Once you’ve chosen the ideal home for your rats, it’s time to furnish and decorate! You’ll want to include bedding, boxes and hideouts, hammocks, toys, a tube or two, a wheel, chew toys and litter boxes.
Rats love to hide out and sleep in small, enclosed areas. They enjoy exploring cardboard boxes as well as climbing and sleeping on top of them. Doorways cut into several sides of each box give your rats at least two options for entering and exiting their boxes. I do this because I think of what it’s like for wild rats: If they were to get cornered with no alternative way out, wild rats would easily become food for a predator.
When choosing boxes, make sure they don’t have any food residue, tape or staples that might be ingested. If your rats don’t get attracted to eating or chewing on tape or staples, then you don’t have to worry about avoiding them.
Line each box with soft cloth such as an old t-shirt, a section of a fleece blanket or some flannel. I also like to place a soft piece of fabric on top of each box. This way I can easily change out the cloth, rather than the entire box, if it becomes soiled. I recycle the old boxes about once every week or two. I usually place at least one box on every level of their cage. Often I’ll also place two boxes side by side or on top of another with a connecting door so they can go from “room to room”.
Besides boxes, pet rats also enjoy sleeping and hiding out in hanging “beds”. These can be hammocks, hanging tents and even a Pirate Ship! Hanging tubes are fun, too. The idea is to make their home as multi-dimensional as possible.
Other items that can be hung or attached to walls and ceilings of your rats’ home are rope ladders, tree branches (bought from a pet store) and anything else they can climb. Do not bring in a tree branch from outdoors for your rats. It could contain insects, parasites and even be an unsafe wood for rats to chew. Sometimes great rat cage accessories can be found by looking at toys designed for parrots. Wooden ladders and tree branch perches are perfect examples of accessories made for birds that also work well for pet rats.
Tubes are fun to place on the floor of your rats’ home. You can buy pipes used for building construction very inexpensively. Long cardboard boxes or tubes such as those used for shipping posters are fun rat tunnels as well.
Wodent wheels are the best! This type of exercise wheel comes in various sizes on up to “Wobust” for large rats. They are very safe since there are no rungs or spokes in the wheel in which a rat’s feet or tail can get caught and injured. I’ve found that some rats take to the wheel right away and others just aren’t interested. Whenever one of my rats does use the wheel, I make sure to praise him or her. They love being recognized for their accomplishments and, by praising them, you’re letting him/her know how much you love it when they use their wheel.
Please Note: Be sure to get a wheel that’s large enough for your pet rat. If the wheel is too small it may cause injury to your rat’s back. Because of this some people prefer saucer or dish type spinners. For most rats, however, a Wobust Wodent Wheel is large enough.