How to Reduce the Smell of Your Pet Mouse


I hold a master's degree in English. I like writing about various topics.

Mouse Odor Prevention

Mice mark their territory, like dogs. However, while pet dogs stake their claims outdoors, a pet mouse doesn't have that option. Mouse odor overpowers air fresheners and can fill a room quickly. Although they make friendly and playful pets, this stink can be off-putting to their owners. If you find yourself choking on your pet's scent, I can offer several suggestions to freshen the air back to normal.

Don't Clean the Cage

This may sound counter-intuitive, but it makes sense to your mouse. He doesn't get a lot of territory, so he feels very strongly about his cage. If you expect to battle the smell by frequent cage-cleanings, your pet will combat your efforts by marking every last corner as soon as you set him in a freshly scrubbed home. When he can't smell himself, his first reaction will be to get busy with the scent glands. As a result, pet mice often stink more immediately after you clean their cage.

Instead, let the cage sit for a week or two--depending on how many mice you have—even if it's a little unpleasant. Some people will even save old bedding and sprinkle it around a cleaned cage. This pre-marks the territory for the mouse, and he won't feel the need to draw lines in the sand right away.

Baking Soda

People put open boxes of baking soda in their refrigerators to absorb the smells. The same trick works with mice. It wouldn't be wise to stick an open box full of powder into the cage with your pet, but after scrubbing and drying, spread a liberal amount of it over the floor. Then put the bedding over that.

Animal-Safe Store-Bought Deodorizers

Other people have had this problem. So many, in fact, that there are ways of chemically treating your mice to weaken the power of his stink glands. A good pet store will carry at least one brand of deodorizer. They don't cost much and can easily be mixed into a water solution, which makes it easy to apply to the mouse.

Corn Cob Bedding

This method may cost slightly more, but the benefits more than offset the price. Its main virtue is that it lowers the levels of ammonia—the chemical that makes pee stink--in the cage. Also, it's cleaner, so bacteria and fungi are less likely to develop and harm your pet. Research scientists are legally required to use this on their animals because it is considered more humane and healthy than other types of bedding. Because of this, not only will your mouse smell better, but you probably won't have to clean the cage nearly as often as with wood shavings or paper.

Air Filters/Air Purifiers

This may challenge your wallet more than my other suggestions, but when used alongside the other methods, you won't even notice that mousy smell anymore. If you have allergies, it doubles its usage. It's not an option for everyone, but I highly recommend using one if you can afford it.

Don't Buy Male Mice

This may not help those of you who already have pet mice, but only males mark territory. Females couldn't care less. They also tend to be friendlier to humans. Some people tell me they can smell female mice, but when I've owned them without owning a male, I never noticed anything. Unfortunately, some pet stores only stock male mice, but females make better pets. If you haven't bought a mouse yet, try to find a girl.

© 2011 jplaj

wannamouse on July 03, 2020:

hi- i am really confused. i have seen a lot of comments that say that the baking soda could harm the mouse, but a lot that sat that it works and that it is fine. what should i do?

Ria on May 17, 2020:

Greta, though it may be a controversial topic to many mouse owners it is common knowledge that housing male mice together increases the risk of fighting. They are territorial little critters and although yes, people have had success housing them together (especially if they are littermates or have a lot of space), for first-time mouse owners I would recommend getting either one male or multiple females.

Greta on May 15, 2020:

I’m sorry what? Make mice do not kill each other. Mine don’t fight and can’t be separated.

Emma on January 23, 2020:

I recently got a pet mouse. His name is Carlos. He’s a good boy. I just wanna to brag about being the most lucky mouse owner ever

Vee on October 28, 2019:

Late reply, but Cass that's not true. I went there hoping to get two females and ended up with two males. It depends on the location. There was a PetSmart very far away from us that they said had males. They also told me that keeping males together was fine .. not true, don't do it. They will eventually kill each other. I separated mine.

Cass on August 09, 2019:

I know at PetSmart only carries female fancy mice so if anyones looking for some thats a good place to find them.

Antonette Barrett on March 22, 2019:

Your article was very helpful....however I wish I would have read it before we bought two male mice but luckily I only bought them 2 days ago so they will be exchanged for females!!!!

Mary on November 17, 2018:

Please don’t use baking soda. Infested that will kill a mouse

A for effort on June 08, 2018:

I hope this is a joke. If you want a clean smelling cage, spot clean everyday or every other day (it’s not that hard). If you don’t clean the cage, your pet will get respiratory problems or other illnesses. Small animals have externally sensitive

Barney on April 18, 2018:

Tiffany, you are absolutely correct. Thanks for the heads up. I tried corn cob bedding and it almost caused my 2 mice to be very sick.

Raven on March 17, 2018:

I just got 3 males, and they are so stinky... I've mostly had female mice so I didn't realize how strong the difference would be... and when I had a male before, he has to live by himself because he got picked on... so I never really noticed a stink from him.

I love my little boys but they just reek ... even my rats don't smell that strong (mind you, they're females)

I will definitely be trying some of these things out!

Berenice on February 19, 2018:

I wish I could of know that males are more stinky and I would of try getting a female or just one male. Their smell is so strong it upsets my stomach I'm going to try the baking soda method hope it works ....

marianne on February 18, 2018:

We have female mice and they stink!

Tiffany on October 05, 2017:

Honestly a lot of this advice is very harmful. Baking soda is known to kill small pets. Corn cob bedding molds quickly therefore creating health problems in your little one. And air fresheners nearby can severely harm their little respiratory systems

Dexi on May 09, 2017:

Thank you!

Riser on June 21, 2016:

i use a small bag of carbon for fish tanks in mine. i hangs out of reach in my males and my females cages.

Lyn on March 25, 2016:

Can you wash mice? Is it advisable?

????? on August 08, 2015:

thanks.

jplaj (author) from Duluth, MN on July 01, 2015:

Sheila,

It's not a stupid idea, but I wouldn't put them in the cage with the mice. Most flowers will be harmless, but the bigger problem would be that the animals would be attracted to the sent and would probably destroy the flowers. Find something that smells nice and keep it near the cage, but out of reach of tiny little paws.

Sheila on June 29, 2015:

This might sound like a stupid idea, but pupurri or Flowers... would that be safe at all to add inside the cage or would it hurt my mouse?

jplaj (author) from Duluth, MN on October 03, 2014:

Douglas: Unless you're breeding them, you probably don't want to put dad back in. Alpha mice can get dangerous, and there's no guarantee he won't cause problems. If you are breeding them, I'd wait until the babies are in the popcorn stage--they don't quite walk yet, but they hop and jump in sudden jerky movements. They can eat solid food by then and take care of themselves, so I suggest separating them from mom, put the boys and the girls in separate cages and then put dad in with mom. Keep an eye on the males--any one in the room could turn out to be the alpha, and once you identify him, you'll want to put him in a cage on his own. The other males should live together without fighting as long as the alpha is nearby.

Gio: Baking powder is just a mixture of baking soda and corn starch (with a few extra things thrown in). I can't see why it wouldn't work, but obviously baking soda will be more pure and therefore cheaper and more effective.

Also, for females, you shouldn't need to recycle used bedding. The girls don't fight over territory nearly as much as the boys, so its okay if the cage is completely fresh each time you clean it--that should also help freshen up the room for you.

Gio on October 03, 2014:

Sorry - I just found out baking powder won't work - it has to be soda :(

This page is really helpful though, thanks again!

Gio on October 03, 2014:

Hello!

My female mice (definitely female) are really stinky! I've been cleaning the cage once every six days, and putting in some used bedding so it still smells like them.

Anyway, I've bought some baking powder - do you know if it's safe to use? It's a bit different from baking soda, but I hope it's essentially the same.

Thanks!

douglas quinn on September 18, 2014:

When can I stick dad back in with mum n babies

Micefan on April 27, 2012:

Thank you! It took me ages to convince my mum to get me a prt and she said that if it stinks, she was going to give it away :( so this really helps. I was going to use cat recycled news paper litter too.

?????? on April 05, 2012:

I think this will help a lot thanx!!!

Maid on September 30, 2011:

I thought that what u said will be lots of help.

Thanks.


Replace the cage with a bigger one. More space means more room for bedding, and more bedding material will absorb more urine and its smell. Your mice, of course, will appreciate the extra space. A rat cage might be suitable if all your mice are mature, as long as the bars of the cage are set closely enough together that the mice cannot poke their heads through.

Remove soiled bedding every day, or twice a day if necessary, using plastic tongs or a scoop. The mice may be using one area of the cage as the toilet, which makes this task straightforward. If not, just remove any bedding that has become damp with urine. Feces don’t matter so much for daily cleaning.


Can I buy only one pet mice?

If you are asking if is it ok to kept pet mice alone? The answer is, that is not a good idea. If you are going to have mice as a pet, it is ideal if you get at least two.

Because mice are sociable animals who can thrive with the company of their own species. Companionship is essential for them to have a healthier and happier life as it gave them the chance to interact with other mice.

It is better to have females because they live well with other females than male mice who will not allow each other and always mark their territories that can be the result of a strong smell


Tips to Remove Mice in House with Pets

Mice will come to your home sooner or later, especially when the weather outside gets cold and you will need to get rid of them. While mice may look adorable, the diseases they spread via their droppings and the parasites they carry (fleas) not to mention the damage they cause by chewing on almost anything is no joke.

    Use mouse traps. This is the best way to remove mice from your home. However, to ensure that you eliminate all mice, use several and different traps. Use glue traps, multiple-capture live traps, and bait traps. If you have pets, hide the traps in places where your pet can’t reach.

    Also, consider using electronic mouse traps. These traps are pet safe and kid safe, and easy to dispose of. They eliminate mice quickly without using poison. They are easy to set up and shut off automatically to prevent accidental zapping.

    To effectively eliminate pets, choose the most ideal mouse traps. There are those designed for small areas while others are designed for large areas like your barn.

Use mouse poison safely. Mouse poison is quick and very effective, but it requires a lot of care, especially if you have young children and pets. It’s important to know some of the common types of poison used to eliminate mice and how they work.

Some of the most common include:

  • Anticoagulants: This is the most common poison on the market and it works by blocking vitamin K in the body. When a mouse ingests the poison, it is unable to form blood clots and eventually dies. You should know the right type of mouse poison, how to use and store it safely, and how to clean after a dead mouse. In case your pet ingests mouse poison, seek treatment immediately, they can survive with a vitamin K treatment.
  • Hypercalcemia: It works by increasing the levels of calcium in the body which eventually affects major organs of the rodent and causes gradual death.
  • Metal phosphides: This poison is fast acting and it can kill a mouse in less than 3 days. It contains zinc and when it enters the body, it causes the formation of a toxic phosphine gas. This is the best poison if mice show immunity to regular poisons. It has low secondary poisoning risks because the poison doesn’t reside in the tissues of the animal. This means you won’t have to worry if your pet eats the poisoned mouse.

Bottom Line

Contrary to what you may have seen in cartoons like Tom & Jerry, mice don’t need a big hole to get into your home. They can squeeze in holes smaller than the circumference of your pinky finger. Therefore, first inspect the outside of your home for cracks and holes, and if there is evidence that they have already entered your home, use the above tips on how to get rid of mice naturally. Non-lethal and non-toxic methods do better in the long run to protect your family, pets and the mice from harmful chemicals.

You can find further details of Mice Control here.


What Causes Pet Rodent Smell?

Rodents have a reputation for being smelly pets. This is mainly because they’re kept in small cages or tanks. Living in an enclosed space means that waste can accumulate more quickly, causing a stench. There are many causes of pet rodent smell:

  • Pee. Urine has a strong odor, no matter what species it comes from. Some rodents also mark their territory using their urine
  • Poop. Some rodents’ poop smells worse than others, particularly rodents fed on a wet diet
  • Bacteria. If the cage isn’t cleaned regularly, bacteria may build up. This can cause an unpleasant smell, and can also make your pet sick
  • Spoiled food. Fresh fruits and vegetables in your pet’s cage will quickly go bad if not eaten straight away
  • Scent marking. Some rodents have scent glands that emit a musky odor.
  • Oils in the fur. Most rodents groom themselves to keep their fur from smelling. But some species, like gerbils, also need access to sand baths.

Your pet rodent may have an unpleasant odor if it is dirty. For example, it may have rolled in its own waste. Certain illnesses can also cause rodents to smell bad. But usually, it’s not the rodent itself that smells – it’s the cage it lives in.

If your pet rodent’s cage isn’t cleaned out regularly and thoroughly, it can cause the whole room to stink. Waste can accumulate quickly, encouraging bacteria growth.

Importantly, not all pet rodents smell the same. Some rodents are cleaner than others, meaning their cages can go longer before they start to stink.

Which Rodents Smell the Least?

Although there are lots of reasons why rodents smell, the biggest culprit is urine (pee). Urine has a potent smell and can quickly cause a rodent’s cage to stink out the room.

Because of this, the biggest factor determining how much a pet rodent smells is how often it urinates. The least smelly rodents are those that come from arid areas. They don’t drink as much water, and therefore don’t pee very often.

Rodents that urinate more frequently have smellier cages that need to be cleaned regularly. The table below lists the most popular rodent pets, and their odor rating.

RodentSmell Rating
Gerbil1/5 (very little smell)
Chinchilla1/5 (very little smell)
Guinea Pig2/5 (slight smell)
Degu3/5 (moderate smell)
Rat 4/5 (strong smell)
Hamster5/5 (strongest smell)
Mouse5/5 (strongest smell)

Gerbils and chinchillas are the most hygienic rodents to keep as pets. They produce little waste, and their cages require minimal cleaning.

Mice and hamsters, on the other hand, are the smelliest. They pee often, and their urine has a strong, unpleasant odor. Their cages must be deep-cleaned regularly to keep foul aromas at bay.

Do Pet Gerbils Stink?

Gerbils are by far the cleanest rodent pet. They groom themselves regularly, and have odorless fur. Because they originate from the desert, they pee rarely, and their poops are dry. If you use good-quality bedding, your gerbilarium will hardly smell at all.

Gerbils are intelligent rodents, and can also be taught to use a glass or ceramic litter box. This makes removing waste much easier. Simply place substrate and some of your gerbil’s droppings into the box. Your pet will soon learn where the bathroom is.

Along with daily spot-cleaning, replace a small part of your gerbil’s bedding each week. You should also wipe down the cage walls or bars, and any hard accessories like shelves. You shouldn’t need to conduct a full deep-clean more often than once a month.

If your gerbil cage starts to smell, it may be down to the type of enclosure. A glass tank will start to smell before a cage will. This is because tanks don’t have very good ventilation, and they retain moisture more easily.

Do Chinchillas Smell Bad?

Chinchillas are also considered one of the least smelly rodents. They originate from an environment that is almost completely devoid of water. They’ve learned to survive on very little moisture, and don’t pee often. When they do go to the toilet, their waste doesn’t have much of a scent.

Chinchillas also groom themselves every day. Their thick, dense fur repels dirt and dust well. They’ll stay clean as long as they have access to a dust bath, and don’t get wet.

To keep your chinchilla’s cage smelling fresh, sweep it out every day. Remove any visible waste, discarded hay and dirty bedding. If you see any wet spots in the cage, wipe them up with water or diluted white vinegar. Once per week, remove any fleece lining or bedding and replace it.

You will need to deep-clean and disinfect your chinchilla’s cage every once in a while. But as with gerbils, this doesn’t have to be done very often. Once a month should be more than sufficient to stop an odor from building up.

Do Guinea Pigs Smell?

Guinea pigs regularly groom themselves and, in general, are quite tidy. They pee more often than chinchillas and gerbils, but they prefer to go in the same spot each time, making cleanup easy.

Guinea pigs poop all over the place, but because of their diet (mostly hay), their droppings don’t smell. And as guinea pigs live in huge pens, it’s easy to spot where they’ve gone to the toilet, and tidy it up. Guinea pig pens are also typically well-ventilated, meaning the smell doesn’t build up as quickly.

Most guinea pig enclosures have few or no ledges, shelves, or multiple levels. This means their pee soaks into the bedding immediately, helping to reduce odor. But you will need to scoop out any soiled bedding at least daily. The enclosure will need a full clean and scrub-out every 1-2 weeks.

Do Degus Stink?

Degus looks almost like a cross between gerbils and chinchillas. But although they’re rodents, they aren’t closely related to either animal. They are a completely unique species with their own special traits, dietary requirements, and behaviors.

In the wild, degus inhabit the Andes mountains in Chile. Their environment isn’t as dry or arid as that of the wild gerbil. Because of this, they drink more water, and pee more often.

Degu urine is smellier than guinea pig pee, but isn’t quite as strong as rat pee. Fresh degu pee doesn’t smell right away. It has to sit for a while before it starts to smell, giving you ample chance to clean it up in time.

Like rats and mice, degus mark the boundaries of their territory using urine, rather than a scent gland. Degus also use their poop to mark their territories, too. Fortunately, their poop is almost odorless.

Although degus are smart, they aren’t easily toilet trained. They’ll urinate and defecate all over their enclosures, though some degus may choose a specific corner for peeing. You’ll need to spot-clean the enclosure daily, and deep-clean it roughly once per week.

Are Rats Smelly Pets?

Rats are the most intelligent rodents, and make excellent pets. However, their cages can be quite smelly, especially if you keep more than one rat together. Although rats aren’t as big as guinea pigs or chinchillas, their pee and poop have a much stronger smell. Rat pee will start to smell straight away, unlike degu urine.

Rats also use urine to mark their territory. As well as peeing normally, they’ll also squirt small amounts of pee around their cage every so often. A rat cage must be thoroughly cleaned out at least once per week, if not twice, for this reason.

The main benefit of keeping rats, however, is how trainable they are. Because they are such quick learners, rats can easily be toilet trained. You can use a plastic litter tray and organic, paper-based cat litter. You can also place a small rock in the litter tray, which your rats will happily scent-mark. This will discourage them from scent-marking the rest of their cage.

Rats learn in the same way as gerbils, but they pick up new skills much faster. Once your rat is toilet trained, the cage won’t smell anywhere near as much. All you’ll need to do is empty and clean out the litter tray every day.

How Bad Do Hamsters Smell?

Hamsters are one of the most popular pet rodents. People often compare them to gerbils, because they’re a similar size. However, one huge difference is their smell.

Interestingly, hamsters originate from dry areas. But they drink more water than gerbils, so they pee more. Hamster urine also has a much stronger scent than gerbils. A hamster’s cage can start to smell quickly, even after a deep clean.

There are several different breeds of hamsters, including Syrians (golden hamsters) and dwarf breeds. Syrian hamsters are significantly larger than the dwarf breeds, so they pee the most. The scent is comparable to rat urine.

But do rats smell as bad as hamsters? Not quite, and this is largely to do with their toilet habits. Hamsters tend to pee in or on plastic tubing, tunnels, platforms, and running wheels. This can make a hamster cage smell much worse, as the pee won’t be absorbed by bedding. Their cages are also typically smaller than rat cages, concentrating the smell.

You can toilet train a hamster, though it’s more difficult than training a rat. And even then, you’ll still need to thoroughly clean your hamster’s cage once or twice per week.

Are Mice Smelly Pets?

Mice are the smallest rodents you can keep as pets. An adult pet mouse may only reach 4 inches in length (excluding the tail), and weigh 20 to 40 grams. Because they’re so tiny, you may imagine that mice don’t smell much.

However, you’d be wrong. Mice are one of the worst-smelling pet rodents. They come from temperate areas of the world and, consequently, they drink and pee a lot. Mouse urine has a strong ammonia-like smell which can easily penetrate the whole room.

Mouse pee smells about as bad as hamster pee. However, unlike a hamster, it’s almost impossible to toilet train a mouse. They’re also kept in smaller cages. This results in a stronger smell.

It’s hard work to keep a mouse cage smelling clean. You’ll need to use odor-absorbing bedding and completely replace it frequently. At this time, the entire cage must be cleaned and disinfected, along with all its accessories.

Even then, you’ll probably notice your mouse cage starting to smell again within a couple of days. Remove soiled bedding whenever you see it, and keep the cage (and room) well ventilated.

Do Male or Female Rodents Smell More?

A rodent’s species has the biggest impact on how much it smells. A mouse’s cage will almost always smell worse than a gerbil’s cage, for example.

However, the animal’s sex can also have an effect. In general, male rodents smell worse than females. This is all down to how male rodents mark their territory.

Both male and female rodents are territorial. However, males are more likely to scent-mark their cages. This leaves a pheromone trail that other rodents can use to identify who lives there.

Most rodents mark their territory using their urine. Mice, for example, will leave small amounts of urine around the perimeter of their enclosure. According to Neuroscience and Biobehavioral Reviews, the urine’s scent contains information about the health, age, and sex of the mouse that left it.

Male mice have stronger-smelling urine than females, and scent-mark more often. This means that if you keep male mice, you’ll have to clean their cage more often. The same goes for rats, who scent-mark using urine in the same way.

Male gerbils are also smellier than females. However, rather than using urine, gerbils scent-mark using a special gland on their bellies. The substance released from this gland has a musky smell.

According to Behavioral Neuroscience, male gerbils scent-mark 2 to 3 times more than females. Their scent glands are also larger.

Interestingly, the opposite is true of hamsters. Female Syrian hamsters usually smell much worse than males. When they’re in heat, they can emit a musky odor comparable to burnt plastic or rubber.

Are There Any Rodent Pets That Don’t Smell?

There’s no such thing as a pet rodent that does not smell. All rodents have to go to the toilet occasionally, and poop and pee always leave an odor. Some rodents poop and pee more often than others, which is why certain rodents smell worse.

Different rodents require different levels of care. For example, hamster cages must be cleaned more often than gerbil cages to prevent odor buildup. But no matter what kind of rodent you own, you’ll need to clean its cage regularly.

Bacteria can accumulate in any rodent cage. Even the least smelly rodents, like gerbils, can smell if you don’t clean them out often enough.

That being said, your rodent’s cage shouldn’t smell bad if you practice good hygiene. If your rodent’s cage stinks, this may indicate one of the following:

  • You aren’t cleaning the cage often enough
  • You aren’t cleaning the cage properly. You’re missing certain areas, not scrubbing thoroughly, using the wrong soap, or not replacing chew toys regularly
  • Your rodent’s cage is overcrowded causing odor to build up quickly
  • Your pet is sick. Illness can cause a rodent’s pee and poop to smell worse

The more rodents you keep together, the more often you’ll need to clean the cage. And certain other factors, such as which substrate you use, can also have an impact on smell. Even your rodent’s diet can have an effect.

How to Minimize Pet Rodent Smell

No matter what pet rodent you have, it’s important to keep its cage clean. For example, although gerbils are clean animals, their cages can still stink if not looked after. There are many ways you can keep your rodent’s cage clean, and stop it from smelling.

  • Keep fewer animals in one cage. The more rodents you have, the more quickly odor and bacteria will start to build up
  • Ensure your rodent’s cage is well-ventilated
  • Train your pet rodent to go to the toilet in the same place each time. This will make waste easier to locate and remove
  • Spot-clean your pet rodent’s enclosure. Every morning and evening, remove any visible waste, leftover food, and soiled or wet bedding
  • Research different types of substrates for your pet, and choose one that is good at controlling odors
  • Frequently replace or wash your pet’s bedding
  • Regularly scrub out the cage and everything inside (toys, ledges, hides, wheel, etc) using a pet-safe disinfectant
  • Only feed your rodent fresh foods (e.g. fruits and vegetables) outside of the cage. This will prevent food that spoils easily from getting buried in substrate, and going bad

All rodent cages should be spot-cleaned at least daily. But how often you should conduct a thorough clean of the cage depends on which type of rodent you have.

For example, gerbil cages only need to be deep-cleaned once every 3-4 weeks. But a mouse cage must be cleaned out and disinfected around once a week. Use your nose as your guide.

Can You Give a Rodent a Bath?

Occasionally, you may notice that your pet rodent smells bad when you pet or handle it. This may be because of a buildup of sebum in its fur. This is an oily substance released by glands in the skin called sebaceous glands.

Some rodents have more active sebaceous glands than others. This can happen in humans, too. According to Dermato-Endocrinology, increased sebum excretion can contribute to acne as well as oily skin.

Rodents usually do a great job of keeping their fur oil-free through self-grooming. But some rodents aren’t fond of grooming themselves, and this may result in smelly, greasy-looking fur.

If your rodent smells, you may wonder whether you can bathe it. This depends on which species of rodent you have.

Gerbils, chinchillas, hamsters, and degus should never be bathed in water. For these species, water baths can be dangerous and cause health problems. They can, however, take a dust bath in a bowl of pet-safe sand.

Guinea pigs, rats, and mice don’t use dust baths. If they get dirty, you can bathe them in warm water, or wipe their fur clean with a damp cloth. This shouldn’t be done more often than once a month, as it can be stressful.

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