Rat’s Tail

This article was written for Pet Guardian Angels of America by J.Hamburg

 

 


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“Home, sweet home”- choosing the best cage for your pet rats

There are a number of factors to consider when finding the best cage for pets, rat pets in particular.  You’ll want a cage that can easily accommodate the basic needs of your little pals. Spacing, nourishment and stimulus are probably the most identifiable and basic needs of rats and as long as a
cage meets those requirements, it should do the trick. That being said, there are other elements to cages that aren’t always taken into account and they can be just as important. Caging factors to keep in mind when finding the best cage for pet rats:

Height and floor profile ratio

At a minimum, cages should be 50 cm in height. It also depends on your rats in particular. If you have older rats, chances are that they will be less active than their youthful counterparts and won’t have the need to climb as much. In this case, opting for a single story cage is not necessarily a bad idea but you’ll
want to make sure that the girth of the floor is amply wide enough to accommodate all of its needs. 60 cm is considered sufficient floor space for rats although this, again, depends on how many rats you have, their gender and age. Male rats need more fighting and interaction space than females, for starters. Pregnant females will want large floor space to safely burrow and prepare nesting for their little ones. If you have a rainbow nation of rat age and gender combinations, it’ll work in your favor to get a cage that has more than one level and has a large flooring area. In this way, each specific need is accounted for and less fighting should occur.

Bar coverings

This is a primary example of an overlooked factor in cage buying. Rats are highly active creatures and will take to biting at almost anything- including the bars of their cages. This is normal behavior, but the accidental consumption of toxic coating and rusted material could be extremely risky for your beloved pets. Bars that have enamel coating are a good option because the coating is too thick for the rats to get through. On the downside, it doesn’t have a long resistance in general and will eventually chip away through wear and tear. Luckily, it is inexpensive and quite easy to get hold of non toxic enamel-based spray in hardware stores and some pet stores. Another good option for coatings are galvanized bars (bars sealed with layers of Zinc). On the downside, they’re prone to having more cage remnants getting stuck to them and can be more troublesome to clean than enamel-coated bars. But a big plus is that they’re far more resistant to rusting and you won’t have to recoat them every few months.

Shelving

The best type of shelving really depends on your individual needs. You can get solid or meshed and fixed or moveable shelving. There are disadvantages and advantages for each of these options which is why you need to consider your personal preferences. Solid shelving allows you to place things more easily
and you can separate burrowing areas for your rats more easily because of this. They need constant cleaning though and way more upkeep them meshed bars that allow waste to fall from top to bottom.  Meshed bars, however, aren’t actually that good for your rats feet and can cause blisters. You’ll want to
find bar spacing that is 1cm or lower in length and width to avoid them falling trough or getting hurt. Also, the waste that falls through could land up in the water and food which you’d ultimately want to avoid. If you’re not that interested in constantly moving shelves, then you can opt for fixed shelving.
Though rats need new layouts to keep them stimulated, so if you want your rats to be as happy and exercised as possible- moveable shelves that are litter trays are easier to clean and adjust.

Floor material

As aforementioned, rats like to nibble on things- which include the base material of the cage. Most bases are thick and generally made of plastic but rats can still chew through plastic with relative ease.  The ideal option is a metal base that can’t be worn through chewing but they aren’t as widely available as plastic floor bases are. That, and they are considerably more expensive. If you get your hands on a metal floor cage, make sure that it is galvanized to avoid rusting. Breathing in rust particles or consuming them will most likely result in health defects in your rats. If you’re stuck with the plastic options, you could still minimize chewing by making sure you select bases that have as little cornering and angled areas as possible. If the base is smooth, your rat won’t be able to grip and chew.

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