Can You Give Pet Rats Baths?

If you are looking for a low-maintenance pet, I would highly recommend getting a pet rat. I always recommend rats for busy people. Unlike other pets, they are easy to keep and relatively clean animals, but you may be wondering if you can give them baths when they get dirty?

Although there are times when rats need baths, it is usually unnecessary. Rats are very good at keeping themselves clean but may need help as they get older. 

If you decide to give your pet rat a bath, you will want to ensure you do this very carefully. Pet rats can get stressed, and this can cause them to die. I will discuss the best ways to ensure your pet rat stays safe and a few alternatives to bath time. 

Steps to Give Your Pet Rat a Bath

Rats are curious creatures, and if you let them roam around in a designated area, chances are they will find something to get into. If this happens to your pet rat, you can take a few steps to give them a nice bath without stressing them out. Here are some steps to help you with their bath. 

Find a Small Container

You won’t want to use a really big sink because they don’t need that amount of space, and it may be too stressful for the first time. Fill the container up with lukewarm water, not too hot or too cold, because the temperature change can stress them. 

Place the full container in a safe area. This can be in a tub or other flat surface where your rat can’t escape or run away. I prefer using the tub. 

Scoop The Water

Don’t dunk your rat into the water; this will create a bad experience. Instead, use your hands to scoop some water and gently massage it onto your rat. The idea is to build trust with them and get them used to the water. 

I find this to be more difficult with older rates rather than younger ones. Wipe down and hold your rat- Gently wipe away the water and tell them how good they did. You can hold them for a moment, but they may want to get back to their cage because it is their home and safe zone. 

How Often Should You Bathe Your Rat?

You should repeat the process of getting them wet every week. During the first few weeks, you will not use shampoo. Once the rat is used to the feeling of the water, you can bathe them once a month.

Do not bathe them more than once a month with shampoo because the shampoo will strip their natural oils. Also, after too much shampoo usage, the rat will create the oils faster and be much more smelly. 

What Type of Shampoo Should You Use and When to Use it

For any rat bathing, choose a shampoo made for sensitive skin. There are shampoos made for cats with sensitive skin that also work well for rats. You may also find small animal shampoo that will work for rats in your local pet store. 

After your rat is comfortable being in the water for longer than a few minutes, let them play if they want. You will need to help them get wet. Once wet, rub in a very small amount of rat shampoo. Rinse out all of the bubbly shampoo and towel them off. 

What to Avoid When Giving Your Pet Rat a Bath

Always avoid getting your rat’s ears wet. This could cause infections that can kill your pet rat. You will also never want to force your rat to take a bath. Forcing a rat can stress your animal out and also lead to death. 

Alright, you know the steps to bathing your pet rat, but there are a few things you need to keep in mind. Bath time should be fun and a bonding experience. Unfortunately, not all rats are the same. Keep these tips in mind when deciding on whether or not to give your pet rat a bath.

  • Never force a rat. They may end up biting you. 
  • Forcing a rat could lead to shock or death. 
  • Never submerge a rat’s head. They are prone to respiratory infections. 
  • Never get water in their ears. This can lead to illnesses.

If you introduce your pet rat to lukewarm water slowly, none of these should be an issue. However, water on the head or in the ears can lead to unexpected and expensive vet trips. Some rats are more wiggly in the water, which can be bad when trying to keep them safe. 

Are There Alternatives to Giving Your Pet Rat a Bath?

There are alternatives to bathing your pet rat. These methods include pet grooming wipes and waterless foam shampoo. They allow you to groom the pet rat without getting them wet or getting rid of too many natural oils. 

Pet Grooming Wipes

These are a lifesaver! I love using small wipes in between baths on my rats. I can hold them and wipe them down. They don’t have a strong smell, and they leave my rats squeaky clean. If you are worried about bathing your rats, I would recommend using these first. 

Waterless Foaming Shampoo

Now, there are several different brands, and you will need to check the ingredients to make sure there isn’t anything toxic. You will also want to test whichever kind you buy to see if it dries out the fur on your rats. 

This is not my favorite option, but I know plenty of rat owners who choose to use these. All you need to do is run a little bit into your rat’s fur, and they should be clean enough to go about their business. 

Is there anything else I should do before giving my rat a bath?

If your rat has super long nails, you will want to trim them before they go into the bath. A scared rat will claw at you, and this can leave gashes. This should be done a few days before you plan on giving your rat a bath. 

What to do for your rat after giving them a bath?

Once you have finished the rat bath, gently dry them off, place them in their homes. You can give them a treat, letting them know they did a good job. If you give them a treat every time, they will learn to love baths for the reward at the end. 

Do rats know how to swim?

Rats do know how to swim, but that does not mean they all like water. Every rat will have a unique personality, and just because they can swim doesn’t mean they want to. 

Final Thoughts

Rats make wonderful pets, and if you take good care of them, they can live up to two or three years. This is almost double the lifespan of a wild rat. Once in a while, you may find that you need to give your pet rat a bath, and it will take some time for them to get used to the idea. Remember to be consistent and patient. 

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