Rats are intelligent animals and their environment should reflect this. Cage furniture should go beyond simply meeting their basic needs for food/water and warmth. There are many things (both shop-bought and home made) that you can add to your rats’ housing to enrich it. You will find many ideas for toys and environmental enrichment in the Habitat section of the online community. The basic needs are as follows:
For water use a gravity-feed water bottle (of at least 150ml capacity, depending on number of rats per cage – rats drink approximately 20-30ml water daily when fed a mainly dry diet). Every time you refill it you should check it is not blocked and the water is flowing freely when the ball is agitated, as they can sometimes stop working. Fresh water should be given daily – and if you empty out the old, rinse out the bottle and refill each day, the bottles will stay clean and fresh. If you give your rats lactol, soya milk, or water with vitamin powder added you should always provide plain water in a second bottle, alongside. You can also provide a water bowl as well as the water bottle as some rats will prefer this and may wash in it, although it will most likely soon become full of litter, so do not rely on this as the sole source of clean water.
Many people prefer ceramic bowls as they are heavy enough not to tip up when your rats perch on them. Other options are stainless steel or plastic. You should provide separate bowls for dried and fresh foods. Extra bowls are also a good idea if your rats squabble over food. However, only feed the amount of food required per 24 hours. If you use two or more bowls then this amount should simply be split between them.
Somewhere to sleep
It has been said that a rats’ cage should include as many different places to sleep as there are rats in the cage. This is a useful guideline. All rats are individuals and it is wise to include a variety of types of sleeping quarters. There are many possibilities but whatever you choose should provide security and warmth. Some suggestions are small plastic baskets, hanging baskets with card inserts, well-ventilated igloos, tubes or even regularly changed cardboard boxes.
Fabric hammocks are also a popular choice amongst rat owners (and with rats!). They can be suspended around the cage and will provide your rats with a warm and comfortable place to sleep. Rats often prefer a hammock design that allows them to sleep inside, rather that just a flat layer of material that they would lie on top of.
Amusement and exercise
Here you are only really limited by your imagination, some ideas include:
- large tubes or tunnels,
- ladders suspended horizontally with toys/fruit/popcorn hanging from the rungs,
- cat litter trays filled with bedding attached to the cage bars with large clips,
- extra shelves,
- thick ropes,
- parrot toys,
- plastic balls,
- small boxes with treats inside,
- paper and paper bags
- large wheels (not with open bars).
Variety is the spice of life
All cage furniture should be changed regularly to provide mental stimulation for your rats. Many people find it works to have 2 or 3 sets of hammocks and toys which they use in rotation at each clean out. These should be selected to be quite different from each other so that your rats do not become bored. This is why free and disposable toys are excellent such as stuffed paper bags and treat boxes.
Author: Fancy Rats Team