American Fancy Rat & Mouse Association

This article is from the Sep./Oct. 1996 AFRMA Rat & Mouse Tales news-magazine.

Pet Projects

Rat Bathing Kit

By Nichole Royer

There are a number of reasons why you might want to bathe your rats. Quite often male rats will develop scaly, yellow skin on their backs, and an occasional bath will eliminate this. Even the cleanest of rats may get into something. (Mine found the stamp pads one day. I came home to foot prints (rat art) all over, and very colorful critters.) Those people who show their rats routinely give them baths before shows. As one of those people who bathe their rats before shows, I have found it makes the job much simpler if I have all the equipment on hand. This is also invaluable if you run into an emergency (i.e. stamped rats) in which you need to get your rats clean quickly. With this in mind I have put together a kit which contains everything I use.

Rat Bathing

Bathing kit
  • A plastic box large enough to hold all of the following:
  • Nail clippers
  • Kwik-Stop
  • A mild shampoo made for cats
  • A soft toothbrush
  • 2 towels
  • A small blow dryer with a low cool setting
  • A soft dog or cat brush
  • A bag of rat treats

Those people who show may also want to include some of the following:

  • Bluing shampoo (made for white cats)
  • Shampoo made for dark or black cats
  • Coat conditioner
  • Coat conditioning spray
  • Dry shampoo
  • Coat powder

Depending on your rats, you may also want to include:

  • Medicated shampoo with hydrocortisone (for rats with scabs)
  • Hypoallergenic shampoo (for rats with skin sensitivities)
  • Shampoo containing aloe
  • Very mild kitten flea shampoo (dilute 50% or more)

Everyone has a method of bathing which works best for them. For those people who are either unhappy with their own way, or have never tried bathing a rat, the following has always worked well for me.

  1. Trim the rat’s nails. It is always a good idea to do this first, otherwise you may get scratched. It is easiest if you make this a two person job, one to hold the rat and another to clip. Only take off the very tips of each nail, since trimming too short will cut the quick and cause bleeding. If you do accidentally clip the quick (it does occasionally happen) dip the toe in Kwik-Stop.
    Trim Nails
  2. Use either the bathroom or kitchen sink. Turn on the faucet so that you have a stream of warm, but not hot water. Gently hold the rat under the stream of water until it is thoroughly wet. Use your hand to scoop water onto the rat’s head, being sure to keep it out of the eyes, ears, mouth, and nose.
  3. Set the rat on a towel and gently lather it with shampoo, being careful to keep it off the face.
  4. On male rats with scaly skin on their backs (or rats who have gotten into something messy), it is often necessary to do more than just lather with shampoo. I like to lather the rat, then take a soft toothbrush and comb its fur from behind the ears to the base of the tail (or repeatedly over the soiled area). This may need to be repeated.
  5. Hold the rat under the running water and rinse out the shampoo (avoiding sensitive areas on the face).
  6. Repeat lathering and rinsing as needed until the rat is clean.
  7. Dip the toothbrush in shampoo and gently scrub the rat’s tail until it is clean. Be very gentle, it’s easy to damage the tail skin, and always rub from base to tip, not the other way around. Rinse well.
  8. Place the rat on a dry towel and briskly dry.
  9. Depending on the weather, your preferences, and the rat’s temperament, you may want to use a blow dryer and a brush to completely dry the rat. Use a low, cool setting, and brush while drying. Often the rat will feel more comfortable sitting on your lap during this process.
  10. Give your rat a treat and let him know how good he’s been. *

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Updated April 22, 2015