Author Topic: DCN setup and upkeep questions.  (Read 1001 times)

Offline catsites

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DCN setup and upkeep questions.
« on: February 26, 2016, 06:32:44 PM »
I brought home four boys at the beginning of the month and am trying to get into a routine as far as cage upkeep.

I have a bunch of hammocks that I switch out every couple days if they start to feel/look/smell dirty. I don't take them all out at once, just rotate the dirtiest ones.

I took out the middle of the double critter nation so the only "floor" is the bottom where I have a cement mixing tub filled with aspen. They always make the biggest mess in the one corner by the ramp so I put a litter box with corncob litter right there so I can dump it easier. I take this big tub out and dump/deep clean it once a week and deep clean the two shelves at the same time.

There are then the two shelves that are giving me some issues. The lower level has their food dish and a brick that sits under the water bottle, they very seldom pee or poop on this level. The next one up is directly underneath the favorite hammock so it gets the most poop and always has pee on it. First I used fleece with towels underneath clipped down. They completely DESTROYED the towels and ended up making a huge mess and I was worried about toes getting caught up. Considering that I also have to pay for laundry I figure it's not worth it to use liners.

Right now I've been using a Kleenex to pick up any messes and then using unscented baby wipes to wipe down the level. I do this morning and night and if I'm home during the day I'll clean it again in the afternoon. I also deep clean these levels at least once a week.

I have the cage set up in the spare bedroom so it doesn't have great air flow and gets pretty smelly. Nothing that I can't handle but my husband has commented it on it a few times already. I leave the door open at night so it can "air out" but leave it closed during the day because I don't want my 95 pound Shepherd to stress them out.

Is there anything else that I could do to help keep it clean and smelling as best as it can? I'd love advice on other ways to optimize the setup :)

I am planning on setting up a litter box on the top level and possibly getting an air purifier.

Offline Michael C

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Re: DCN setup and upkeep questions.
« Reply #1 on: February 26, 2016, 07:43:51 PM »
Clipping fleece to the shelves didn't work for me at all, either. One of my boys was constantly pulling at the fleece where it wrapped around the tray. When he realized that the clips were preventing him getting to the edges of the fabric, he just chewed the fleece around the clips. I switched to a mat that just sits on top of the shelves. I make mine reversible with fleece on both sides of a uhaul pad. Some people clip them down. I don't. The boys hated things clipped down but they totally leave them alone if they're just sitting on the shelf. I clean the cage liners once a week so it's only a couple bucks in quarters for me.

If you really hate fleece, you could get some deep pans and use aspen on the shelves as well. These aren't cheap. I'd probably encourage you to try the fleece pads before making an investment like this.

I also rotate their favorite hammocks (flat pockets) a couple times throughout the week.

Getting another litter box on an upper level might also help quite a bit. From what I've heard from people with the DCN is that the rats spend much of their time on the upper level anyway.

I haven't tried this, but "pee rocks" are apparently a thing. I guess rats will pee on a rock if it's provided. You could put a stone in the litter box to see if this encourages them to pee in the litter box more often (less pee on the shelves and hammocks).

Be careful with the height of the cage without the middle level. I had my cage set up like this briefly but I found I had to hang a million hammocks to prevent potential falls from being dangerous. A rat could be seriously injured if they fell a foot, bounced off the edge of a shelf, then landed on the bottom of the cage. I'd recommend making sure there's plenty to break their fall every six to seven inches.


Offline gawgeouspaws

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Re: DCN setup and upkeep questions.
« Reply #2 on: February 28, 2016, 09:35:04 AM »
I had a similar problem! My boys are five months old, so they're essentially destructive teenagers right now. I had always used fleece for my girls, so I figured I'd do the same with them. Nope. I would clip u-haul furniture pads down to their base pan and shelf, and tried both tucking/clipping the fleece over it and leaving the fleece loose over it. Then I tried leaving the furniture pads loose. I feel like I tried every permutation of clipping and tucking and draping, good God! They would chew and rip and tunnel through everything, not to mention the constant washing because of the pee and poo and food particulates that somehow got everywhere!

Then I remembered newspaper. The ink can be dangerous for rats unless it's soy based, and it can also stain their coats. So I purchased a huge pack of blank newsprint from Staples (that just happened to be almost the exact measurements of the base of a Critter Nation), and I've been using that for a couple of days now. The good thing about the newsprint is that it catches all the mess, and then every 2-3 days you just roll it up, pull it out, and throw it away. I don't clip it down, but I put two layers down on the base pan, and I fold one sheet in half for the shelf. So far, they've torn into the top layer, but the second layer is relatively unscathed. Plus, it doesn't matter if it gets ripped up, it's just paper! Totally safe paper.

I've found that boys are just naturally stinkier than lady rats. Neutering can help, but my boys are neutered and there's still a certain aroma. The only way to really stay on top of it, in my opinion, is to just keep everything as clean as possible. If I gave them fleece, it got dirty and stinky. If I give them paper, it will get dirty and stinky. The question then becomes, if everything will get gross anyways, what's the easiest thing to clean? For some people, washing fleece is easier. So far, for me, the paper is easier because I don't have to worry about washing it; I can just toss it in the trash and put more down.

I started a thread about "low maintenance cages" where I basically say the same thing that I said in this reply, except longer. There's already been a little bit of discussion where someone suggested some of the cons of using paper, so you can read that if you'd like!

Here it is:

Good luck with your new boys!
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