Cages & Home Care
Your pet's home is hugely important for their health and well being. It is where they will be spending the majority of their time. And needs to fulfill their physical and mental needs.
Size does matter in multiple ways.
Your pet rats will be spending the majority of their time in their cage. It is to be their living space, kitchen, bathroom, bedroom, and play room. Just because they are a small animal doesn't mean they do not require proper space. Imagine spending 20+ hours of each day living in a closet. You would go insane pretty fast. Well, rats are no different, they are highly intelligent animals and it can be very stressful to live in cramped quarters.
Many people will make the excuse that their rats don't use the entire space of a large cage.... the issue is often not the rats but you here. You really need to make the best use of the space. Make sure every corner is inviting and usable.
Smaller cages for multiple rats means they can not get away or have space to themselves. This can often lead to fighting and stressed out rats.
Smaller cages also means more of a mess and faster.
Some people will say this tiny cage is all I can afford.... well that is really not a good excuse. Don't get a rat as a pet then. I would truly LOVE to own a horse. But my itty bitty tiny backyard is not a proper housing for one. It would not only be cruel but also selfish for me to get a horse and keep it in my backyard. Well, it is the same thing with keeping a rat in a cage much too small. Take your time and save up your money to buy the cage before you get the rats.
That doesn't mean your rat needs a mansion. Larger is always better but they just need a cage that is comfortable for the number of rats living in it.
A good quality cage will likely cost you around $100-$200.
Try to stay away from plastic bottoms. Many rats have been known to chew a hole right out and escape. You thought you were saving money but now you have a useless cage and a homeless escaped rat.
Bar spacing should be 1/2 inch wide. Yes some adult males are fine in 1 inch spacing, some larger females as well. But it can be risky and if you decide in the future to get babies they will escape.
You can wrap cages in hardware cloth if the bar spacing is too large. But warning... it is a pain in the butt to do so. It is alot of tedious work and annoying and omg my hands cramped so bad by the end. It doesn't look very nice and can make using the cage more difficult and far harder to clean. I do not recommend it.
NO, ABSOLUTELY NO tanks. Rats have very sensitive lungs and can be prone to respiratory issues. Tanks do not have proper ventilation at all. Ammonia will build up and make them sick. Even large tanks (40+ gal) are not good enough, even tanks with cages on top are not safe.
Tall cages with horizontal bars are great for climbing! But rats do prefer to burrow and dig. Tall cages often have alot of wasted space, rats need substantial floor space.
IMO avoid wood cages. Wood not only can be chewed it also absorbs urine and can not be properly cleaned. Galvanized metal does this as well, get those metal cages powder coated!
These are US based cages. They may not be available in other countries.
I include rat cage calculations of how many rats can fit, but this is merely a guide. You do not want to over crowd the cage but other factors do play a role in determining how many rats can fit comfortably.
These are my opinion of good cages to seek out and why.
Critter Nation (CN) or Double Critter Nation (DCN)
The CN is made by Midwest Homes for Pets. They also make the ferret nation line of cages.
Perfect bar spacing at 1/2 inch. You will not have any escapes even by small, young or baby rats.
Horizontal bars that make decorating easy but are also ideal for rats to climb!
The cage itself is all metal. No rats are going to be chewing a hole out to escape.
It is very large easily fitting 4+ rats (depending on the rats & use of space) for the single.
The entire front of the cage are doors. So the entire front opens. This makes cleaning and decorating a huge plus! And makes it easy to grab your rats.
It has a nice wheeled base and some storage underneath
Can grow with your mischief, you can start off with the single cage and buy an addon unit to make it a double or another to make it a triple. Some have even connected two doubles side by side to make an awesome quad cage.
It is a very nice cage and will last a long time.
Expensive-ish. A good cage is expensive. The single is going to run you about $100-$130 the double is a little over $200 with shipping usually. Look for deals and sales. Around Christmas, you can usually find it way cheap. You can also look for people selling them used for cheaper. To me, it is worth the price it is often not that more expensive than other cages but way higher quality. Why waste the money on a cheaper cage when you can just save a little longer and buy this.
Very Very large and heavy. It takes up some serious space and thank god it is on wheels but you hare not putting this in your bathtub to clean without taking it all apart, it is not super easy to take apart either.
Yeah, cleaning is not that easy. Besides it being large and heavy it has some tight spaces that can really collect gunk. You also have to be careful cleaning it and making sure it is well dried so it does not rust.
You will HAVE to take it apart fully at least once a month to give it a deep clean.
The pans that come with it are very very shallow. It is obviously meant for liners and not bedding. You can buy or make different options to allow you to use bedding though. But some are expensive or take some effort.
It has a lot of open space which can be both good and bad. A lot of times people do not use the space wisely at all and so it is mostly wasted. Make sure to fill all that empty space with stuff- hanging baskets/beds, hammocks, ropes, ladders, ledges, etc....
I would suggest NOT getting its cousin the ferret nation cage, even though it is often cheaper.
The ferret nation has wider bar spacing at 1 inch, this means smaller rats & babies can easily escape. Even if you have large males now, in the future you might want to get more rats and they may be young or small. You can wrap it in hardware cloth but let me tell you it is a pain. Something I never want to have to do ever again. It is just painful and looks ugly.
It also has vertical bars so climbing and decorating are not so good.
Critter Nation 1 Level: 36"L x 24"W x 39"H (24" H without the stand)
Critter Nation 2 Levels: 36"L x 24"W x 63"H (48" H without the stand)
According the a rat cage calculator, giving each rat 2 cubic feet of space a single will fit 6, a double 12.
If you give 2.5 cubic feet it fits 4 & 9 respectively.
Where to buy?
Amazon might have it on sale sometimes.
The best price seems to be from http://www.petsupplies.com
Petco's You & Me Rat Manor Habitat
It is a smaller and lighter cage then the huge critternation so it is better if you have less space, live in an apartment, are not physically able to take apart the critternation often for deep cleaning.
If you have 2 or 3 rats it is a good cage.
Perfect bar spacing
Deeper base to hold bedding
I like that the shelves are easy to remove for cleaning or if you wish to remove them altogether to use baskets/hammocks instead.
Easy to clean
Affordable at usually less than $100 (often $60-80)
Pretty small doors. I can't fit large things like beds or wheels through the doors and if your rats are not super friendly it might be a pain to grab them.
Not a huge floor space
There are some people who do not like it, I am unsure why.
It is often on sale at Petco and sometimes you can get it for a very good price.
16.5" L X 22.5" W X 32" H
The cage calculator says it will hold 3 at 2 cubic feet each if spaces is used wisely & only 2 at 2.5 cubic feet.
Petsmart's All Living Things® Multi-Level Small Animal Cage
This cage is basically a double critter nation knock off. It is pretty similar in size and design.
I have heard people say they love it and others say it is made cheaply. I have no experience with it myself, so you just have to check reviews and see.
Sometimes you can get it at a very good price when petsmart has a sale other times it is more expensive the a DCN so...
36" L x 24" W x 63.25" H (this is with the stand, idk what it is without but I think the same as the DCN listed above)
It can fit the same amount of rats as a DCN.
Prevue Pet Products 528
This is an amazing cage for rats. It has nice floor space, big doors, and able to hang hammocks or spacepods. The downside is that the base is plastic.
I do use and love this cage myself. This is probably the cage I MOST recommend with a big fat but....
It does have a plastic base which is possibly chewable. If you provide your rats lots of enrichment, check the cage daily, and are willing to take the risk that they could chew out. Some rats never ever will, others definitely will. I don't recommend it if you have other pets that could harm loose rats or if your home/room they are kept in is not secure such as holes or ways to escape or be harmed. Or if you are unable to get a new cage on the fly if anything does happen.
Shelves suck and just collect pee. I would remove it. Use hammocks, space pods, and hanging baskets instead.
What is a bin cage?
A bin cage is when you take a large storage plastic storage bin and cut out large windows in the sides and sometimes top and replace it with hardware cloth.
I love and use bin cages myself. In fact, by far most breeders do. You can hang hammocks, tubes, toys, and provide just as much enrichment. Bin cages have a bad rap because people worry they are just cheap, small or not ventilated.
They can be inexpensive but you usually need tools that may be expensive if you do not have them already and it is a lot of work to make one. I might rather have teeth pulled than make a bin cage. It is a painful sucky experience. I really really really hate making bin cages. That should say a lot that I hate doing it so much and yet I still do it lol! Being inexpensive doesn't automatically make something bad.
Bin cages can come in many different sizes, some people even make double deckers and you can connect several bins together. Rats are fossorial meaning they prefer to dig/burrow. Height is actually not that important, floor space is. Bins provide good floor space. I prefer 105 qt or 110qt.
Why are bins ok and not tanks? Bins have proper ventilation just like cages! The sides are removed and replaced with mesh allowing air to freely pass through. There is no issue of ventilation. You must use the hardware cloth, not just poke holes.
The best part of bin cages is the ease of cleaning. Dump/rinse/wash out. No little spaces to trap urine and gunk. It is great and makes it really safe and healthy.
But plastic? Yes, I warn above that plastic bases are bad. That is because plastic bases have little edges that are very irresistible to chewing. And it allows them to have a place to chew. Bin cages ideally should have nice flat sides where they can't catch on. I have never had a rat escape a bin cage. It is important to have it be properly made.
I have a guide on how to make a bin cage HERE. If you want to use a bin cage and adopt from me, it has to be a proper size atleast 105qt, sterilite brand, properly made.
You may need to replace or remake the cage after a few years.
I am sure there are other wonderful cages out there. Some may be well built, good size but just have too wide of bar spacing and need to be wrapped in hardware cloth so to be they are just not ideal. Why spend money on a cage that you have to wrap?
These are IMO the cages most people use and enjoy and are often see as the ideal cages for keeping pet rats. I pretty much do not recommend any other style of cage.