NOTE: Galvanised wire that is not covered with powder coating will start to smell horribly from the rats’ urine and faeces and is impossible to get rid of. Be sure to get any bare metals powder coated before introducing it to your awaiting rats.
|wire cage (approx 1mx70cmx50cm) suitable for 4-6 rats|
Wire cages are the most common type of homes chosen for rats, and are widely priced and easy to find. Glass tanks (aquariums) are not recommended and home-made wooden ‘mansions’ are fast growing in popularity, and is definitely something to consider if you have the space and money!
Now, let’s get a bit more in-depth with each option:
As stated before, this is the most common option, and the better choice of your options. They are reasonably inexpensive and most pet shops stock them, so they’re very accessible.
They are easily decorated with toys and rat-houses, and can easily have extra levels, ladders and ramps attached. You do have to watch out for bumblefoot though, which the wire flooring can cause. To help avoid this problem, place some covering over the wire shelves and platforms to give their little feet a break from the harsh wire bars.
The advantage of this option is that wire cages also allow for decent air flow, though you must avoid putting them (and your rats) in very draughty areas.
Due to poor ventilation in this housing choice, ammonia can build up in the tank from the urine and cause all sorts of respiratory problems in your rats, which could end up fatal! Aquarium housing is not recommended.
However, these are nice and sturdy, but rather cumbersome to move after fully set up. Aquarium tanks can be found cheaply if you look around. Also dont forget to check it over for cracks, etc. You should look for a 10 gallon tank at least (this is the minimum size for even one rat!), and of course the larger the better (aim for 20 gallon or larger).
When acquiring your tank, be sure to get a ventilated grid to securely attach to the top. This is to keep jumpers in and predators out! If you cannot find one to fit your tank, you can make one using (powder-coated) galvanised wire (1.0in x 0.5in). Cut it large enough so you have enough to bend down over the edges of the tank, and find something to weight it down with (rats can be very determined, so don’t underestimate them – they will push it open if it’s not weighted down!).
The unfortunate thing about aquariums is that they aren’t properly ventilated, even with the grid on top. If you can, try drill some holes in the sides to help with air flow.
Ok, ok, maybe not mansions for most of you, but home-made none the less. These can be old bookshelves or cupboards converted into a cage (add doors with powder coated wire mesh, cut access holes to each level, add toys and sleepy places).
You can even build one up from scratch using melamine shelving. The latter obviously opens you up to a whole lot of possibilities for your rat’s cage and allows you to build as big as you can, providing your pocket and home allow it. For flooring in this option, you can use material “sheets” which you can Velcro down onto the shelves. This is the easiest, as you can make multiple covers for each level and just throw the one set in the wash when it gets dirty and replace it with the other waiting set, and so on and so forth.
This housing choice requires frequent cleaning – at least once a day!
A word of warning if you’re going to use this housing option, keep an eye on your babies that they don’t chew their way out – so be sure to provide them with ample gnawing alternatives.