Jessica is an experienced pet mom with dogs, cats, rats, fish, axolotls, a gecko, chickens, and ducks.
When you are bringing home pet rats it is important to make sure they have everything they need in their cage. Luckily, setting up a rat cage is a lot of fun! This article will go over all the information you need to make sure your rats are happy, healthy, and comfortable.
Bedding is a necessity in a rat cage. There are several options for rats, but it mainly comes down to loose bedding vs fleece. There are pros and cons to both.
Some of the main reasons to choose fleece are:
- Fleece is tidy. Most of the time rats cannot throw it out of the cage.
- Fleece can be used to cover metal bars to reduce the risk of bumblefoot.
- Fleece is washable (as long as they don't tear too many holes in it) so it ends up being more cost-effective. Remember not to use scented laundry detergent because this can irritate rats' sensitive respiratory system.
- It is good to use for rats with sensitive eyes, such as hairless rats. It keeps them cozy without the risk of bedding getting in their eyes.
- Their nails can't get caught in it like they can with other fabrics.
A tip for using fleece is to run it through the wash before you use it in the cage. This will make it more absorbent.
Some reasons to choose loose bedding are:
- Loose bedding encourages their natural burrowing instinct.
- It is very absorbent.
- Some say it is easier to clean. You just dump the dirty bedding, clean the pan, and put fresh bedding in.
- You can use a combination of fleece and loose bedding. You can either use loose bedding in a pan at the bottom of the cage or just use it in a litter box, and you can still use fleece on the other levels.
If you do choose to use loose bedding you have to be pretty picky about what you choose.
- Never use pine or cedar bedding—the oils can cause a variety of health problems for your pet rat.
- Aspen is ok: It doesn't have the same harmful oils, but it is dusty. Rats have sensitive respiratory systems, so I try to avoid dust whenever possible.
- Paper bedding is a safe option. Just make sure that the type you choose is unscented and that it isn't made of recycled newspaper, the ink can be toxic.
Rats love hammocks. They like to sleep high up in the cage, so hammocks are usually one of their favorite nap spots. There are a variety of hammocks that you can choose from. Most pet stores sell them, there are a ton of options online, and you can even find easy tutorials to make your own using fleece and fabric.
You also can hang plastic bowls and baskets in your cage. I like to get plastic containers from the dollar store and hang them up with shower curtain rings. I then fill the baskets with fleece to make them extra cozy.
Don't worry about having too many hammocks, rats like a crowded cage. Rats will love having all the extra levels to explore and sleep. It isn't uncommon to find them all squished into the same hammock, however.
It is good to give your rats somewhere to hide. They are prey animals, so they will feel safer if they have hideouts. Igloos are a popular choice for this purpose, but there are so many options! You can use boxes, baskets tipped on their side, or you can find creative hand made hides made of fleece.
I have even brought home industrial-size plastic wrap rolls for my rats. Just make sure that they can't get stuck and it is rat safe and they will love it.
4. Water Source
This probably goes without saying, but they need a way to drink water. Small animal water bottles that hang on the side of the cage are usually a good choice. Some brands make chew-proof bottles if your rats have a habit of chewing through the plastic ones. It is a good idea to have more than one source. If you have a big cage or a lot of rats, you could keep a bottle on each level. This ensures that everybody can get water, and if you have a problem with a water bottle leaking there will be a backup.
Sometimes young rats will have a hard time drinking out of a regular small animal after bottle. In that case, you can give them water in a dish until they get the hang of it. They usually will prefer the hanging water bottle once they are older.
5. A Food Dish
Another thing you will need is a food dish. Rats should have access to high-quality block food all the time, so it is good to have a dish just for that. You also may want another dish for the veggies and extras you feed them too.
You may want to have a couple of dishes for rat blocks if you have a big cage or a lot of rats. This just makes it so they always have food nearby and everybody gets enough.
Rats are super smart, so it is good to give them things to do to keep them busy. Wood toys are a classic choice for rats. They like to chew on them and it helps them keep their teeth filed down. Rats' teeth grow their whole lives, so it is very important that they have things to chew on.
You can also place lava ledges around their cage. They will climb on them so it is good enrichment, but it also keeps their nails filed down. Some rats even choose to chew on them.
Hanging toys are a good way to keep rats entertained as well. Some of the best rat toys can be found in the bird section of pet stores. Look for toys with interesting shapes and plenty of things to chew.
You can even get toys that will dispense treats when they are pushed around. Rats love all these toys, but entertainment doesn't have to be expensive. They also love simple things like having a box of tissues to nest with.
Rats need some time out of the cage as well, but these types of toys will give them plenty to do when they are in the cage.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
© 2021 Jess H