Rat Cage Setup: The Ultimate Guide to Creating the Best Home

by Morgan Mulac
Rat Cage Setup The Ultimate Guide to Creating the Best Home


If you want to create the perfect home for your new pet rat, you'll need the highest-quality cage. However, a cage by itself is generally bland and won't do you much good without proper cage accessories. Entertain your pets with homemade or store-bought toys, use paper rolls to create labyrinths, give them chewing materials, and create a welcoming environment. This is enough for a decent rat cage setup.

Read on to learn more about the needs of your rat, what will make them feel safe and loved, and how to properly construct a cage. 

Understanding Your Rat's Needs

Just plopping your pet rat into a cage won't be enough to keep it happy. This section will explain in detail how to set up a rat cage to meet their every need. 

Physical Needs

Physical space is important for everyone. Humans don't like isolation and confined spaces, and rats aren't any different. Even though they are small rodents, having plenty of space for them to run and play is vital. So, rats need a spacious, preferably multi-leveled type of cage they can run about and explore. However, an empty rat cage is similar to an unfurnished house. You must add bedding, feeding trays, and different types of toys to make it a true rat home. 

Rat peeping through wall

Social Needs

If you want to have a rat for a pet, you should know that rats can and will get lonely, and it's vital for your pet's happiness to add one or two additional rats. Apart from other rats, they like human contact, and you can try to play with your rat outside of the cage. Also, it's important to provide each rat enough space as they can get annoyed and unfriendly otherwise. 

Environmental Needs

In their natural environment, rats keep themselves entertained by digging, chewing on stuff, climbing, and exploring. In captivity, this can be compensated by providing your rats with specific toys to encourage exercise and natural behaviors. For climbing, you can add ladders or ropes inside the cage. For chewing, add cooked animal bones or nuts, and for digging, lay down bedding from shredded paper or cloth.

Quality Rat Cage

How to Choose the Right Cage

Many factors must be considered when choosing a rat cage, such as size, safety, environment, toys, accessibility, rat furniture, bedding, cage material, and more. 

Size and Design

How big of a cage do rats need depends on how many rats you have and whether they are adult or baby rats. Two and a half cubic feet is enough for one adult rat, while four cubic feet is recommended if you have two of them. A breeding pair will need more space if you intend to breed rats, but a male-female pair that are neutered can make do with a bit less space than two males. Observing your rats' behavior can help you decide whether to get a larger cage. 

While adult rats like bigger cages, baby rats require smaller cages with more bedding so they can snuggle up and keep warm. At the end of the day, if you're still unsure which cage size to get, use a rat cage calculator

For those who intend to get more than three of four rats, multi-level cages are basically necessary since they are bigger, and you can install more climbing tools, wheels, and toys.

Material and Safety

Ensuring the bars on the cage are half an inch prevents the rats from escaping. Even if they can't physically fit through the bars, rats can get stuck by trying to escape, which can lead to injuries. Rats can also get injured if you don't use the proper cage materials. The interlocking wires on the cage floor can cause serious toe injuries. This is why you should cover the floor with a cloth or bedding.

Like all rodents, rats will chew on their cage, either to wear out their teeth or to try an escape. Cages made from softer or malleable materials can chip, break, or get chewed open. In some cases, this can even poison the rat if they end up ingesting plastics. For this reason, it's essential to use high-quality plastic or metal cages since they can withstand rat bites without chipping.

Now that you know which material is best for your rat cage, you should visit a pet store and make sure you get a quality cage that can endure chewing, and other damages rats may cause.

Ease of Cleaning

Depending on the material, plastic cages are easier to clean, while metal ones require more work. The former is washed with water and a bit of soap, while you need to be careful when cleaning metal cages considering the bars can easily rust. Choosing a metal cage with a stainless or rust-resistant coating partially solves this problem, as the cage becomes more durable but is still vulnerable to scrubbing and can chip off. 

Do Rats Prefer a Vertical Or a Horizontal Rat Cage Setup?

As mentioned above, it’s important to make sure your rat cage is both tall and wide - but if you have to choose just one of those, which is more important?

There are pros and cons to each type of cage, taller cages offer better temperature control and Space for climbing, but wider cages are better for older rats to reduce the chance of falling and breaking any bones.

It is more important to have height if you have a younger rat and a limited amount of space at your disposal, so they can climb around and explore more.

How Many Rats Can Fit In One Cage

As they are incredibly social animals, pet rats are usually purchased as pairs because they require interaction with other rats and many cages are designed with this in mind.

The good rule of thumb is that a single rat should have no less than two cubic feet of space for itself within a cage if you want to keep them healthy. If more than three rats are housed in a single cage, you will need to add more space to the cage or buy a new cage entirely.

Two rats cuddling on a hammock

The most important aspect of keeping rats together is to make sure that they are of the same sex because if you have male rats and female rats in a cage together, unintentional breeding can occur between the two.

How to Set Up the Rat Cage

After you buy the cage and before you put your pet rat in the cage, you need to prepare it. Setting up the cage is lengthy, but ensuring a safe environment is crucial. Some of the supplies you need for the cage are bedding, toys, a sipper water bottle, food bowls and trays, climbing toys, hammocks, and any other rat supplies you decide to provide for entertainment, such as cardboard boxes. 

A simple rat cage idea is to take a quality store-bought cage and the basic accessories. However, it might get dull after a while, and you can create a unique pet rat enclosure with some custom items.

Placement of the Cage

The best place for your rat cage is somewhere low and out of direct light. Rats are nocturnal animals and don't like much light exposure. Since they sleep a lot during the day, they prefer quieter environments but not complete isolation. Don't put them near heating or cooling appliances since they need a temperature range of 64 to 79°F (18 to 26°C) and moderate humidity.

Rats don't sweat like humans or pant like dogs and have a limited capability to regulate their body temperature. If the temperature gets above 86°F (30°C) rats might experience heat exhaustion.

Interior Setup

After you've bought your perfect cage, gathered your rat supplies, and settled on the best spot to place it in your home, the setup itself is relatively simple. Here's the gist:

Step 1: Lay Down the Bedding

Rats like to burrow and sleep covered by something. A good choice for bedding is shredded cloth, shredded toilet paper, or recycled paper pellets. It also keeps rats from tripping or snagging on the wires at the bottom of the cage. Paper bedding can be bought from pet shops, while cloth bedding can be made from old shirts and other clothes scraps. A multi-level cage doesn't need bedding at upper levels since it might get tangled up, but larger pieces of cloth might make it more comfortable.

Step 2: Add a Rat Hammock and Shelter

One of the favorite places for rats to sleep in is a hammock. You can attach a store-bought rat hammock to the cage or make one yourself with pieces of old clothes. Use a sturdy rope to attach the hammock to the cage since you don't want your pet rats to chew through it.

Put a bundle of bedding or an artificial den in the corner of the cage. It will serve as shelter, where the rats like to sleep and nest. Since rats are nocturnal, it should protect them from ambient light.

Step 3: Add Food, Water, and a Litter Box

A vital part of the interior setup includes a water bottle, food bowls, and a litter box. Since rats are playful, they might knock over a water bowl. Fasten a sipper water bottle to the side of the cage so the rats can drink when they want and not make a mess. Regarding the food bowls, it's recommended to use two food trays, one for dry and one for wet food.

Water bottle

Training your rat to use a litter box creates a cleaner environment inside the cage. After a few days, rats will choose where they go to the toilet. The litter box should be placed in the same spot as your pets are already used to going there. Another valuable addition for potty training is a pee stone which helps mask the urine odor. These smooth stones can be bought or found anywhere outside. If introducing a stone from the outdoors, boil it in pot of water for a few minutes to remove contaminants.

Step 4: Provide Entertainment

The last step before introducing your rat to his home is adding toys, puzzles, and climbing gear. Boxes, toilet paper rolls, paper balls, ropes, ladders, scarves, tubes, blankets, chewing toys, and space pods are all valid choices to keep your rats happy and entertained. A fun rat cage setup will help your rats' mental health, as they can get stressed in a noninteractive environment.

Rat peeping through cage with blue wires

Nutritional Needs in Cage Setups

Food and water are necessary, and their setup inside the cage is equally essential as other supplies. 

  • Types of food and water containers: Water is best kept in transparent bottles, while food trays should be heavy enough to stay put while the rats eat. 
  • Placement of food and water containers: Water and food shouldn't be too close to one another, as water can drop inside the rat food tray and spoil it. Furthermore, don't place food bowls on high platforms since rats can easily knock them over.
  • Diet considerations and storage: Since they are omnivores, rats eat fruits and vegetables, grains, meat, and seeds which are their favorite snacks. Besides, you can always feed your rat with rat food specifically made for them, such as food pellets. It's not recommended to give them sugar and dairy.
  • Hydration: It's important to keep your rats hydrated. An average rat can drink approximately 30ml of water per day, but this can vary depending on its size.
  • Avoiding overfeeding: Rats need approximately 60 calories daily, so 20 to 30 grams of food are enough for an average adult rat. The food intake will, however, depend on the size. 
  • Monitoring food and water intake: Monitoring your rat's food and water consumption is vital, considering dehydration can lead to weight loss and more severe conditions. 

Common Mistakes in Rat Cage Setup

Let's look at common mistakes people make while setting up a cage for rodent pets.

  • Using the wrong cage size: We already mentioned that despite being small, rats require larger cage sizes. Otherwise, they can get stressed and become aggressive toward their owner or other rats and chew on objects incessantly. 
  • Inadequate ventilation: Even with regular cleaning, rat droppings will inevitably stay in the cage for some time, so ventilation is necessary for the smells to disappear. Rats also prefer moderate humidity and temperatures, which is helped by proper airflow. That's why closed containers like aquariums and terrariums provide lousy ventilation, so there's no good rat tank setup.
  • Unsafe materials: Be careful with thin plastic toys or plastic bars on cages, considering rats can chew them in seconds. This material can affect their health. It's also not recommended to get your pet rats wire cages.
  • Poor cage placement: Placing a rat cage in high spaces and putting the cage in rooms where many people are can have a bad effect on rats and disrupt their routines. 
  • Lack of enrichment: As social creatures, rats want to be entertained constantly, so providing them with enough toys is necessary. This is also why you should always buy at least a pair of pet rats.
  • Incorrect bedding choice: It would be best if you avoided shredded wood since they are sharp and can injure rats, and its residue can cause respiratory infections.
  • Neglecting regular cleaning: Rats are generally clean animals and groom themselves often. However, you need to frequently clean and change their bedding, provide clean water and fresh food, and remove feces and odor. 
  • Improper food and water placement: Water bottles shouldn't be placed inside the cage since rats can break them, food containers shouldn't be placed under the water, and the containers must be heavy to avoid spillage.

Ongoing Care and Maintenance

Cleaning the cage frequently is one of the jobs a responsible pet owner should perform. Depending on the need, some elements inside the cage must be cleaned daily, and others weekly. Litter trays, food, and water bowls get dirty quicker. The pet rat cage should be cleaned once a week.

PVC bars can get chipped or cracked, so it's necessary to inspect the cage and clean or replace it according to the level of damage. 

rat held with two hands

Your Pet Rat Deserves the Best: Create Their Perfect Home Now

Setting up the cage, choosing the proper cage size, ensuring a safe environment, and providing adequate toys and entertainment for your rat are all crucial factors that together make a perfect home for your pet. Quality Cage company will fulfill every need and enrich your pets' life, offering customized cages and accessories for a perfect pet rat cage setup.


How should a rat cage be set up?

You should place water, food, suitable bedding, and plenty of toys and climbing tools while securing the cage and ensuring enough airflow.

What should you put in a rat cage?

Rat supplies inside the cage are food trays, toys, bedding, a rat hammock, tubes and pipes, ladders, a shelter for nesting, and a litter box. You also need to provide your rat with chewing materials, climbing toys, exercise wheels, and other entertainment options.

How much bedding do rats need?

Covering the bottom of the cage with animal bedding is enough for rats to nest. The bedding should be half an inch to one inch thick. Alternatively, you can create a bigger bedding bundle in the corner for more comfort.

Do rats like being in their cage?

Rats should be entertained inside the cage, or they will quickly get bored. However, you should provide your pet rats time outside the cage for an hour or two daily to explore and get adequate exercise. 


Have Questions About Rat Cage Setup Or Rats?

Email us at cages@qualitycage.com

Author Bio: Morgan Mulac

Morgan has been a professional copywriter for over five years. Morgan also happens to be a chinchilla owner for many years. Now she is merging her two passions to create chinchilla expert care guides to help other chinchilla owners.
Morgan loves all things artistic and enjoys making others happy through her art and stories.

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