How to Choose and Set Up the Perfect Rat Cage

Updated on June 6, 2019
loverats profile image

I am a happy rat mom who loves to share fun ideas with other pet owners. Setting up and periodically changing my rats' cage is a blast!

A comfortable and stimulating rat cage will keep your rats happy, healthy, and occupied while you are busy.
A comfortable and stimulating rat cage will keep your rats happy, healthy, and occupied while you are busy. | Source

Providing your pet rats with a fantastic cage in which they can rest, feed, play, and engage in other natural behaviors is a tremendously rewarding experience. While purchasing a high-end, fully-equipped rat cage can be a good start, the unique, snuggly elements you choose to include are what will turn their cage into a home. This article includes a host of suggestions that are sure to enrich your furry friends' home life.

Choosing the Right Cage

Your rats' home is their castle, so be sure to choose one that's a good fit for their needs! Keep the following factors in mind when selecting an appropriate cage for your rats.


Your rats will have plenty of free-range time under your supervision, but being primarily nocturnal, they will spend the bulk of their waking hours in their cage. Rats need room to sleep, exercise, play, investigate, and be alone, so when it comes to their cage, bigger is almost always better. If you plan to keep multiple rats, be sure to get a cage spacious enough to allow individuals to find a solitary corner every once in a while.

Gaps Between Bars

Cunning and curious by nature, rats will squeeze through small spaces just to explore. Avoid cages designed for ferrets and other larger animals, as their bars are usually spaced too far apart to be an effective barrier for a dexterous rat.

1/2-Inch Spacing

As a rule, adult rats are generally able to fit their entire bodies through any space large enough to accommodate their head. Cages with bars no more than a half inch apart should be a good fit!

Cage selection is key! Make sure your rats have room to roam, but aren't able to squeeze out of their cage while you're away.
Cage selection is key! Make sure your rats have room to roam, but aren't able to squeeze out of their cage while you're away. | Source


Unfortunately, our rodent pals are particularly prone to respiratory disease, so adequate airflow is important to their health. Since aquarium-style enclosures have solid glass or plastic walls, they are not an ideal choice for rats. Instead, choose a cage with wire bars to ensure your rats get plenty of fresh air.

Ease of Cleaning

Weekly bedding replacement is recommended to keep rat cages clean and prevent common respiratory issues that may result from inhalation of waste material. Since this is a regular chore, be sure to get a cage that is easy to clean. Many cages have detachable bottom trays, allowing for quick and easy bedding replacement on a regular schedule.

Customizing the Cage

Rats, like humans, are highly intelligent mammals that require enrichment and stimulation above and beyond their basic needs in order to thrive. Would you want to live in an empty house with just a well-stocked fridge and a working sink? Of course not! Your rats feel the same way. Once you have acquired a suitable cage, make sure it is stocked with rat basics—bedding, a water dispenser, food, and a food dish—then consult the following list of additional elements that will add comfort, enrichment, and play to your rats' home life.


Cloth hammocks provide a great alternative texture to your rats' bedding, add a vertical dimension to their cage, and provide a comfortable spot for relaxation. Climbing or jumping into and out of their hammock is a great way for your rats to remain active in their cage. Most rats love hammocks, and it is a joy to watch them snuggle together in comfort. Hammocks designed specifically for small rodents are available for sale at most pet stores.

Rats love their hammocks just as much as we do!
Rats love their hammocks just as much as we do! | Source

DIY Rat Hammocks

If you prefer, you can make your own hammock by cutting a rectangular section out of a spare piece of durable fabric like fleece or denim, then attaching it to your rats' cage with clothespins or binder clips. If your rat cage has primarily horizontal bars, feed the ends of the fabric rectangle between two of the cage bars, then tuck them under the lower of the two bars before attaching the clips.

Ramps and Platforms

Multi-level homes are great for young rats, as they provide the infrastructure necessary for movement and exercise. Some cages already have multiple levels, but if your rats' home is single-story, it can still be modified with some play-friendly features. Using natural wood, safe plastics, or even plain, un-dyed cardboard, install a raised platform and attached ramp to add a loft to your cage.

Ropes, Ladders, and Tunnels

Natural rope tied to or hung from various areas of the cage can make for a great climbing feature that will help your rats hone their balance and agility. Ladders and tunnels also promote active play, and can be purchased at pet stores or created at home using natural wood or un-dyed cardboard. Tunnels serve the same purpose, and can be created from repurposed cardboard poster tubes or other safe materials.

Cardboard Safety

When including cardboard features in your rats' cage, be sure to use only un-dyed, natural cardboard. Use scissors to cut around any areas that contain glue or other adhesives.

A rat cage featuring natural wood, rope, a hiding place, interactive features, vertical dimension, and textural variety
A rat cage featuring natural wood, rope, a hiding place, interactive features, vertical dimension, and textural variety | Source

Untreated Wood

Even if some of the structural elements of your rat cage (e.g. ramps, hiding huts, ladders, etc.) are wooden, it is important to place some pieces of natural wood in the cage for your rats to chew on. Chewing is a frequent habit for most rats, and wood is hard enough to keep their growing incisors in check. Including smaller pieces of wood in the cage will allow your rats to do their chewing wherever they like.

Mirrors, Bells, and Other Toys

Interactive items like mirrors and bells provide sensory stimulation for your rats, and allow them to play by themselves or with each other. Toys designed for birds are often appropriate for this purpose. When selecting toys, be sure to choose items that seem like they will stimulate your rats mentally, not just physically.

Snuggly Rags

If you have any old clothes you don't mind retiring, cut them up and make them into bedding material for your rats. These will need to be thrown out and replaced periodically as they are soiled. You can also include intact sleeves or hoods to serve as play tunnels and nesting pouches. Soft material appeals to rats, and provides additional textural diversity when included alongside bedding, wood, cardboard, and plastic.

A Non-Toxic Stone

This one's more for you than the rats. A thoughtfully placed stone in a high-trafficked area of the cage can help keep your rats' nails trimmed so they don't scratch you as much during handling. Make sure the stone you select is hard, clean, and non-toxic. A river-tumbled chunk of quartzite would be suitable after a quick scrub with hot water and antibacterial soap.

Natural, untreated, non-toxic wood is a great material for rat hiding places.
Natural, untreated, non-toxic wood is a great material for rat hiding places. | Source

Hiding Places

Ensure your rats have a private place to hide away from the world. As prey animals, most rats prefer to sleep and rest in areas that are protected and hidden from view. Store-bought wooden or plastic enclosures are widely available, but homemade cardboard enclosures work just as well.

Use your imagination!

Depending on the size of your rats' cage, you can really go wild. Make a shallow swimming pool from a spare tray, create a system of tunnels using old wrapping paper tubes, or build a seesaw out of spare wood.

A Final Note About Rat Cages

The biggest complaint from rat owners is that their pets just don't live long enough. Maintaining an enriching and healthy environment is just one way to try to prevent common issues like respiratory diseases, tumors, and behavioral problems. Help your rodent companions make the most of their two to three years by providing them with a safe, spacious, comfortable, and enriching home.

This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. It is not meant to substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, or formal and individualized advice from a veterinary medical professional. Animals exhibiting signs and symptoms of distress should be seen by a veterinarian immediately.

Questions & Answers

    What Do You Think Should Be Included in Your Rats' Cage?

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      • profile image


        16 months ago

        The best way I find to spend more time with my 4 rats is to almost always have them on my bed. I fold my clothes there which the love to climb on and play. And every other chore I can do on my bed or in my bedroom I do. I take them out of the house but only one at a time. They love the attention.

      • profile image


        22 months ago

        Hi I'm getting my first rat's tonight at the age of 66, I've got them from a friend who rescues them, he has given me advice about how to look after them, they are albinos very young about a year,

      • profile image


        22 months ago

        We’ve had our rat for 5wks and know he knows my voice I let him out for a bit and she come and loves to lick us.

      • profile image

        Vivvie Davidson. 

        2 years ago

        I have had my wee baby rat for just 3 wks now and I simply adore her. I love getting her out in the evening and cuddle her. I think she is begining to recognise my voice as whenever I call her name she comes out from her bed and follows my voice.

      • profile image


        3 years ago

        A good way to prevent respiratory illness in rats is to pop a drop of wild organic oregano oil in their food each day. The oil strengthens lungs and boosts the immune system. Also apple cider vinegar in their water reduces urin smell and guards against intestinal parasites and does wonderful things for their immune system.

        I also give them raw garlic, various herbs, some kefir, coconut oil olive oil and broth. All of these things guard against cancer and give them a lovely shiny coat and reduce smell of poo. Incidentally, these things are also good for humans. I'm hoping that with all these things my ratties will live long, happy, healthy little lives. Certainly no problems so far.

        I do not feed a commercial food. It's all real food. I think this helps too.

      • profile image


        3 years ago

        I've had pet rats since I was 14, I'm 17 now, and since then have had six rats, three of which I currently have. I've had many, many creatures in my life, but rats have been just the greatest, most loyal pets I've cared for. I truly wish they would live longer, as my three rats that have passed died from tumours and respiratory diseases. My rats now, Aarianna (who has three mammary gland tumours :( ), Carina and Rhoda (who were being sold as fancy rats, but for some reason never grew hair) now live in a Ferret Nation cage, and they just love all the room! They love their exercise wheel, and dark chocolate (I like to give them 85%). To anybody who is looking into getting a pet rat for the first time, I'd just like to tell you to do some serious research, and the main thing to know about them is that they are prone to respiratory problems, and since they have many mammary glands, both male and female can be quite likely to grow benign mammary tumours which are very expensive to remove and keep gone, since it would require complete removal and spay/neuter to keep the tumour from growing back. Rats are very, very social, and unless given much of your time devoted to them, they can become lonely and depressed, which can damage them both physically and mentally. Rats are really fantastic pets, and during their lives will be devoted to you, and love you so much!

      • profile image


        3 years ago

        I have a pet rat and in her cage I put in a tube with yellow cotton fluff, she loves the cotton fluff and the tube. Sometimes I find her hiding in her tube. My rat loves avacado and milk which I don't give her that often.

      • StewartClan profile image


        6 years ago

        I love our pet rats. We have seven at the moment, but we are getting another two babies in a couple of days. This is a great lens, very informative. I am going to make a three level hammock for our new babies today or tomorrow.

      • profile image


        7 years ago

        I've had many different types of animals, but rats are one of my favorite. I wish more people would give them a chance. (but I do love watching people do the "icky rat dance". Thanks for the ideas.

      • profile image


        7 years ago

        Great lens! this info was useful to me and my rats! I'll make some more tunnels and a hammock... maybe today! :)

      • TransplantedSoul profile image


        8 years ago

        My daughter had several rats over the years. They were wonderful. Yes respiratory issues were a problem.

      • tandemonimom lm profile image

        tandemonimom lm 

        8 years ago

        Very helpful lens on housing a pet rat! We loved our pet rats, but as you say, they just don't live long enough. :-(

      • profile image


        8 years ago

        a perfect rat-cage will be a best and sutiable cage for the rats according to numbers of rats..

      • shandigp profile image


        8 years ago

        did you know that the link for the info about doubling your pets life span doesn't work? it took me to a white page with a search box.

      • profile image


        8 years ago

        i think the most valuable thing is that provide a perfect and peaceful environment to rats..this the most important thing which I considerâ¦


      • noner profile image


        9 years ago

        I'm trying to save up to buy a new cage for my girls. I think the good cages have trippled in price over the past few years.

      • LaurenIM profile image


        10 years ago

        I've never had a pet rat because I hadn't the slightest idea how to care for them. I've thought about it but now that you've explained about the rat cage, I'm starting to think about getting a pet rat again. I really like the cool ratcage in your "Adding Fun to Your Rat's New House" section. I'll be checking out your website link for more information. Thanks!

      • profile image


        10 years ago

        I had a dream about rats last night. I am pretty sure it was because I was reading your Lens. Thanks for that! In my Dream it was a Pet Rat, and oddly Cute! Must say, it's a pet idea I hadn't thought of. Thanks for sharing! :)


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