I've cared small caged mammals for 40+ years, both personally and professionally. Rats, mice, hamsters, ferrets, guinea pigs, rabbits -- you name it, I've cleaned it. And I've picked up a few things over the years that I'd like to share.
Keeping cages clean is important. Mice and rats aren't known to be clean animals. They pee and poop whenever and wherever the urge hits. The smell of rodent urine can be pretty pungent. And since the rat cage is in my living room, it's important to me that it stays clean. I use Nature's Miracle Cage Cleaner to wipe things down between cleanings. (Rats pee on everything. ick.) I can only find it a PetSmart.
Bedding is important. Years ago we used cedar shavings. They masked the smell of urine pretty well. As time went on, however, it was discovered that the cedar oil was harmful to the animals' respiratory systems. We later switched to pine and aspen shavings. Lately I've discovered something new -- paper bedding! I absolutely LOVE it. It keeps the smell down better than the wood shavings ever did. I find that I'm changing the cage less these days. The bedding is vacuum packed, so the package is deceivingly small. And the bedding comes in a variety of colors so your pets' cages can match your décor. I've found the best price for this stuff is at Walmart.
A favorite of my girls is the Kaytee Sleeper Play Tunnel. It hangs from the top of the cage and there is a 90% chance that a rat is inside it. Unfortunately, my rat Pink likes to chew it as well as sleep in it. (Pink isn't the smartest rat I've ever owned.) I have to replace the tunnel every 6 weeks or so. Good think they're cheap on Amazon!
I find rats to be fun, smart and affectionate. (Except for Pink -- she bites!) It's important to keep them healthy and happy. The things above make that easier for me. Do you have a favorite pocket pet product? -- K