Wednesday, March 18, 2009
Bath Time For Rats!

By Shellyane Bryan
A rat owner from England shares tales of living with her first rat, Queen Dumbo Duncanson-Bryan, and a rat named Mouse.

Click image to enlarge
Mouse the rat
Mouse experienced her first bath this week, and she wasn't impressed.
The rats Mouse and Dumbo snuggle
Photos Courtesy Shellyane Bryan
Pet rats usually keep themselves well-roomed and rarely need a bath.

Something both hilarious and unfortunate happened to my rat Mouse earlier this week. I bought a new water bottle for the rats’ cage, because the water bowl gets knocked off the bars so often. Most water bottles leak horribly, but this one claims it doesn’t, so I’m giving it a try.

It was insanely confusing to put the bottle together, but I managed. Then I filled it with lovely, cold, refreshing water. As I tried to attach the water bottle to the cage, I managed to tip it over and soak Mouse in the process! My poor rat was not impressed. She ran and bounced around in sheer surprise.

I decided to bathe Mouse rather than leave her to freeze as she dried off. I don’t bathe my pet rats often. When they get lazy about cleaning themselves, I fill a nice, warm bath and let them swim around. Mostly, rats are perfectly adequate at keeping themselves neat and tidy. I always find that when the cage has been cleaned and they have had a run around in the sawdust, they always smell better too.

Dumbo and Fidget, my first rats, were never fans of baths. It’s always interesting to at least see how a pet rat feels about water. Some rats love to have a little swim, some absolutely loathe it. I hadn’t bathed Mouse before, so while she’s still young I thought it might be nice to see how she feels about baths.

She didn’t like the bath, ungrateful little mite that she is. To ease her into it, I only tested her out in a shallow sink. I usually give my rats a bit of shampooing with an animal-safe shampoo, using a very, very small amount. I’m very careful about keeping shampoo out of their eyes and water out of their ears. The latter can cause serious damage.

The best way to keep a rat’s eyes and ears safe during a bath is to scoop up a handful of water and let it trickle over the rat’s back, avoiding its head altogether. Once all the shampoo has been washed out — leaving any in or shampooing too often can cause very dry skin — I usually gather up my rat in a warm, fluffy towel and dry it off. Fidget used to love to have the hairdryer blow on her, but Dumbo never did. This just goes to show how different rats can be from one another.

Finally, I offer my rat a treat to apologize for the ordeal, usually rodent chocolate buttons or a yogurt drop. All in all, I only bathe my rats if they really, really need it. Baths really aren’t a requirement.

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