AusRFS Cage Advice Document - Updated 3.7.2023
For information about cages, including pros and cons of the
most popular cages currently available, approximate costs,
where to buy etc, please click HERE
AusRFS has designed high sided trays to fit Ferret Kingdom cages. Made of non-chew hard plastic, they are available for purchase directly from a Melbourne manufacturer. This company can make trays in any size to fit a range of cages. Click on the link above to find out more about the trays!
NEW OWNERS - before purchasing a cage,
please, please read all the information on this page
and download the AusRFS Cage Advice Document
using the link at the top of this page.
Many first time owners waste their money on cages
that are not suitable for rats.
Please don't hesitate to contact the AusRFS, we are always
available to answer any questions.
If you find a cage for sale that you are unsure about
please feel free to send us the link
or photo and we can check it out for you.
Rats are kept in cages similar to a large bird cage. They need good air ventilation, so should not be kept in enclosures with completely solid walls, and absolutely NEVER in a glass aquarium.
There aren’t many good rat cages available and although many cages are described as being suitable for rats, a lot of these are far too small or have bar spacing which is far too wide for rats. Also be aware that accessories that may come with a “rat” cage might not be useable – for instance, the drip drink bottles that come with most cages are usually meant for larger animals like rabbits and guinea pigs, etc., so are not suitable for rats. The ball size is too heavy for rats to use, and they won’t be able to get any water out of them.
Most people start out with a smaller, less expensive cage and upgrade to a bigger and better one, or in a lot of cases upgrade several times! So in the long run it’s cheaper to invest in a better cage in the first place. A good quality cage will look better, last longer, be easier to clean and decorate and will make life with your new pets much easier and more enjoyable.
Style of Cage
Cages differ a lot in their design and quality so it’s a good idea to actually see all the options before purchasing - taking into account where the cage will be placed and how you will be keeping your rats. For example, you may prefer a freestanding cage on wheels if you are going to be moving the cage from room to room. If you are not going to litter train your rats, you will need a cage with a deep base to spread with litter, but if your rats use a litter tray to toilet in then you don’t have to have a cage with a deep base.
THIS IS VERY IMPORTANT! Rats can squeeze through very small spaces! Bar spacing should not exceed 1.25cm. Young rats or small adults may be able to get out of anything over 1.25cm. PLEASE CHECK THE BAR SPACING BEFORE PURCHASING.
It’s a good idea to check a newly purchased cage to make sure there are no bent bars, any places where the bar spacing is slightly wider, or other odd gaps that might allow rats to escape or get stuck trying to get out. Any gaps can be securely covered with non-chew material such as a patch of Mouse wire (available from Bunnings), held in place with enough cable ties (preferably metal ties) to hold it close to the bars so the rats can’t push in between.
Cages with wide bar spacing can be made escape proof by covering the entire cage with mouse wire, but this far from ideal. It’s a lot of work to do, and almost impossible to cut the wire without leaving sharp edges - a huge number of cable ties are needed to attach the wire all over. The wire also makes it very hard to clean the cage.
Bigger is definitely better. Please look at the measurements of the cages listed. We highly recommend investing in a spacious cage. But take into account how much usable space the cage has – rats can’t fly, they can only utilize the spaces they can reach.
Cages with a good amount of horizontal space are best. A wide cage with a few large levels is much more practical than a tall, thin cage with lots of small platforms. Rats need good sized flat areas to safely run, wrestle and play with each other and their toys, as well as providing plenty of room to place hide houses, boxes, food dishes, etc.
Always use all the levels/platforms that come with the cage. Most cages will benefit from adding additional levels which can be clipped or attached to the bars with cable ties, wire hooks, etc., to keep them in place.
If you have a tall cage, it is vital that platforms, hammocks and other items are placed strategically throughout the cage as safety nets, to prevent a rat falling all the way from the top to the bottom of the cage. Falls can cause serious injury and can be fatal. It’s also important to provide ladders, ramps and other items which are not too steep so the rats can easily get to the various levels. Some rats are good climbers but a lot are not. Old rats or rats suffering from hind leg degeneration often have trouble climbing at all, and need to be housed in a single level cage.
Rat cages should not have wire flooring, these can cause ulcers and injuries to rats’ feet. If your cage has wire levels, they should either be replaced with solid levels or covered with some sort of solid sheeting. Perspex is the best option as it is easy to clean and rats don’t chew it, but any solid plastic sheeting or offcut vinyl flooring will work. Any company that cuts/moulds plastic should be able to make levels and trays to measure, but the AusRFS can provide details of companies that our members have used. In addition, some people also like to cover their cage levels with fleece fabric, others prefer to lay down newspaper. However, these last two options are only recommended if your rat is NOT a chewer.
Galvanized cages should never be used, unless you have it painted or powder coated first, as your pet may become very ill and possibly die from zinc poisoning. Galvanized cages are very rare nowadays.
Metal cages can be professionally powder coated to protect them, give them a new look or colour. The AusRFS can advise of a company that some of our members have used.
The AusRFS sometimes has the small cage listed on page 11 of the Cage Advice Document and other new cages for sale to the public. We also occasionally have second hand cages for sale, but they are always offered to club members first.
Buying second-hand can be a good option and a bargain can often be found on Facebook Marketplace, Gumtree, or eBay if you know what to look for.
The AusRFS is available to give advice, including what accessories to buy and how to set up a cage. Please see the accessories page of our website. An internet search on words like “rat cage set up”, “rat cage decoration”, etc., will provide some good ideas, but remember everyone keeps their rats slightly differently, and things that work for some people or rats may not work for others.
The AusRFS Cage Advice Document contains details of the most common cages currently available. The ones on the last page are cages we do not recommend. Of course not every cage can be listed, so if you see a cage for sale, new or second hand that you are not sure about, please free to send a link to the AusRFS and we can check to see if it’s suitable for rats.