Author Topic: "Habitat Simulated"/"Organic" Rat Enclosure  (Read 6623 times)

Offline Em B

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"Habitat Simulated"/"Organic" Rat Enclosure
« on: December 28, 2007, 06:54:14 AM »
Hello! I'm considering getting a pair of rats and was daydreaming about a more "natural" enclosure.

What I have so far, is I want to find an aquarium (40g. or larger-) and fill it with a mixture of soils to the near top. Depending on the  size of the tank, I would also like to maintain a live plant inside the enclosure. Obviously something that wouldn't be problematic for the rats in any way, and ideally something branching and winding that could also be used to climb on. Said plant would probably also have to be pretty resilient to resist mischievious ratties.(alliteration, anyone? :cheeky:) I would also like to place a small, contained wading pool at this 'base level', and hopefully keep it clean daily  ;) Enclosing or attached to the aquarium will be those grated office/storage crates that you can assemble panel by panel. I can't estimate how tall this might be at this point, but as the cage ascends, I would also like to install multiple levels(that somehow curve around and fit the plant.. that will probably have to be pruned often.) At the very top of the enclosure, probably resting on top and outside of it, I want to keep a natural sun lamp. And to counter this, I will probably keep a temperature gauge inside, somehow. I also plan to keep plenty of nesting materials, as well as toys and whatnot in the enclosure. Ropes and such dangling from the plant/habitat exterior, and probably shredded fabric for nesting material.

There is some good reading about a 'glass-sided digging box' and some soil recipes that can be found at http://www.ratbehavior.org/

The author describes how 'Boise' studied digging behavior by creating a glass-sided digging box. The rats could create burrows within the box, and the topsoil would be refreshed every ten days. The soil as a whole was replaced every thirty.

But has anyone done something similar to this? Or can anybody offer any tips or advice?
Does this seem as though it would an appropriate enclosure for a couple of ratties? Would mites be a double-threat(due to the soil and plant)? Would the natural-sun lamp be an ok idea?

I enjoy entertaining the thought of this idea, and I think it might be a very stimulating environment for a pair of rats.

I'll be glad to know what you think!

Offline Topaz

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Re: "Habitat Simulated"/"Organic" Rat Enclosure
« Reply #1 on: December 28, 2007, 12:36:21 PM »
I would imagine that would be incredibly hard to keep clean  :confused:

A live plant more than likely won't survive rats chewing on it.  You don't want the rats walking on wet soil, either.  Tanks tend to trap ammonia build up as well, which isn't very healthy for rats.  Only type of digging box I used was full of either fleece or paper towels and the rats would nest in them.  I also wouldn't add any type of lamp on rats in a glass tank, might get too hot for them.

This "natural" enclosure idea might be good for play time, but I wouldn't use it as a living space, personally.

Offline Em B

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Re: "Habitat Simulated"/"Organic" Rat Enclosure
« Reply #2 on: December 28, 2007, 02:48:35 PM »
Hmm. Well thank you!

Offline Topaz

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Re: "Habitat Simulated"/"Organic" Rat Enclosure
« Reply #3 on: December 28, 2007, 02:50:40 PM »
Hmm. Well thank you!

Others may have more useful opinions than me, too.  I just prefer to go the "easiest to clean" route. hehe

Offline Squeeky

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Re: "Habitat Simulated"/"Organic" Rat Enclosure
« Reply #4 on: December 28, 2007, 11:38:37 PM »
I hope you rethink your idea as I don't think it would be very healthy for rats.
It would also be extremely difficult to keep clean.

I hope that you will get a large, powder coated cage - large foot print of at least 30 in x 18 in, and lots of levels.
If you check out the threads you will find that rats love chew toys, hammocks, solid 12 inch diameter wheels, tubes, etc.  (Rats need a min. of 2 cubic feet of cage space per rat - more is better.)

When you set up a free range (supervised) play area for your rats you might want to include a large digging box ... a friend tried it and the ratties loved it, esp. digging up the plants and eating the roots.
You could include various ideas for a more natural environment in this play area.
Just be careful about soil, plants, etc. so that you only use materials that are safe for ratties.


Offline mandycoot

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Re: "Habitat Simulated"/"Organic" Rat Enclosure
« Reply #5 on: December 28, 2007, 11:46:31 PM »
While it sounds like a neat idea, I honestly cannot imagine how awful cleaning a set-up like that would be! Rats are destructive enough with plastic and fleece, and I've seen what they do with dirt and plants. :eek:

Why not get a regular ol' cage setup and give them lots of "natual habitat" enrichment exercises/play activities? You could grow wheatgrass and let them romp around and nibble at it, give them a soil digging box in the bathtub, getting a playpen with a top that you can set out on the grass in the summer... You can add naturalistic things to their cage, too, like those wood bird perches.

Offline Em B

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Re: "Habitat Simulated"/"Organic" Rat Enclosure
« Reply #6 on: December 29, 2007, 12:53:23 AM »
Hm.

Basically, what I had in mind was a cage that was aesthetically pleasing, as well as very fun for any rats that might inhabit it. I don't want to just get a regular ol' cage that's pre-established. I want to build something and be creative- I wanted this to be a project  :D I also understand that I could be creative in building toys and sewing pouches for my rats, but I want to do more than just that.

Perhaps it's true that a poor plant would be mauled by mischievous little ratties. I have yet to come up with anything I could imagine durable enough, so I'm considering trying to feel something else out. Perhaps the aquarium is less manageable than I thought, too.

However, wheatgrass sounds like an interesting idea (: As well as wooden bird perches, or maybe some sterilized driftwood that's used for reptile cages. Hmmm. I'm just not drawn to wire/barred cages, though I understand how functional they are, I want to try something new, or at least put a twist on something old.
« Last Edit: December 29, 2007, 12:58:57 AM by Midsummer »

Offline Apple

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Re: "Habitat Simulated"/"Organic" Rat Enclosure
« Reply #7 on: December 29, 2007, 07:09:37 AM »
Hmm... You could build your own grotto style cage, which is usually made out of wood, so you could seal it with non-toxic varnish and then screw things like drift wood, ropes, etc into it. Then, you could have a wheat-grass container covering one of the levels (it would have to have a plexi-glass lining, so that all the soil and stuff wouldn't be flung everywhere). Do keep in mind that a grotto doesn't offer as much ventilation.




P.S. (that's also my Birthday)

Offline vintagerat

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Re: "Habitat Simulated"/"Organic" Rat Enclosure
« Reply #8 on: December 29, 2007, 12:23:02 PM »
To be honest, you need to do what is best for rats in this case. Rats in a tank in the first place, is not a good idea, like others have mentioned because of ammonia build-up.

What is best for the rats? A nice large wire cage.

Offline knuckles

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Re: "Habitat Simulated"/"Organic" Rat Enclosure
« Reply #9 on: December 29, 2007, 12:32:55 PM »
well it would be alot harder to keep clean in my opinion,  since you would basically only have the tank as a "digging box" and not be the actually total part of their cage, it might be doable.  IF you really commit to keeping it clean.  I think it would have to be a pretty big tank too to make it work. 

What I worry about is say 6 months from now "life changes" as it has a habit of doing and you no longer have the time to really clean it out like it needs to be. 

Offline Squeeky

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Re: "Habitat Simulated"/"Organic" Rat Enclosure
« Reply #10 on: December 29, 2007, 03:04:26 PM »
Tanks are very unhealthy for rats.  They really do need very large powder coated cages.
Martins makes great cages (www.martinscages.com) and you can custom order cages to your design and then assemble the parts qwhen the cag arrives.
You can be quite creative in setting up your cages.

Here is a cage you might like:   http://ratfanclub.org/cagepln2.html
People do use steralized wood with their rats.
And there might be useful info here:  http://ratfanclub.org/helpinfo.html

As I previously said, you could arrange their free range play area making use of many of your ideas.

Offline knuckles

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Re: "Habitat Simulated"/"Organic" Rat Enclosure
« Reply #11 on: December 29, 2007, 03:11:49 PM »
if you read what was said about how it would be set up, the tank would just be a big "pan" for the cage on top.  the tank wouldn't be the whole living area.

I had a tank/cage combo for a long time and it was a PITA to clean.   

Offline Sunilata

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Re: "Habitat Simulated"/"Organic" Rat Enclosure
« Reply #12 on: December 29, 2007, 03:24:48 PM »
You would make a nice salamander or reptile owner, I think. :) They love those types of enclosures and they are far less destructive, and wouldn't have to be cleaned out nearly as often.

A pet store around here once had the most beautiful set-up, with several green anoles in what looked like something out of a nature magazine, a filtered waterfall with a small pool at the bottom with tiny fish... it was beautiful! It would be so fun to create.

Plus they'd be sure to enjoy the sun lamp. :)
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Offline Topaz

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Re: "Habitat Simulated"/"Organic" Rat Enclosure
« Reply #13 on: December 29, 2007, 04:44:14 PM »
You can be very creative in building your own wire cage, as well.  I've done this quite a few times, and it's fun, though I always go back to bought cages due to ease of cleaning.  Connecting multiple cages with "tunnel" like tubes (you can make these yourself, as well, using many different materials.)  My original idea for my rat room was going to be a giant "rat city" so to speak, with many cages all connected with tunnels, etc. 

Offline okiron

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Re: "Habitat Simulated"/"Organic" Rat Enclosure
« Reply #14 on: December 29, 2007, 05:27:17 PM »
ya know I can't help but feel like I'm surrounded by brain-washed loonies when I'm reading the same exact responses day after day with no flexibility. Especially when they refuse to read the original post. How many people have to emphasis that OMG tanks are sooo bad!!! Except...it's gonna be completely filled with soil people! Learn to read and be an individual!

As for my 2 cents..if you don't mind cleaning it..go for it :) I'd love to see pictures. Ratties are like children, there's no one right way to raise them. You gotta do what you think is best. Use other people as suggestions and maybe guidelines but don't use them as absolute truths.

Offline vintagerat

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Re: "Habitat Simulated"/"Organic" Rat Enclosure
« Reply #15 on: December 29, 2007, 06:18:25 PM »
Ratties are like children, there's no one right way to raise them. You gotta do what you think is best. Use other people as suggestions and maybe guidelines but don't use them as absolute truths.


Rats health is all the same  :). A tank is NOT a cage for a rat, it is more like an ammonia chamber, that is really almost impossible to keep really clean. When I had my 4 foster babies and their mommy inside of a tank for weaning, I had to clean it daily because it stunk like ammonia by the end of the first day.

I am sorry, we all follow each other here because it is what is right for the rats. Most of us of follow each other on RO too, okiron, because it is what is right for the rabbits...as far as cages, health, and toys go. What would you say to someone on RO who said they wanted to keep their rabbits inside of "decent" sized plexi-glass "tank" with grass, dirt, and trees....because that is like their natural habitat? The rabbit more than likely would be unhappy...and I would imagine it would be hard to properly clean...and smell after a short time  :-\.



Rat health is not something to take lightly, neither is their cage options. The rat's well-being needs to come before your "likes". I'll admit it...I hate having a huge hulking cage in my bedroom right now, but I must have it in there until I get my own house this next spring. I could easily stick my rats inside of a huge tank and put it up on the shelf in the closet, but I don't because I know my rats need that big hulking cage in the middle of my bedroom.

Offline hannahchase

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Re: "Habitat Simulated"/"Organic" Rat Enclosure
« Reply #16 on: December 29, 2007, 07:00:11 PM »
Hm.

Basically, what I had in mind was a cage that was aesthetically pleasing, as well as very fun for any rats that might inhabit it. I don't want to just get a regular ol' cage that's pre-established.

A regular ol' cage that is pre-established is what is best for the rats. Martinscages.com is your best bet or a Ferret Nation cage. Perhaps the set up you require is best suited for another animal, but certainly not rats. Its the comfort and safety of the rat that is of the greatest importance.

Offline okiron

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Re: "Habitat Simulated"/"Organic" Rat Enclosure
« Reply #17 on: December 29, 2007, 07:00:52 PM »
Ratties are like children, there's no one right way to raise them. You gotta do what you think is best. Use other people as suggestions and maybe guidelines but don't use them as absolute truths.


Rats health is all the same  :). A tank is NOT a cage for a rat, it is more like an ammonia chamber, that is really almost impossible to keep really clean. When I had my 4 foster babies and their mommy inside of a tank for weaning, I had to clean it daily because it stunk like ammonia by the end of the first day.

I am sorry, we all follow each other here because it is what is right for the rats. Most of us of follow each other on RO too, okiron, because it is what is right for the rabbits...as far as cages, health, and toys go. What would you say to someone on RO who said they wanted to keep their rabbits inside of "decent" sized plexi-glass "tank" with grass, dirt, and trees....because that is like their natural habitat? The rabbit more than likely would be unhappy...and I would imagine it would be hard to properly clean...and smell after a short time  :-\.



Rat health is not something to take lightly, neither is their cage options. The rat's well-being needs to come before your "likes". I'll admit it...I hate having a huge hulking cage in my bedroom right now, but I must have it in there until I get my own house this next spring. I could easily stick my rats inside of a huge tank and put it up on the shelf in the closet, but I don't because I know my rats need that big hulking cage in the middle of my bedroom.

Unless the rat is planning on burrowing itself down deep and staying there, I don't see how it's this death chamber you make it out to be. It's going to be filled with soil to the near top and as long as regular cleanings are set, I don't see the problem. Especially more so because it's only the base and not the whole cage. If someone on RO had a great, unique idea to house their rabbits then fine but ""decent" sized plexi-glass "tank" with grass, dirt, and trees....because that is like their natural habitat" is not what midsummer is saying so why don't we stop putting words in each others mouths? :)

Offline hannahchase

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Re: "Habitat Simulated"/"Organic" Rat Enclosure
« Reply #18 on: December 29, 2007, 07:06:30 PM »
ya know I can't help but feel like I'm surrounded by brain-washed loonies when I'm reading the same exact responses day after day with no flexibility. Especially when they refuse to read the original post. How many people have to emphasis that OMG tanks are sooo bad!!! Except...it's gonna be completely filled with soil people! Learn to read and be an individual!

As for my 2 cents..if you don't mind cleaning it..go for it :) I'd love to see pictures. Ratties are like children, there's no one right way to raise them. You gotta do what you think is best. Use other people as suggestions and maybe guidelines but don't use them as absolute truths.

I read her post, we all have. What did we miss that you must point out to us? She wants to fill her tank almost to the top with soil. You can not keep a rat in something like that. What is the rat going to sleep on? Bare soil? No shelves or levels in the tank? No igloos or hammocks? No, you don't gotta do what you think is best, you have to do what is best for the rat or don't get them. What does learning to be an individual have to do with any of this discussion?

Offline CassiHL

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Re: "Habitat Simulated"/"Organic" Rat Enclosure
« Reply #19 on: December 29, 2007, 07:17:23 PM »
Enclosing or attached to the aquarium will be those grated office/storage crates that you can assemble panel by panel. I can't estimate how tall this might be at this point, but as the cage ascends, I would also like to install multiple levels(that somehow curve around and fit the plant.. that will probably have to be pruned often.)

I think this is the part most people are missing... I also think that if the aquarium portion of the cage can be kept clean, it might be pretty cool. It sounds like she wants to build a big wire cage surrounding or on top of the aquarium filled with soil. I don't know about the tree though. It probably wouldn't last long with chewers.

Offline Bekah

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Re: "Habitat Simulated"/"Organic" Rat Enclosure
« Reply #20 on: December 29, 2007, 07:18:37 PM »
In addition to what everyone else has said, I can't help but think that soil just added to a tank wouldn't be very safe for them to tunnel in.  Soil outside is hard-packed and has a myriad of roots of varying lengths and sizes--from grasses to trees--to hold it in place.  Soil you've added to a tank will be much looser, regardless of how much you try to pack it down, and won't have those roots running through it. The roots of a single plant wouldn't cut it, and even those wouldn't get a chance to really become anchored in place with all of the cleanings and changing of the dirt.

I picture something out of that old show Rescue 911 occurring, with the rats gleefully enjoying their cage right up to the moment the tunnels collapse on them.

Offline okiron

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Re: "Habitat Simulated"/"Organic" Rat Enclosure
« Reply #21 on: December 29, 2007, 07:19:53 PM »
ya know I can't help but feel like I'm surrounded by brain-washed loonies when I'm reading the same exact responses day after day with no flexibility. Especially when they refuse to read the original post. How many people have to emphasis that OMG tanks are sooo bad!!! Except...it's gonna be completely filled with soil people! Learn to read and be an individual!

As for my 2 cents..if you don't mind cleaning it..go for it :) I'd love to see pictures. Ratties are like children, there's no one right way to raise them. You gotta do what you think is best. Use other people as suggestions and maybe guidelines but don't use them as absolute truths.

I read her post, we all have. What did we miss that you must point out to us? She wants to fill her tank almost to the top with soil. You can not keep a rat in something like that. What is the rat going to sleep on? Bare soil? No shelves or levels in the tank? No igloos or hammocks? No, you don't gotta do what you think is best, you have to do what is best for the rat or don't get them. What does learning to be an individual have to do with any of this discussion?

Lol so instead of "educating" me or anyone else you all choose to gang up and a bunch of argumentative bullys? I'm pretty sure that's working backwards. If I really was uneducated, I doubt I'll be willing to listen to people who are being very defensive and argumentative. And as for what you missed, what CassiHL said.

Offline CassiHL

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Re: "Habitat Simulated"/"Organic" Rat Enclosure
« Reply #22 on: December 29, 2007, 07:24:03 PM »
What about this?
http://petchauffeur.net/Merchant2/merchant.mvc?page=TPCS/PROD/marchioro-rabbit-cages/SMO09471
I have a similar Marchioro cage, and love it. You could fill the bottom with 3-4 inches of soil for them to dig around in and possibly grow some grass in, and not have to worry about the dirt collapsing on them. Plus the top part of the cage is great for hanging hammocks, branches, baskets, etc. on. Bekah has a good point about the soil possibly collapsing.

Offline vintagerat

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Re: "Habitat Simulated"/"Organic" Rat Enclosure
« Reply #23 on: December 29, 2007, 07:29:36 PM »
I know that midsummer is going to use the tank as a "base", but I still can't imagine this being a good set-up for rats. The rat will more than likely hang out in the base (the tank). I also agree that the tunnels may cave.

The base of your cage should be long AND wide. A tank may be long, but it will not be wide enough.


Great suggestion, Cassi. I have a Feisty Ferret cage, and I love it. It is roomy and a container or a cat box can be filled with soil to dig.

Offline LifeInCircuit

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Re: "Habitat Simulated"/"Organic" Rat Enclosure
« Reply #24 on: December 29, 2007, 07:50:32 PM »
I don't really have an issue with this idea in that whole "tanks are evil" kind of way(which I am a firm believer in). My main concern is a) urine/feces will soak into the dirt and it will become a giant breeding ground for bacteria in no time, so the soil would have to be replaced very often(all of it, not just the top layer or so, as the urine WILL soak down). Of course soil does have some properties which break down this sort of waste, but it will get out of hand in such a small area(small in the grand scheme of the planet)..and b) as has been mentioned as well, no plants will exist for very long in that sort of enclosure. They'll be bits and pieces in minutes.


It is an interesting idea, and I don't think it should be just shot down as this is an area where there ISN'T just one right way to do things. I think it would be more efficient to go about it in a different way, however. Something which would require less maintenance because even if you have the time now, you may not always(as knuckles mentioned).

A large piece of driftwood will become soiled and have to be thrown out pretty quickly as well, and can be expensive to replace, so I would avoid that, or much wood in general. Things like wooden bird ladders and such aren't a big deal as they're inexpensive. I think the best way to provide a stimulating environment is to add LOTS of toys, things to climb on, different textures, and possibly even design your own cage(I have seen some really cool home made cages! Just don't expect it to be a cheap venture).