Author Topic: Urinating out of the cage?  (Read 404 times)

Offline stkmw02

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Urinating out of the cage?
« on: June 02, 2017, 07:25:39 PM »
So, I was so excited about the progress Snow and Margalo have made with litter training... but their cage smells worse than when I had six rats.  I've been cleaning their cage every other day to try to minimize the stink, but nothing seems to work.  We wash the fleece once a week, change the corn cob litter every other day, and the carefresh we are using in the pan under the open cage floor gets changed weekly as well (an old cutting board covers most of the floor where they walk and they don't potty on it.

I couldn't figure out why the cage still smells SO terribly, especially since it is coated metal and doesn't seem to absorb scent the way plastic did... and then I noticed urine on the wheels of the cage and discovered some on the floor outside the cage!  I have never experienced a female rat somehow peeing outside of the cage before.  I think it is only Margalo doing this, as I've seen Snow using the pee rock in the litter pan.

I wipe everything down with vinegar water or citrus water, because we typically don't use chemical cleaners... but the smell is horrible.  I cannot stress enough how stinky these ladies are, compared to our previous rats.

So...

How do I stop them from urinating out of the cage?
What other products do you use to clean your cages?  (I hesitate to use chemicals, but trust your recommendations!)
Have you found other litter to be more odor reducing?
And... could this be a medical issue?  I haven't located a good exotic vet in my area yet to consult.  Our previous vet who handled our girls is no longer practicing and they referred us to a specialist two hours away. :(  My friend who is not an exotics specialist gave them a general exam.

Offline BigBen

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Re: Urinating out of the cage?
« Reply #1 on: June 03, 2017, 01:22:16 PM »
Here are some thoughts, sort of at random:

How long have you had the girls, and where did they come from?  If they had been fed a poor diet before you got them, it might take a week or two for the lab blocks to work through their systems and freshen their body odor.  Corn cob bedding can quickly develop a fungus, but you said you're changing it every other day, so that's probably not the problem.

Margalo may catch on to the pee rock, especially since she has such a good example.

I use Eco-bedding, which is shredded kraft paper.  I like it because it's the most dust-free bedding I've found, and it seems to control odor quite well.  I try to avoid the variety with baking soda in it, because I'm not sure what the effect would be on the rats' lungs.  There is also a similar bedding made by Oxbow, that I like, but it seems to get out of the cage more easily than the Eco-bedding.

For cleaning, I use both distilled vinegar and hydrogen peroxide.  They both have an antiseptic effect, and they are non-toxic and break down into non-toxic by-products, so you can safely use them in the presence of the rats.  I find the smell of vinegar something of a problem, but the peroxide seems to cut it quite well.  An added bonus of mixing them is that they combine to form peracetic acid, which is also safe around the rats, and which is a very powerful antiseptic.  I have heard that it is possible to mix them in the spray bottle before use, but I have also heard that they cannot be mixed in advance.  I'm not sure that it matters either way.

Also, don't go overboard with the cleaning.  Rats like their surroundings to smell a bit like them, so it is a good idea always to leave at least one uncleaned item in the cage.  (I generally leave at least one hammock unchanged, for example.  And a small bit of soiled litter in the litter tray among the fresh seems to help encourage them to actually use the litter tray.)  People have found that trying to get the cage too clean simply inspires their rats to extraordinary efforts to get all the clean off, and they end up with an even smellier cage in the long run. 

My troubles with smell have been more with bucks than with does, and it seems to be seasonal.  The humid months seem to bring out the smell more.  A dehumidifier seems to help that problem.  I also have an air filter with a HEPA filter, which does a very good job of eliminating odors.

Lastly, a couple of tricks that have helped me in the past:  a drop of vanilla or of lemon juice in the water bottle when you fill it can help with body odor.  It is important, however, not to use more than a single drop, because you don't want to affect the taste of the water and put the rats off drinking it.  I have also found it helpful to put out a couple of glasses of distilled vinegar near the cage; it seems to help with the odor as well.

Oh, and here's a thought:  if the smell gets very intense at times but then seems to fade, it is possible that your rats are passing gas.  Rat farts smell like doom and destruction and can be amazingly intense.  Their smell is hard to describe.  It's not really fecal, not really urine-like, and not like the methane of human gas.  It's just terrible (imagine having thirty or forty rats in a CN, and you didn't change the litter for four or five weeks--only worse).  The good news, however, is that the smell does dissipate pretty quickly.

Warning:  don't use scented products (candles, air fresheners, etc.) around the rats, because the aromatic volatiles can scar the rats' lungs, and such scarring is irreversible.  (Burning an unscented candle near the cage might help the smell, however; but I've never tried it, so I have no idea if that would work.)

Good luck, and please keep us posted.
What is a rat?  King-sized love in a pint-sized package.
RatCode:  3m3f19r !B C? D+ F S-- ocA reC sM a+++ e++++ n

Offline gramma2jaakk

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Re: Urinating out of the cage?
« Reply #2 on: June 04, 2017, 03:28:22 PM »
it is possible that your rats are passing gas.  Rat farts smell like doom and destruction and can be amazingly intense.  Their smell is hard to describe.  It's not really fecal, not really urine-like, and not like the methane of human gas.  It's just terrible (imagine having thirty or forty rats in a CN, and you didn't change the litter for four or five weeks--only worse).  The good news, however, is that the smell does dissipate pretty quickly.

:laughing4: :yelcutelaugh: :thumbsup2: Boy, you are NOT wrong!  Hahaha!!

I've never had a buck or a doe that peed outside their cage, but  poop? Yes, and she was a champion PROJECTILE pooper! Josie came to me with that sweet little habit, and nothing I did could change her. She would climb the bars of the cage, hang on for a moment while she pooped, then climb down again and go about her day.

Good luck with the peeing situation! I hope you find a solution.

Offline stkmw02

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Re: Urinating out of the cage?
« Reply #3 on: June 04, 2017, 04:56:41 PM »
Snow was born on March 1st in a medical laboratory facility. She was part of a school Science Club diet experiment - sugar water vs milk.  She was sugar water.  The diet was otherwise very healthy.  Margalo was born, probably, on April 1st at a feeder breeder.  We got her to keep Snow company around April 20th.  They both have the same diet, though Margalo eats much more than Snow even though she's smaller.

Would it help to place more than one pee rock?  Or is one enough?

I'll try the Eco-bedding.  Thanks for the recommendation!

I've mixed the vinegar and peroxide before with water for dilution to clean other things around the house.  I wasn't sure about using the peroxide for rats.  I wonder if they're soiling the floor level so much because I clean that so thoroughly?  Maybe I shouldn't clean it as frequently?

I'll try the vanilla too!!

Rat gas... I have never considered that. lol  Any idea what in their diet might cause that, if that would be the problem?

I have noticed that some of the urine appears to be darker. 

Offline BigBen

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Re: Urinating out of the cage?
« Reply #4 on: June 04, 2017, 06:46:12 PM »
I don't know what causes rats to pass gas--sometimes they go through phases, but it doesn't have any obvious connection to their diet (although it's possible to feed the rats something and forget about it--sometime I'll tell you about panicking about my bloody rats, till I remembered giving them strawberries, lol!).

If some of the urine is darker, that could be a sign of a urinary tract infection--and so could the smell, come to think of it.  It sounds like time for a vet visit.
What is a rat?  King-sized love in a pint-sized package.
RatCode:  3m3f19r !B C? D+ F S-- ocA reC sM a+++ e++++ n