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Housing

 

  
Proper housing is of the utmost importance when it comes to the safety of your pet rats.  A secure cage keeps your rats contained and therefore safe from possible predators, household hazards, and other dangers.  Rats should be kept caged unless they are being fully supervised or are in another safe area (such as a playpen.)  Rats can get themselves into trouble very quickly and easily!  

    Wire cages are standard when it comes to housing rats.  Rats should not routinely be housed in aquariums or plastic tubs (with the exception of mothers with very young babies.)  These types of housing do not provide the rat with adequate ventilation, enough space, or any surfaces to climb on.  Lack of ventilation can cause temperatures to rise dangerously, as well as allow for a build up of ammonia inside.  Lack of space and climbing room can cause both health and temperament problems.  Rats need a cage large enough to get exercise in, even if they are taken out of the cage regularly.  Also, tubs are generally not secure enough to hold rats.  I have had rats in tubs chew holes through them and escape.

     When deciding where to place the cage within your living space, there are many factors to consider.  For starters, never place the cage in direct sunlight.  I do prefer to have my cages in a room with a window so they get indirect sunlight during the daytime.  Do not put the cage directly beneath, against or next to a vent or heating duct.  Keep the cage in a room that is a comfortable temperature; a good rule is that if it is comfortable for you it is comfortable for your rats.  In summer, you may have to use air conditioning to keep your rats area at an agreeable temperature.

    Always get the largest rat cage you can afford and have the room for.  Your rat will appreciate the extra space to climb and move around.  Also, many rat owners find themselves eventually adopting more rats than they had originally planned on.  It is always cheaper to buy a bigger cage from the beginning than to have to buy a second cage down the road.  Keep in mind though, that many large cages are really made for ferrets.  Be sure they cage you buy has the proper bar spacing for rats so that your rats cannot squeeze through!  1/2" bar spacing should be fine for rats of all ages.  When deciding on a cage, you should also consider whether you will be litter box training your rats.

    When it comes to your rats bedding, there are many choices available to you.  At FHR we use Harlan's Sani Chips (Aspen based) and Yesterdays news in the unscented and softer textured varieties. We've also use Cellsorb and other newspaper based beddings.  For moms with litters we use Eco-Bedding (highly absorbent soft paper strips.)  Fleece strips or paper towels are also OK to use in mother and baby cages.  Pine and cedar shavings should NEVER be used for rats.  They contain toxic phenols which can harm your rat's respiratory system.  For more information on the toxicity of pine and cedar, as well as a list of safe beddings, visit: The Rat Fan Club - The Rat Report.  Rats have very delicate respiratory systems, so rat owners should do everything they can to protect them.  This includes keeping all bedding changed or washed often to reduce build up of ammonia, and to use bedding which does not irritate the animal.  It should also be noted, that many beddings can cause allergic reactions in human members of the family.  Some people have thought themselves to be allergic to their new rats, when in actuality it is the bedding that they are allergic to.  Fleece is a good bedding to try if you think you may be allergic to your rat bedding.


Cages That Have Been Used at FHR:


Martin's Cages

http://www.martinscages.com/products/cages/rat/  

These are great rat cages for sure.  Just be sure to get the powder coated wire, as the bare galvanized tends to rust and smell eventually and PVC coating is chewed off by rats.  They come in every size, shape and design a rat owner could need.  If you don't see a premade cage that suits you, just contact them and they will certainly customize any cage to your specifications.  They will even create one of their ferret cages using rat sized wire, if you ask.  Prices are very reasonable considering these cages are hand made right here in the USA, unlike most of the cages found in pet stores.  They are light but strong, and the powdercoated wire can be cleaned easily by sticking the cage into the shower or hosing it down outside.  They hold up well with use and last a long time.  They can be refinished easily.  And my rats have NEVER chewed through a Martin's plastic pan!  


 Midwest Critter Nation

The Critter Nation cage (available in a single or double level) is a fairly new cage that is rapidly gaining popularity.  These are nice big, sturdy cages.  The double is likely one of  the largest on the market.  The only big drawback to these is the thin plastic pan.  We use these cages wit separately purchased stainless steel deep pans from Bass Equipment. 


"How many rats can fit in my cage?"

I have been asked this question so many times.  While the answer will vary depending on who you ask, here is a handy cage calculator which is a great rough guide to how many rats will fit in a cage.  It can be very helpful when choosing a cage online, and cannot see the cage in person.  Be sure you choose the right standard of measure, Imperial or Metric.

http://www.rattycorner.com/odds/calc.shtml  <---  Ratty Corner Cage Size Calculator




A previous set up our our rattery. (2009)

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