When we picked up rats at a hoarder's home, we found Diamond and her companions crowded into a tiny cage and laying in a mixture of feces and urine about 1/3" deep. This explains Diamond's fur loss. All rats in the home were sick from the ammonia that had damaged their lungs.
Cages should be cleaned at least twice a week in a home setting. Depending on the size of the cage, ventilation, and number of rats you have, cages may need to be cleaned more frequently. A rat cage should never have a bad odor because rats are very clean animals and don’t want to live in filth. If the cage stinks, it is because it is long overdue for a cleaning. Rat urine creates ammonia fumes so a dirty cage leads to an unhealthy build-up of ammonia and can lead to respiratory problems in the rats. An excess of feces and urine in a cage, which the rats have no choice but to lay in, will most likely result in skin irritation and ammonia burns, fur loss, infection, and misery. Tiny Toes Rat Rescue has taken in rats from neglectful home where the rats’ cages were not cleaned regularly and every rat had much or nearly all of their fur burned off from ammonia and extreme skin irritation. Please don’t let this happen. Cage cleaning is necessary for the good health of both the rats and you.
Though cages can be cleaned with a commercial pet cage cleaner, fumes from these types of products can cause respiratory problems. At Tiny Toes Rat Rescue cages are cleaned every other day with bleach wipes and then rinsed thoroughly. Household cleaners, such as Windex, 409, etc. and aromatic products like those with pine or tea tree oil should NEVER be used due to harmful fumes.
Make sure you keep your rats away from their cage while you are cleaning it. It’s always good to have a smaller “holding cage” available for use while your rats’ main cage is being cleaned.