Store-bought rat cages are often much too small to happily accommodate a pet rodent. They can also be very difficult to clean, an important point to consider if multiple rats are kept together. Building a rat cage at home is an affordable solution for those seeking custom housing for their pets, and it's a project that can be done with only a few basic materials.
- Skill level:
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Things you need
- Clear plastic storage container and lid
- (2) 2'x 5' rolls of hardware cloth (1/2" wire spacing)
- 3" plastic zip ties (50-100)
- Wire cutters
- (1) 4mm "mini" bungee cord (or similar size)
- (2) 18" bungee cords
- 1/4" drill bit
Measure the inside dimensions of the bottom of the plastic storage bin to determine the final width and length of your rat cage. The plastic storage bin will act as the bottom tray for the cage, and the wire components will all sit inside this bottom bin once assembled.
Unroll the hardware cloth and cut four segments from it using the wire cutters: two panels that are the same as the length of the storage bin, and two panels that are the same as the width. These will create your cage's front, back, and sides.
Use the pliers to fold over any protruding bits of wire on each of the panel ends to prevent you or your rats from getting snagged.
Connect the front and back panels to the two short side panels using zip ties spaced every three to four inches; go along the cage panels, connecting the panels at 90 degree angles to form a rectangle, with the two long panels parallel to each other and the two short panels also parallel to each other.
Use scrap bits of hardware cloth and cut ramps and shelves for the inside of the cage. You can make these shelves and ramps any size you want, and add as many or as few as you choose. Fold over any protruding wire ends with the pliers, making sure that no sharp edges are exposed.
Install the ramps and shelves in the rat cage from the open top, zip-tying them to the sides of the cage to hold them in place. Have fun adjusting and adding levels for your rats to climb over and explore.
Measure the top opening of the rat cage (this should be the same measurement as the inside base of the plastic storage bin) and cut a piece of hardware cloth to size with the wire cutters.
Bend the protruding edges of wire back on this piece of hardware cloth, and zip-tie it in place as the roof of the rat cage, once again placing the zip ties every three to four inches along the sides of the wire.
Trim the long ends off all of the zip ties used to assemble the cage.
Cut a square opening in the front of the cage to create a door opening. The opening should be about eight to 10 inches square, or at least large enough to comfortably reach in for your rats and their supplies. Place the opening in an area that has access to most of the cage, including the shelves.
Cut a piece of hardware cloth that is two inches taller and wider than the door opening to allow for overlap.
Connect the door panel to the cage front by zip-tying it in place along one side only, to create a hinge.
Use the "mini" bungee cord to secure the door closed. These can be easily found in the hardware section of most home improvement stores, and are often only sold in multi-packs.
Drill a hole in each of the short sides of the plastic storage bin's lid using a quarter inch drill bit. These will act as anchors for securing it in place over the cage and should be roughly centred on the short sides of the lid, about an inch from the edge.
Secure the lid in place on top of the assembled cage by running an 18 inch bungee cord from the anchor holes in the lid to the lip of the plastic bin. This will prevent the wire cage from getting knocked out of the storage bin accidentally.
Fill your rat cage with bedding, toys, hiding spots and dishes for food and water.
Tips and warnings
- Plastic storage bins are available at most home improvement and department stores. The best bins for rat cages are the type sold as "under the bed" units, which tend to have shallow sides and a wider footprint than many other storage bins. A good size for this project is about 24" x 18" and 6" tall; this will be large enough to allow plenty of leftover wire mesh for shelves, ramps, and mess-ups.
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