box.”
The entire back portion of this cage is lined with litter boxes making it easy for rats to know where to urinate and defecate.
- During the training phase, make sure there’s always a litter box close to wherever they are. When taking your rats outside their cage, limit the areas available to them until they’re trained. For example, take them out in a rat-proofed bathroom (or even on a bed or a table top) where you’ve placed plenty of litter boxes. This scenario is more effective than allowing them to roam in a huge room with just a couple of litter boxes.
- Provide as many litter boxes as possible inside their cage until they’re trained. Later, you can take away some of the boxes. The idea is to set them up for success so they aren’t able to avoid using a litter box.
- In the beginning, place litter boxes on all floor surfaces upon which they may choose to urinate both inside and outside their cage.
- Compliment your rats every time you observe them using one of their litter boxes.
“When I do pick them up and put them in the litter box they’ll usually just stop peeing and instead start doing something else.”
Place paper towels (or litter boxes) outside of the cage. When placed on these paper towels immediately after being taken out of their cage, your rats will need to urinate and learn that paper towels are the place to do this.
- A good technique to use is to pick your rats up while they’re sleeping and place them inside a litter box. Rats usually need to urinate as soon as they awaken. They’ll learn to associate their litter boxes as the proper place to urinate if you repeat this exercise several times a day. [NOTE: Generally I wouldn’t recommend waking up pet rats while they’re sleeping. However, when litter box training, waking them up gives them the perfect opportunity to successfully learn to urinate in their litter box.]
- Not only can you pick them up while they’re sleeping and place them in a litter box that’s INSIDE their cage, you can also awaken them inside their cage and immediately place them in a litter box OUTSIDE of their cage. I even do this after my rats are litter box trained. This “technique” is especially helpful whenever I want to have my rats out on my shoulders for awhile. My rats have learned to associate being placed on paper towels as their “perfect moment” in which to urinate or defecate before I scoop them up for a shoulder ride.
- I always say the words “paper towels” aloud while my rats are on top of as well as using their litter box. (I line my rats’ litter boxes with paper towels and use paper towels by themselves when my rats are out on the couch.) It’s helpful to teach them to associate their litter boxes with whatever specific words apply in your situation. You could also use the words “litter box” instead of “paper towels”.
- When they urinate (or defecate) in one of their litter boxes you can say the words, “Litter box” or “Paper towels” and “GOOD!”.
Pizza boxes (unused, of course) make fantastic pet rat litter boxes
- If they start to urinate in the wrong place, you can still say the words “litter box” (or “paper towels”) while moving them directly into a litter box.
- I understand there still may be times when they stop urinating once you place them inside a litter box. However, you are still training them that the litter box is where they should urinate even when you place them inside the box and they don’t continue urinating.
I hope at least some of these ideas are helpful for you and your rats. Spending time on a daily basis—along with perseverance—are the keys to training your rats to urinate in their litter boxes. Once they learn to urinate in a litter box or on paper towels, their cage and your home will be much cleaner and everyone will be healthier as a result.
Don’t hesitate to let me know if you have any further questions.
Best Wishes to You & Your Rats,
Jasmine | About Pet Rats
Also of interest for pet rat litter box training:
Litter Box Lessons for You & Your Pet Rats
Pet Rat Bedding & Litter
A Cute Cue: Litter Box Training Pet Rats
Where to find Pizza Boxes