Most rats can be litter trained to some extent. A very few rats will use a litter tray for all their waste, but the majority will only at best reliably use it for droppings and will urinate in small quantities all over the cage. This is because rats use urine scent as a territorial marking.
What you need
1. Litter tray
The litter tray can be almost any container that is heavy enough not to be tipped over, and tall enough that the litter doesn't get kicked out too easily. Depending on the size of your cage you could use a tupperware-type container, a ferret corner litter tray (about £5 in pet shops), a seed planting tray or a cat litter tray. If your litter tray is too light try attaching it to the cage mesh with plastic-coated garden wire or putting pebbles in the base to hold it down. If you have a multi-level cage it is best to have a litter tray on each floor as bucks in particular can be too lazy to go to the tray if it is "too far"!
Adapted planter made into a litter tray with Paperlit
In order for the rats to differentiate between the cage floor and the litter tray you should use a different litter in the tray to what you use elsewhere in the cage. Obviously something odour and moisture absorbing is ideal, such as Carefresh, or 100% paper cat litters e.g. Bio-Catolet or Bob Martin's.
Training your rats
Rats can be litter trained at any age, although kittens may learn quicker than adults, and elderly rats should be given a shallow tray near to their usual sleeping area. Completely clean the cage and save some droppings, preferably fresh and smelly. Fill the litter trays with your chosen litter, add the poop and place them in the cage. If your rats already tend to go mostly in one corner place the tray there.
If you see a rat using the litter tray praise them extravagantly! If you see a rat going elsewhere either move them if you can be quick enough, or move their droppings to the tray straight away. You will probably need to be very persistent with this, and when you start out you should clean up non-litter tray areas as often as you can to reinforce the idea, at least twice a day. A few rats will get the hang of it almost immediately, but for most you will have to be patient for a week or two. A bonus is that kittens introduced to cages with litter trained adults tend to litter train themselves, so you do not need to repeat the process for all new arrivals.
During time out of the cage you can either allow your rats access to their cage litter trays (if the door is accessible to them) or use a separate litter tray in the corner of the free-range area. This may require a little more encouragement but a rat already used to a tray in their cage should learn to extend this behaviour to the free-range area without too much difficulty.
Author: Alison Mercer
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