Choosing the right cage
When choosing a cage for your pet Roof Rat, you need to consider the following:
- Roof Rats love to chew, and they will chew on almost anything they can reach with their teeth. Avoid cages made with plastic or wood. They don’t chew on the floor, so a plastic litter pan is OK if you have a drop in cage so they cannot reach the sides of the litter pan.
- They will also chew on plastic parts of water bottles: more on this later.
- Roof Rats sometimes run frantically and kick their litter around. A nice, deep litter pan means less sweeping. Good choice of litter also helps: more on this later.
- Roof Rats (especially young ones) may squeeze through any gap bigger than 1/2 inch. Check carefully, as some poorly made cages (like Ware) have gaps between panels, or where the litter pan latches to the cage.
- Roof Rats are arboreal, so they are slender, athletic and their legs and paws are large, tough and muscular. They don’t really need ramps to climb around in a wire cage, and don’t seem to be prone to bumblefoot in my experience. If you do want to use ramp or floor coverings anyway, be prepared to replace them very frequently (see item #1 above.)
- Roof Rats’ urine is smelly for us, and bad for them. Make sure your cage is well ventilated and there is no-place for urine to collect which won’t be absorbed by litter. Avoid very large, solid shelves. Any solid shelves should ideally be powder-coated metal, to prevent urine stains and odor. Avoid plastic shelves. Never use fish tanks for Roof Rats.
- Unless you really trust your Roof Rats, avoid cages where the entire side is a door, because they may try to sneak around your hands when you put them back. If the door opening is smaller than the side of the cage, then you can use the lip of the door opening to block the rat from immediately darting back out after you put him back.
- Cages with drop-in bottoms make it easy to change their litter without disturbing your rats. During the day, your rats will usually be sleeping in their hammocks. So, you simply unlatch the litter pan and lift out the cage, rats and all, and set it down on the ground. Clean the litter pan and add fresh litter, then replace the cage!
- Until you have bonded with your rats, you will need to be careful when you take them out. It is better to start them off in a smaller cage that you can carry into a safe place for socializing them (also see the section on socializing them.) For babies, the small KW Rodent cage (see below) or a cheap mouse or hamster cage works fine until they outgrow it, and it will also be useful for transporting them home after adopting them.
We recommend KW Cages and Pointer Hill Cages. For transporting babies home and initially socializing them, we recommend KW Cages’ small rodent cage:
For one adult rat, the “Deluxe” rat cage is OK if you take it out a lot. We use this type cage for female rats that are pregnant or nursing a litter, as it is the right size and shape for a large wooden house and keeps the babies safely with the mom.
While for 2-4 adult rats, we use a customized Pointer Hill model BR804. Important: If you want to order this cage directly from Pointer Hill, tell them to put the door in front and use 2 door latches, or your rats will eventually escape!
If you are picking your rats up from us, we suggest that you order our Roof Rat Starter Kit, which includes an already assembled cage (the cage from Pointer Hill requires significant assembly), 2 hammocks, a water dish, litter and food for not much more money than their cage will cost you when you include shipping.
We use exactly the same setup and food for our own rats, so we can confidently say that it will work for yours, too.
If you can pick up a used Martin’s Cage, like R-670 or R-680 (powder-coated not essential, don’t get the flip top!), that will also work. Unfortunately, they are out of business, so you won’t be able to find them new, anymore.
Any cage with a “tub” plastic bottom, or plastic levels. Roof Rats will chew these, and escape. Also, this kind of door latch is not very good.
Critter Nation’s cage comes with a shallow, plastic litter pan. And the door opening is entire side of cage. If you replace the litter pan with a 3 inch stainless steel one from Bass equipment, this cage is OK for tame, adult Roof Rats. Unfortunately, this combination will cost over $200 with shipping.
Cage which has gaps between the panels or where the tray latches to the cage. Young Roof Rats can push the latch out then squeeze through (this case also has a gap in the wires behind the latch, not visible in the photo.) Also, the metal selves do not attach securely to the cage, and Roof Rats will make a mess of them almost every day. And they will chew the PVC coating off all of the wires.