Author Topic: Frequency of Cleaning  (Read 678 times)

Offline chelsea12

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Frequency of Cleaning
« on: December 21, 2015, 10:41:46 AM »
Hello, I'm just wondering how frequently everyone does a full cage clean.

I currently have 6 rats- we lost one recently and added another one shortly before she passed  :'(. However, I've noticed the last few weeks they've been particularly stinky. The new addition is the first male, so I'm not sure if this could have anything to do with it. I have 6 total in a double critter nation. I am doing a full cleaning 1-2 times a week that includes removing all the shelves and washing them with diluted vinegar and rinsing, and wiping down all toys and anything else that might need it. I am also changing certain shelves almost daily, because they are peeing in the same areas. I've tried litter box training in the past, but they feel litter is best stashed as a play thing, so their litter box becomes just a little box of poops that gets emptied daily (any litter that is put in there will be dragged to their igloo for play, so I've given up and let them have their "poop box"). I've heard that cleaning too often encourages them to be extra messy, but I don't think this is the case since it's mostly an ammonia smell that I'm noticing. The bedding is fleece and a combination of towels and uhaul pads, washed in hot water with unscented detergent and 1/2-2/3 cups of vinegar put directly into the wash (our machine doesn't have a separate softener compartment). I'm also pre-rinsing by hand in the tub to make sure everything I can get out of their bedding is removed since we're stuck with coin operated machines without an extra rinse cycle. The bedding smells fine when it's cleaned, so I don't think there's residual anything in that either.

We do have one of the girls on metacam, baytril, and doxy and have been advised to keep her on it continuously. Another of the girls is now fighting a UTI and is on doxy also. Could the stink be a result of the infection or the meds?

 I'm open to trying any combination of changing the type of bedding I use, the cage set up or really anything. I'm also fine with changing bedding daily, just wondering if there's a better solution.


Offline Vonda Z

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Re: Frequency of Cleaning
« Reply #1 on: December 21, 2015, 11:28:16 AM »
How often you clean the cage is going to be mostly determined by how filled to capacity the cage is. I try to keep my cages only half filled (eg, the Critter Nation can hold 9 rats, half full is about 4). I have one CN with 3 rats and another with 4 and I do a full cage clean once a week, with spot cleans in between as needed. If I go beyond half capacity, I have found that I need to do a full clean twice a week.

I also use an air purifier with a HEPA filter and a pre carbon filter. The HEPA filter is excellent for removing allergens and dust. The carbon filter helps remove gases and odors and would likely help with the ammonia odor by removing the ammonia from the air. An air purifier will help keep the air healthy to breath and smelling fresher as well.

The size of the room can also be a factor. A rat cage in a large room with good circulation can go longer without smelling. A rat cage in a small room with less ventilation will consolidate the gases in the air and smell worse more quickly.

If your cage is against a wall, be sure to wipe down the wall after cleaning, as it is possible to have a clean cage but have pee residue left behind on the wall by the cage. Same is true for the floor. If the cage is on a carpet, you may want to put something solid underneath that can be more easily cleaned.

I do believe that some rats can be "stinkier" than others. So it could be that your new boy addition is doing a lot of cage marking and making the cage stinky. Do you have him neutered to live with the girls? If so, he would be less inclined to mark (in my experience). But if you believe he is marking the cage after cleaning, you may want to leave one dirty hammock/fleece scrap in the cage so that his smell is left behind and he is less inclined to mark the new clean cage. You can remove that dirty item in a day, after his smell is left behind in other places.

I don't remember any antibiotics having an effect on the smell of the cage - but it is possible that a urinary tract infection may produce smelly urine - although I don't remember that side effect in my former boy who had a UTI. As a side note - if the Doxy doesn't work for your girl, ask the vet about trying Trimethoprim sulfa for the UTI. While Baytril and Doxy are great for respiratory infections, they are greatly changed by the time they reach the kidneys, whereas Trimethoprim Sulfa is not, and thus is often more effective at treating urinary tract and bladder infections. My boy with a UTI was already on Baytril and Doxy when the UTI developed and those drugs didn't help him. The Trimethoprim sulfa worked very quickly once we switched him over to that, however. Note that Trimethoprim sulfa will not work for myco related infections, so if there is a URI involved, it likely won't work for that.

Good luck and I hope you find something that works for you.

Offline BigBen

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Re: Frequency of Cleaning
« Reply #2 on: December 21, 2015, 12:38:26 PM »
Diet can be a factor in smell, too.  Poor quality food can make rats smell.  I also notice, especially with boys, that the smell seems to go in cycles.  They tend to smell better in cooler, drier weather, and worse in hotter, more humid weather.  Girls tend to smell fairly good year-round.
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Offline chelsea12

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Re: Frequency of Cleaning
« Reply #3 on: December 21, 2015, 01:26:23 PM »
Thank you both. I was surprised by the smell change, because there haven't been a lot of diet or other changes. They get Regal Rat for their main food source, a variety of veggies, and occasional treats. We do give them a variety of human food treats, but it's a bite or two at most and we keep the items relatively healthy. Most of their regular snacks are items that can be found in Sue Bee's diet, or other similar items- cheerios, yogurt, and thinned out peanut butter being the most popular. As far as cycles are concerned, I figure winter in New England should be when it smells best, not worst.

I'm probably over reacting, but with Chip having lifelong respiratory issues the environment suddenly getting a little smelly is startling to me, especially since it was sudden with no big changes. I don't want that to make her symptoms worse. They seem to be peeing almost entirely in one area of the cage, which is new. I'm wondering if I should switch that area to something more absorbent, like store bought bedding, if it continues to be their go-to. I'll keep an eye (or nose) on the scent of their cage and if it continues to be a problem I'll consider sizing as an issue.

Vonda- I'll keep the med suggestion in mind. She's been on the baytril since Friday night, so I'll keep an eye on her symptoms and talk to the vet if we don't see improvement soon. In my original post I said she was on doxy, that was an error, she's only on baytril. I'm not seeing red in the cage anymore, but I was planning to have her hang out in the bathtub tonight until she pees so I can get a better idea of her urine color. She's never had URI problems. The boy, Pumpkin, is neutered and doesn't seem to be marking everywhere.

We keep the cage in a carpeted room, but on top of a solid flooring that I can wipe down regularly. I also keep a shower curtain between the cage and the wall, as it's easier to wipe down if they do mark the wall.

Offline chelsea12

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Re: Frequency of Cleaning
« Reply #4 on: December 24, 2015, 02:44:05 PM »
I just figured I'd give you an update on everything here and share some good news. There was more red residue in their cage last night, so I separated Mango to try to get a urine sample from her, which was deep red again. I took her and Ethel into the vet today, concerned that the blood in her urine wasn't clearing up. Of course she peed on the table at the vets: it was clear, and the tests came out fairly clean. They also told me there was very little blood in the last test they ran on her, which was the deep red color. They think the discoloration may be porphyrin, not blood, since the rbc count was very low. I'd heard of porphyrin showing up in urine, but without her showing any respiratory signs at all and no porphyrin on the eyes I had never even thought of it.

We're treating most of the crew with doxy now, but otherwise it was great to have a vet visit of mostly good news.

Offline BigBen

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Re: Frequency of Cleaning
« Reply #5 on: December 24, 2015, 07:45:53 PM »
Glad to hear things are so much better than they appeared.  I had no idea that porphyrin could appear in urine; that's good to know.
What is a rat?  King-sized love in a pint-sized package.
RatCode:  1m0f18r !B C? D+ F S-- ocA reC sM a+++ e++++ n