Choosing Your Rat Cage
Probably the most essential thing that comes with owning rats is acquiring a good cage. This is the place your rats will be spending the majority of their lives and it's also the place you will get the joy of cleaning for the majority of your life, haha. Personally I think it's better to get the best cage first rather than having to upgrade; this will save you money and also annoyance. If you're one of the Australians viewing this page then you've probably looked around the internet and found all these amazing Martins cages and Critter Nations that are so far out of reach for us. Fortunately for you guys, this guide is directed to help the Aussies find a good and affordable cage.
Usually when you're looking for a rat cage, you will find three different types.
Tanks aren't frequently used to house rats. It's often easy to find tanks that are big enough at your pet store, but it's not a very ideal home for rats. Rats enjoy to climb and tanks are often only one level with a lack of bars for clinging to. Along with that they will get smelly quite quickly due to there being no airflow and can be difficult to clean considering how heavy they are. They are, however, perfect for pregnant, nursing, elderly or sick rats. This is the only time I would use a tank as they're draught free and don't require a lot of climbing for rats under pressure.
Wire Rat Cages
This is the most common and likely the most suited housing used for rats. These provide climbing opportunities, are airy and are easy to clean depending on the make. In Australia it can be difficult to find a good wire cage, and if you do it'll cost you a small fortune. Most people would opt for installling levels into a bird cage (these are cheaper) or look for purchasing options online (more information below).
Grotto Rat Cages
The "Grotto" style cage was made famous by The Dapper Rat, The "Grotto" cage is basically a home-made cage. If you have good handiwork it's easy to grab a cheap book shelf, some wire and wood to construct your own Grotto style cage. The good thing about these cages is that they can be personalised to the core and are cheap as pie.
How Big Should my Rat Cage be?
Rats require a certain amount of space in their cage, usually in the form of different shelving. The rule of thumb is that if your cage is bigger you'll have to clean it less and the rats will need less out-of-cage time. If it's smaller it'll need to be cleaned more and the rats out of the cage more often. Really it depends on your living situation; if you have more time to spend with your rats (not possible for everybody) a smaller cage will be suitable. Below are a few cage calculators that will estimate how many rats will fit in your cage:
Where Can I Find my Rat Cage?
In Australia, step one is to go to your pet store. If you live in a city you'll probably find a good and affordable cage. If you're one of the unlucky people living in a rural area, such as myself, it'll be rare to find one. One great cage I've come across in the majority of stores is the one pictured to the right. It's a perfect cage to fit about 2-3 rats and I usually see it priced somewhere between $60-$90.
When searching for a cage at a pet store, look out for the following things:
- Door size and location. Small doors can be an absolute hell for cleaning. If you have to reach your entire arm into the cage to get to that unreachable corner, I'd leave it alone. It can also be difficult to remove a particularly skittish rat from the cage if it's hard to get their entire body and your hand out of the door.
- Cage bar spacing. If the spacing is large and you're housing young or female rats, leave the cage behind. Be especially careful to check if the space underneath the doors or at the corners of the cage are larger or more bendable than the rest of them. Rats escape easier than you would think. If you find the perfect cage but the spacing is too large, a good option is to purchase some spare wire (Bunnings is a good place) and covering up the larger bars.
The best place you can purchase cages, particularly if you're after a cage for a large amount of rats, is Ebay. Not everybody is comfortable with making purchases online but some of the best cages available will be found on Ebay. It's very handy if you find a cage in Australia - I suggest searching for 'Rat Ferret Cage'. There are two well known sellers for larger cages that many Australians use and trust. They are listed below.
The Ferret Kingdom, sold by Puppypower above, is (in my opinion) the best cage you can buy. It fits around 12 rats (6 in the top compartment and 6 in the bottom). You can separate the top and bottom compartment making it good for owning boys and girls in the same cage to save space. Unlike the overseas Ferret Nation, the bars are small enough to contain even baby rats. It's also famous for it's trays - they allow fabric to be tucked in and used as bedding for a great visual effect and comfy addition for the rats. My favourite feature of the Ferret Kingdom is it's very large doors which allow you to open up the entire front of the cage. This makes it incredibly easy to clean and access. Pictured above right is our two modified Ferret Kingdoms. As you can see, the sides of the cages have been removed and joined together. The girls are housed up the top and the boys down the bottom.
If you would like to create your own "Grotto" style cage I'd recommend looking at the pages The Dapper Rat has set up by clicking here. We've only had one "Grotto" style cage and from our experience in using it, here are some things to think about:
- Door Size and Opening Direction. Make the doors as big as possible (even covering the full face of the cage if you can) to allow easy access for cleaning. Try to make them open up from the sides and not upwards or downwards, so you can get into the cage without having to duck or lean over.
- Surface. Try to avoid wood if you can (unless you're using good bedding) as the ratty pee can soak into the wood and cause a smell.
- Passage Holes. It would be a good idea to bring these to the front at a corner. Avoid putting it in the middle of the floor because it will become difficult to lay your bedding down for the ratties.
- Storage Space. Try leaving a level so you can store all your ratty things! This can be very handy.
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