Housing
   
 

Cabinet Cage | Aviary Cage | Wire Cage | Fish Tank Cage | Travel Cage |
Bedding | Housing Accessories


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.



Cabinet Cage

These 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 your rats. 

Aviary cage

Some 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.


Wire Cage

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 clam-shell 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.

 

Fish Tank 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. 


Travel Cage

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.

This 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. 


Bedding

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.

Aspen 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.



Breeders 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. 


Housing Accessories

Igloos
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 destroy.

Bird ladders
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.

Running Wheels
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.

$2 Shop
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.

   



 
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