The cage is one of the most important aspects of rat care. Like other small pet animals, rats spend the majority of their time in their cage because it's nearly impossible to let them roam the house safely. Choosing the proper cage comes down to a variety of factors.
As far as cages go, "the bigger, the better" almost always applies to pets, and rats are no exception. Ideally, you want the biggest cage you can afford that's still safe for your furry friend. Rats are extremely intelligent creatures who thrive on exploration and enriching playtime. A bigger cage allows for more toys and accessories without giving up valuable floor space. Multistory cages are also ideal, as your rat will enjoy climbing and exploring the different areas. If you don't have a lot of space, follow the 2 feet rule: the cage needs to be a minimum of 2 feet deep, wide and high. Many commercially available "rat" cages are not big enough to properly house a pet rat.
Wire cages take the prize as the best construction for rats. These little guys need air circulation, something that aquarium setups often fail to provide. The wires need to be no less than 1/2 inch apart for young and smaller rats; choose a cage with a minimum wire spacing of 1 inch for adults and larger rats. Aquariums can also trap heat and moisture during warmer months or if placed in direct sunlight, which could lead to health problems for your rat.
Location is also important. The cage should be off the floor to prevent your rat from being exposed to drafts. It should also be in a room that gets tons of natural light while being away from direct sunlight. The room the cage is in should have quiet times so your little guy isn't constantly exposed to the hustle and bustle of everyday life in your house. That being said, a room where the family meets regularly is also ideal, or at least a room where your rat gets quality interaction time with you. Kitchens are bad news for your rat, as the fumes from cooking sprays and non-stick cooking pans can make him sick.
A big cage is great, but rats succumb easily to boredom which can lead to stress. In his rat mansion he needs lots of toys, tunnels and ladders so he can play, learn and exercise. A solid-floor exercise wheel is ideal. You should also give him some clean, chemical-free natural branches to climb on. Natural wood toys and many of the toys designed for parrots are great for enriching play time. Paper towel and toilet paper tubes make excellent tunnels and give him something to chew on. A small cardboard box with a cut-out "door" makes for a little escape. Choose a bedding that's made for small animals -- recycled paper is ideal, and stay away from cedar or pine.
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With a professional background in gardening, landscapes, pests and natural ecosystems, Jasey Kelly has been sharing her knowledge through writing since 2009 and has served as an expert writer in these fields. Kelly's background also includes childcare, and animal rescue and care.