Pine has been been touted as being just as bad as cedar for a very long time. However, the kiln-drying process renders it safe to use for small animals. Pine has natural odor and ammonia control, and it is very cheap, making it an excellent option for rat bedding. The same goes for aspen, though it is generally a little more expensive.
While paper beddings tend to be highly absorbent, they offer absolutely no ammonia control, let alone odor control. Rats and other rodents have also been known to ingest the paper beddings. They also tend to be very dusty compared to other bedding options. The only paper-based bedding that is worth anything is Kaytee Clean & Cozy Unscented.
A type of bedding that is rarely discussed is corncob bedding. From all of the studies, it shows that rats frequently prefer it over wood beddings, and it has a high absorbency and relatively decent ammonia control. So why isn’t it used as much? Simply put, once wet, corncob bedding has a nasty habit of molding rather quickly, and it isn’t very cost effective.
Fleece has zero natural odor or ammonia control. Unless treated beforehand, liquids also tend to pill on top of the fleece or get wicked underneath, leaving a puddle
of urine to sit and ferment. Fleece, in order to be used properly, must be swapped out every two days and a
secondary absorbent layer must be beneath it to allow for the urine to dry. Ammonia levels quickly become dangerous when fleece is used incorrectly.
Bleuming Tails Rattery does not endorse the use of fleece due to the difficulty of using it correctly.
Rats are fairly large rodents that require .5-1 sq ft of cage space per rat. A common thought among the pet community is that rats require 2-2.5 sq ft of cage per rat. While this is great, too much space per amount of rats in an area can cause problems. Rats are burrowing animals and prefer darker, more cramped quarters vs large open spaces.
Rats are fossorial by nature and prefer floor space over vertical space. In other words, rats prefer to burrow rather than climb. A fall from a tall cage can result in serious injury as they are not particularly graceful. Rats have extremely sensitive respiratory systems and react poorly to any amount of ammonia or other scents in the room. Even a change in type of bedding can trigger the sniffles.
Traditional barred cages are top-of-mind when it comes to enclosures. Barred cages should have spaces no larger than one-half inch wide. If a rat can fit its head through a hole, it can fit its entire body. When cleaning a barred cage, you must be sure to wipe down each bar in order to prevent the buildup of urine and dangerous ammonia. For cages such as the Double Critter Nation, the entire cage needs to be broken down and thoroughly rinsed as urine and grime filters into the joints of the cage.
Bleuming Tails Rattery does not endorse the use of tanks for rats as enclosures. Tanks, due to lack of ventilation, build up ammonia in a dangerously short amount of time. Even with commercially sold tank toppers, the ammonia settles into the bottom of the tank, as it is heavier than air. Tanks are heavy and difficult to clean, and do not offer the correct amount of space or enrichment opportunities for happy pet rats.
A popular caging option is a bin cage. A bin cage is crafted from a 110 quart Sterilite bin and has multiple windows cut out and replaced with half-inch wire mesh. Because rats are fossorial, these bins offer a great amount of floor space, and they can be decorated similarly to a barred cage. A 110 quart can hold, on average, 4 adult males and 5 adult females respectively and costs roughly $40. These cages can be customized and can be as large as you want by connecting bins with PVC piping. Be sure to watch the 6-part video surrounding bin cages that can be found here: http://bit.ly/2Y5CO9H
While some homemade cages work, cages crafted primarily from wood are generally unacceptable. Unless thoroughly sealed, the wood will soak up urine and will reek very quickly without any way to properly clean and remove the smell. Homemade cages are generally not secure and offer many escape routes.
A Special Note on Bin Cages
Be sure to watch the 6-part video surrounding bin cages that can be found here: http://bit.ly/2Y5CO9H
Bin cages are surrounded in controversy among pet rat owners. It has long been thought that rats love to climb and should have ample climbing opportunities.
However, the Norway rat (our domesticated pet rats) are fossorial by nature and prefer tight, dark burrows. They’re not adept climbers and can be quite clumsy.
Rats are active, inquisitive animals and their desire to explore is often misconstrued as a desire to climb. Tall aviary cages that have been modified to accommodate rodents often pose a health risk due to falling. If there aren’t enough levels or materials to catch them, they could fall upwards of 3 feet depending on how tall the cage is and where they were at when they fell.
A bin cage offers more floor space vs vertical space which is more inline with their natural needs. These cages are inexpensive to make and can be completely customized. The standard bin cage is crafted from a 110 qt Sterilite bin but other bin options exist. You just need to be mindful of 1. chewable edges within the bin 2. flat sides to be able to cleanly cut out a space for a mesh window and 3. how you will arrange accessories.
Bin cages do take a little more ingenuity than a traditional barred cage, but they are the much safer, cheaper, and easier to clean option. The only time bin cages may not be ideal is when you have a heavy chewer in your colony.
– Bin with latching or snapping lids (most common are the 110 qt Sterilite bins (Target), 120qt bins (Walmart), 50 gallon bins (Walmart?), and Christmas tree totes around the holidays.
– 1/2 in wire mesh (not chicken wire as the holes are too large). ( Click here.)
– Zip ties or bolts/screws/washers (zip ties can be either plastic or metal)
– Cutting tool (Heat knife, dremel, jigsaw, etc)
The wire mesh should be attached to the bin from the inside of the bin, not outside. This deters them from chewing on the cut edges. At least 2 sides need to be cut out and replaced with mesh to provide adequate air flow. Additionally, make sure the window starts 3 to 4 inches from the bottom of the bin to provide a lip to keep bedding inside of the bin.Bins can be customized into double and triple decker bins, doors, hinged lids, etc. It’s entirely up to your imagination and some trial and error to produce the final product.