Rats need as large an enclosure as you can give them, as well as space to exercise. Large cages suitable for ferrets and chinchillas are a good size for rats. Rats are able to squeeze through very small gaps so check they can’t get out between the bars of the cage!
The more rats you have, the larger your cage will need to be. Rats can get stressed if they don’t have enough space so make sure your cage is big enough for them.
The ideal enclosure
A large cage with plenty of space for exercise is the best home for your rat. Glass enclosures aren’t suitable. They don’t have enough ventilation and can cause breathing difficulties or lung infections in rats.
Rats are very active when they are awake and they need plenty of room to explore. They also need things to climb on and play with. Rat-sized tubes, ropes and cloth tunnels are ideal. Drainpipes are also great for rats to play in and run through. They love exploring new smells and also enjoy digging. You can read more ideas for ratty entertainment on our rat health page.
The ideal home for your rats will include:
- Different levels for your rats to climb on.
- Secure, warm nest boxes to sleep in. You can read more tips on rat-friendly nest boxes below.
- Good ventilation. This is a really important part of the hygiene of your rat’s cage. Rats can suffer from breathing difficulties or lung infections so they need lots of air to move through their cage.
- Lots of toys and things to keep your rat occupied. Try to create an adventure playground for your rats using ropes, ladders, branches, shelves, hammocks and toys. You can read more about this on our rat health page.
- Your rats’ cage should be safe and secure. Make sure your rats can’t escape and that other pets, like the family cat or dog, can’t get in.
The cage floor should be:
- Covered with non-toxic wood chips or paper-based rat bedding. You can buy rat bedding from a pet shop or from our online pet store.
- Don’t use cedar or pine wood chips as these are toxic for small pets like rats.
- Don’t use dusty materials such as wood shavings or sawdust. These can cause breathing problems for rats.
- If your rats’ cage has a wire floor, cover it with something so your rats have a something solid to walk on. Lino flooring secured with cable ties is suitable and easy to clean.
Nest boxes: somewhere for your rats to sleep
Your rats will need somewhere safe, quiet and secure to sleep during the day. A nest box gives them an ideal place to rest. It should be:
- Kept dark as rats are very sensitive to light, especially albino rats with red eyes.
- Lined with clean, shredded paper or soft bedding material. Clean, white kitchen roll is ideal and your rats will enjoy shredding it themselves. Give them whole sheets of kitchen roll and watch them build their own nest!
- Don’t use newspaper as the ink is toxic to small pets.
- Don’t use cotton wool. If your rats eat any it could cause a dangerous blockage in their gut. It can also get wrapped around their legs and stop them from moving properly.
The best spot in your home for your rats
Where you put your rats’ cage in your home can have an impact on their health and happiness. The best spot for them will be:
- Indoors or in an enclosed, insulated outbuilding. Pet rats can’t live outside.
- Out of draughts and direct sunlight. They should be kept at around 20°C.
- Away from TVs and music systems as the vibrations from these can make rats stressed.
- In a busy area of the house. Rats are really sociable and will love to be in the heart of your home. Keep their cage on top of a table or other surface so they’re at eye level. This means they’re more likely to get attention. They can also keep an eye on what’s going on around them!
Keeping your rats clean
It’s really important to keep your rats’ cage clean and to remove soiled bedding. Dirty cages can cause breathing problems and lung infections in rats.
- Check their cage two or three times a week. Clear out any dirty bedding
- Clean their cage thoroughly once a week, giving it a good scrub with a pet-safe cleaner. You can buy these at pet shops or on our online pet store.
- Keep back a small amount or used but clean bedding. Put this back into the cleaned cage so it will still smell like home to your rats.