Cabinet Cage | Aviary
Cage | Wire Cage | Fish
Tank Cage | Travel Cage |
Bedding | Housing
options for rats in New Zealand are somewhat limited.
Most of the cages that pet stores carry are far too small
for rats and quite pricey. The Masterpet Rat Starter
Kit is ideal for 2 to 3 rats, and some store-bought cages
can be modified so they are big enough to accomodate more
rats comfortably, such as the Rat Starter Kit cage on the
right. This cage is two cages combined, and extra levels have
been added. Some stores do sell Superpet cages which (again,
while pricey) are large enough for a couple of rats as well.
A common option is building your own cage, and there
are several ways of going about this. If you are looking at
a pet store cage or looking to build a cage yourself, always
check our handy cage calculator
first to make sure it is large enough.
It is important to remember that no matter what style cage
you have that you will need to thoroughly clean the cage and
all of the furniture every week or so. You would not enjoy
living in a smelly house and neither will your rats.
can be made from a variety of sources: an old bookcase or
chest of drawers, from scratch, or with a kitset cabinet.
The cage on the left was made with a kitset from The Warehouse,
but you can also purchase them from Mitre10, Placemakers and
other hardware stores. Most of these cabinets sit around
1.8m tall, 0.8m wide and 0.41m deep, but you can also purchase
shorter cabinets if you only have a couple of rats to house.
In order to prevent odours you will need to waterproof the
wood in a cabinet cage. Several coats of a good waterproof
(arcylic) paint will do the trick. It is best to
apply the paint before assembling a cage that you are building,
as this ensures all of the edges of shelves are thoroughly
waterproof - rat pee can get anywhere, and it is impossible
to clean out of cracks.
Some people are concerned that paint is not safe for a rat
cage, although you need to be aware that rats consider their
cages their homes and do not tend to chew on the structural
wood in a bid for escape. If you are concerned you can
always try and source child-safe paint for your cage.
Some cabinet kit sets come coated in waterproof melamine.
You can also purchase sheets of melamine if you wish to make
a cage from scratch. This would save on painting the
entire cage, however care must still be taken to ensure all
edges and cracks are also waterproofed. It is a very
heavy wood however so caster wheels may be a good addition
if your cage is going to be large.
For the doors you can either use a jigsaw to cut the middle
out or build frames and then use a sturdy staple gun to attach
some wire netting. Galvanised netting is fine in this
case as rats won't tend to climb the doors very often.
Be sure to add a latch to the doors for the safety of both
your rats and your house should they escape.
While these cages do not have the versatility of a wire cage
(in that you have to drill holes and position hooks where
necessary), with a bit of imagination you can certainly make
an entertaining, stimulating and spacious environment for
people have had success modifying small store bought indoor
aviaries such as this one to the right by adding levels, ladders,
ledges and other furnishings. Some have vertical bars
which can restrict how you can modify the cage, but some have
wire netting which is versatile and great for rats to climb
on. Be cautious about galvanised wire however as rat
pee is corrosive and the wire will become quite smelly if
it is not PVC or powdercoated. If the aviary has a wooden
frame be sure that the wood waterproofed.
There are many plans about for making a wire cage much like
those you see in a pet store.
Again, be wary of galvanised wire as it will become smelly
- especially if it makes up the ledges. It is also worth
mentioning that PVC coatings can (and will) be chewed off.
Most home made wire cages use a plastic base, either a child's
sand pit/paddling pool or under bed storage
containers. Both can be found quite cheaply at K-Mart
or the Warehouse. Depending on how tall you make your
cage they can be rather flimsy. This can be helped by
adding in full sized levels as well as ledges to the cage.
Cable ties are great for securing the cages and can be purchsed
cheaply from hardware stores.
There is a company in Tauranga called Securapet
that makes rabbit and chinchilla cages. With some modifications
the chinchilla cage could be suitable for rats.
You could also purchase the steel frame for small greenhouses
and attach netting to make a more sturdy wire cage.
These are not ideal cages. A tank large enough will
be very heavy and expensive - although you may be able to
find a bargain second hand. Tanks are difficult to clean,
hard to hang hammocks from and you cannot easily add levels
for additional floor space. Ventilation is also very
poor in a tank and harmful amonia can quickly build up.
You could make a wire tank topper that sits on the tank and
extends the cage vertically to provide climbing space and
a space with better ventilation.
You can fashion a lightweight lid for your tank with a wooden
frame and wire netting made to fit.
A cat travel cage from the pet store can easily set you
back $40 or more. Or you could purchase a plastic storage
bin from the Warehouse for $16.99 and turn it into a travel,
hospital, time out or temporary cage for your rats.
cage to the left measures approximately 33cm tall, 54cm long
and 36cm deep. Using a jigsaw, cut the middle out of the lid
and then file the edges smooth. Cut some wire netting
to measure (galvanised is ok in this case as it is part of
the roof). Drill holes along the edge and use cable
ties to secure the wire in place.
The wire provides good ventilation and a place for hanging
a hammock to add a little more floor space to the cage.
You can drill a hole in the side for a water bottle nozzle
if you wish, and attach the bottle using stick on velcro dots.
Pine and Cedar wood chip beddings are bad for rats, and
can damage the respiratory tract, causing chronic respiratory
disease, and asthma. Studies on humans have had these results
so it is safe to say that the same applies to our ratty friends.
You can read further on this matter here.
shavings is a safe shredded wood chip bedding for your rat
and can be found at most pet stores. If they don't have it,
they should be able to order it in for you. A popular and
fairly easy to get brand is Kaytee Aspen.
Choice is a recycled paper pellet litter that is safe for
rats. It is not cheap but you do not need to replace
the litter entirely every day. All you need to do is
remove any soiled litter and top it up every day or two and
completely replace the litter once a week when you clean your
cage. If your rats are toilet trained you may want to
only use it in litter trays. Normal clay or clumping
cat litters can be harmful to rats if ingested so it is best
not to use them at all.
A good cheap bedding option is towels. These can be cut to
the shape and size of each level and fastened in place with
hooks or sticky velcro dots. It is best to have two
or three full sets of towels for your cage so you can cycle
through them and have a spare clean set should you need to
change a towel unexpectedly (water bottle leaking is a prime
example of this). If you have a wire cage you can even
fasten towels to the levels with twist-ties through the corners.
Some people feel that towels are a smellier bedding option,
but that can be avoided by spot cleaning the cage regularly
and changing the towels out at least once a week. Towels
can be soaked overnight in napi-san (or a similar nappy wash)
and then rinsed out in the washing machine.
There are two main types of igloos available for rats, the
Rody Igloo and the Superpet Igloo. Both sit at around $12
- $14 each. If you want to get creative you can also
fashion houses out of ice cream containers, lunch boxes or
larger food storage containers. Then of course you can
always throw a full tissue box in the cage to provide hours
of nesting fun and a temporary house to sleep in and then
While many people use bird ladders purchased at a pet store,
they are not waterproofed and tend to absorb rat pee rather
rapidly. Rats also seem to enjoy chewing on the rungs,
rendering the ladders obsolete with a few good gnawing sessions.
Pet stores in New Zealand do not stock wheels that are safe
or large enough for adult rats. Wire wheels are dangerous
as they can catch toes and tails in them and do significant
damage. A rat wheel should be 30cm in diametre for an
adult male rat. Wodent Wheels are a popular option overseas,
but they are not sold in New Zealand. This
Australian site does sell them though.
The $2 shop can be a goldmine of rat accessories and toys.
Plastic trays of all shapes and sizes can be hung in cages
to add ledges, swings or lofts for sleeping. Hanging
baskets for flowers can also be used as sleeping spots.