It may be a cage, and there may be negative connotations attached to the word, but the cage you choose will be the home, the shelter, the safe place where your rats will sleep, eat and play. If you think about it that way, your rats’ cage really needs to be a “Rat Mansion.”
The THREE most basic rules are:
- BIGGER is better. What’s the BIGGEST cage you can afford and find a spot for?
- NO aquariums! Cumbersome, rarely big enough, and have horrible ventilation.
- Bare Wire HURTS. No one wants to walk, and sit, and sleep on bare wire.
The best places to find comfy cages for your rats include your local classifieds, local rescues (like us!), and looking in the rabbit, ferret, and chinchilla cage sections of your local pet store. The absolute minimum size required for 2 female rats is 18″ x 30″ base. For males, they would need base of at least 20″ x 30 “. If you are looking for something new, below is a list of cages that you cannot go wrong with:
Standing at 6 feet tall and with 24x36x48 inches of internal space, the Critter Nation cages are the best cages currently available to rat keepers – a Rat “Castle.”
Pros: SPACE. Elegant, sturdy, and no-tool assembly. Looks like a piece of iron-wrought family room furniture. This cage has huge doors for easy access and cleaning, adjustable shelves, and ramps and so much room for your rats to live happily, and for you to exercise your creativity.
Cons: Heavy, and takes up quite a bit of space. And although we said that bigger is always better, this cage would be a little bit overly extravagant for just a pair of rats (although that’s never stopped us!)
Martin’s Cages (R-685, R-690, R-695 or R-699)
Pros: Sturdy, big, and beautiful. These PVC coated, hand-made cages are roomy but easy to fit on a cabinet or table. They tend to be just long and wide enough, and plenty tall to help you maximize what space you have.
Cons: Shipping costs make these cages expensive (unless you can find a used one locally). They are heavy and are sometimes a little tricky to put together. As well, you may have to get a little creative to cover the bare wire floors.
Generic Rabbit Cages
Pros: You can find them anywhere, used, new, donated even, and they are relatively cheap. These large rabbit cages tend to be not-so-tall, but plenty long (usually around 3.5 feet) and easy to clean. With a little creativity and DIY skills, you can make all sorts of neat modifications to make a perfect Rat Mansion.
Cons: 1 inch bar spacing means most female rats and young rats will be able to slip right out.And although 3.5 feet doesn’t SOUND all that long, it can be hard to find a spot for something as long as your toddler is tall. Also, if you want MORE than three rats, you better go BIGGER.
If you are on a budget and cannot afford to pay a small fortune on a cage, just remember that at the very least the base of the cage you choose should be at least 30″ x 18″ (or 30″ x 20″ for males) and despite what’s commonly seen in pet stores, HORIZONTAL space is much more important than VERTICAL space.
Check this rat-cage size calculator that will estimate how many rats your cage can house. Remember, this is just a general guideline. You still need to try to provide more than just the bare minimum amount of space!
Finding the Perfect Spot:
Is your cage long and deep? Or is it tall and wide? Either way, you will need to find a spot for it that is…
- Not in direct sunlight
- Not exposed to cold drafts, but has good air flow
- Not too close to the ground
- Not surrounded by loud noises
- Often visited and easily accessible
Accessorizing Your Rat Mansion:
Once you have your large rat cage, the fun begins!
Every cage becomes a “home” once it has:
Food & Water:
More about this in the Diet section
THE GOLDEN RULE: NO PINE or CEDAR.
Anything else that is soft and dust-free will do.
Popular and safe choices include: Aspen or hemp shavings, shredded paper, newspaper, paper towel, fleece or flannel. Litter Training will also help you save time and money and keep things neat and tidy.
Bedding is often transported in the same containers as live animals and can therefore be contaminated/infected with lice. Therefore, we recommend that all bedding is placed in the freezer for 48 hours before use to eliminate any risk.
This can be a cardboard box, a commercially bought hidey-house or anything else in between. Be creative.
Rats love to sleep somewhere up high. It makes them feel safe, and it helps them avoid drafts. Single hammocks, pocket ones, double-bunkers, cubes, teepees, the list of different rodent hammocks goes on-and-on! We have homemade hammocks available for sale (all proceeds go to the Rescue), check them out here.
Crystal’s Bird Toys are local and very affordable.
Practically every pet store will have rodent hammocks available, or – with just a little practice and patience – you can even make your own.
Let your imagination run wild! Anything non-toxic and safe is game (literally).
Every rat needs the opportunity to emerge from the cage and stretch those legs. Every rat needs the opportunity to run at top speed (you will be impressed how quickly those stubby legs can move!) and feel the breeze whoosh in their whiskers.
Safety is key during free-range, and it will be necessary to “rat-proof” the free-ranging area that you choose. Just like “baby-proofing”, rat-proofing means that you will probably need to get on your hands and knees and block small holes, set up barriers, and find a way to get any wires and electronics out of reach. Until you feel completely confident that your rats will not get into trouble, supervised free-ranging is necessary.
Keep in mind that free-range time is also the best time to interact with and socialize your rats. Nothing is better than the human jungle-gym!
Note: No furniture is immune to taste-testing. Nothing left within reach is off-limits. Anything that is yours, is your rats’- the moment they pee on it.