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Cage Accessories:Photos and Information Links can be found at the end of this article.
Your rats will be spending a lot of time in their cages. You need to add accessories that will make your rats comfortable and secure. Another very important reason to provide cage accessories is to keep them occupied. It has been proven that mental stimulation actually can increase intelligence.
Fortunately there are many ways to outfit a rat cage to turn it into a comfortable and interesting environment using both home made and store bought items. When shopping at the pet stores check out the accessories for other animals besides rats such as ferrets, chinchillas, birds, etc. Even the local hardware store and the dollar store can be a source of cage accessories. Creativity is the key to setting up a happy and safe environment for your rats.
Once you have the bed/s provide your rat with material that he can make a nest with. Some rats are very avid nest builders and will enjoy setting up their beds. Some good suggestions are non-stringy fabric, CareFRESH bedding, shredded paper, paper towels. Etc.
Be sure to change the nesting material often. Ammonia resulting from urine can be harmful to the rat especially in a small confined area such as a nesting bed.
Making your own hammocks and soft tubes is easy. If you sew it is possible to really go all out and design fancy ones. If you aren’t able to sew you can fashion hammocks out of towels, scrap fabric, cloth place mats, cloth diapers, or old clothes. Tubes can be fashioned from pant legs cut off and hung within the cage.
Home made hammocks and soft tubes can be hung with safety pins, diaper pins, grommets, chains, hooks, or any other method that holds them secure. Lining the hammock or soft tube with a towel after it is hung will allow you to change the surface without having to change out the hammock in-between cleanings.
Hard tubes can be bought in the ferret section. These tubes connect and hang with chains. They come in different colors and are transparent so that you can view the rat. PVC pipe and drainage pipe will also work and can be drilled and hung..
Be sure to provide only a non wire wheel to prevent injury such as the plastic Wodent Wheel or one of the solid metal type wheels.
For a simple home made treat toy you can put treats in a small cardboard box and watch as your rats busily demolish it to get their treat. You can also attach fruit or hard treats with holes drilled into them to a large binder ring and attach it to the side of the cage.
To create a digging box all you need is a plastic box, such as a litter box for cats or a low plastic storage box, and a bag of sterile potting soil. Make sure the soil has no fertilizers or other additives.
You can add seeds to grow oat grass, wheat grass, millet, rye, or even use birdseed. Add enough moisture to grow the grass, but not enough to cause fungus or mold growth. Assorted rocks and a PVC tunnel partially buried create an even more interesting environment. For fun you can hide treats in the digging box for your rat.
Your rats digging box can either be in or outside of the cage. If you leave it in the cage you will have to clean it and replace the soil regularly.
There are many good options for making the cage floors safe. One very good one is linoleum (non-glued for easy cleaning) cut to the size of the floor. It cleans easily and looks attractive. Other floor covering options are placemats (cloth or plastic, needlepoint canvas, and non-stick rubber shelf liner.
Cardboard, plywood, and carpet are all poor flooring choices. These are too hard to keep clean and can not be wiped down.
Water is the most important thing your rat needs. Always make sure that clean water is available. Do not put water in an open bowl. Your rat will either tip it over or fill it up with bedding. There are several good types of water bottles. Most mount on the outside of the cage with a sipper tube that fits in-between the bars. If your rats have an open cage it may be necessary to protect the top of the plastic water bottles from chewers. You can do this by putting an empty can or a small plastic bowl over the top of it.
Multiple water bottles are a good idea so that if one bottle leaks or is empty they will still have another to drink from. When using an aquarium you can get a water bottle holder that hangs from the side of the cage and protects the water bottle from chewing. Always make sure that the bottle’s seal or gasket is in place and that the bottle does not drip. Be sure to clean and sanitize the bottle thoroughly each week.
Another good idea is to use wire baskets. The tiered baskets that hold fruit can be suspended from the center of a large open cage. Foe smaller cages wire baskets can be attached with cable ties.
Quality Cage accessories (metal solid wheel)
Pet Smart (Pick-a Peanut)
Pet Smart (Happy Hut Hideaway)
Super Pet Products
Oasis (water bottles and guards)
Lixit (water bottles)