Small pets such as rats, hamsters, and guinea pigs do well to keep their food and toilet areas separate. A clean cage will make your pet much happier in their surroundings, minimise odour from their cage, make cleaning easier, and prevent illnesses from occurring. One way of doing this is to introduce a toilet.
The size of the toilet depends on the species, a rat toilet or chinchilla toilet will need to be larger than a hamster toilet, for example. To introduce toilet training, first, observe where your pet urinates and defecates most, this is usually in a quiet corner of their cage. If your rat or hamster has a very large cage, there may be more than one spot they use for the toilet. Once you have identified their preferred spot, place the potty for your hamster there and fill it with a small amount of hamster potty litter. Add a small amount of their soiled bedding into the toilet so that the scent guides your pet into their new toileting area. If your pet doesn’t enter the potty on their own, don’t force them in as this may discourage them from using it.
Sometimes your pet may get confused about what their potty is meant to be used for. Ask yourself the following questions:
Does your pet have a specific sleeping area? If they don’t, they may use their toilet as a bed because they feel safe and secure there. Make sure you create a safe and quiet spot for your pet in their cage to sleep in.
Are there enough places to eat or hide food? If you’re finding food in the potty, your pet is using it to stash away their dinner. This may mean that their cage is too small. Small cages can cause anxiety in hamsters and rats so remember this when you choose to offer one a home.
The best toilet for your pet should have elevated sides to contain their messes and be made from a material that is easy to clean. Also, rodents love to chew, so make sure any furniture you add to their cage can withstand this and isn’t made from anything that would cause them harm. A corner litter tray is a great way to minimise the space required and as the corner of the cage is usually where your pet would naturally go to the toilet, this makes potty training a little easier. Another option would be an enclosed toilet such as the Savic Hamster Closet, which offers a secure environment for your pet to go to the toilet in. This completely contains messes, making cleaning out their cage quicker and easier.
Along with a toilet, using litter will also help to keep your pet’s cage smelling better. Any litter you use for your hamster/rat/guinea pig or chinchilla should be safe, non-toxic, and made from natural materials to help quickly absorb and minimise unpleasant smells. Of course, you can line your pet’s litter tray with sawdust or shredded paper, but these may not absorb urine as efficiently as litter made from materials such as bentonite. If using paper, make sure it is free from toxic inks and dyes.
Litter should also be dust-free to protect your pet’s delicate respiratory system and soft to walk on. You should not use cat litter for your small pet. Many cat litters contain substances such as clay or silica which are harmful when ingested and will cause blockages in your pet’s digestive system.