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Current cages

I have a total of eleven cages - it may seem slightly excessive but with my Lovecraft breeding venture I do need a larger pool of cages to draw from. That's my excuse anyway... At the moment I have four cages permanently assembled; an SRS, an SRS XL, and a Rockford (as two separate cages). I also have a varying number of smaller cages up: an Igor and four Alaskas, which aren't permanent homes to anyone but very useful for general rat tetris).

Cages currently in permanent or temporary use:

  • Savic Royal Suite (95x63x120 cm) - this used to make up two parts of my triple cage, which I sadly had to give up as my knees have never been great and I felt like climbing up and down on a stool was an accident waiting to happen. It has recently gone back up as a standard double cage, and is home to my big girl group - I have taken the middle out so it's one big space for more climbing opportunities. It's a lovely solid cage although I really wish they could put some feeder doors in for better access. I've also had to make the usual 15cm perspex trays to keep substrate in.
  • Savic Royal Suite XL (115x67.5x153cm) - this is also a double cage, with each section measuring 115x67.5x70cm. It was supposed to replace my triple cage and allow me to keep two larger groups in it without using up much more floorspace. I've had it for a few months and am slightly disappointed with it so far, although that's definitely in part because as per the smaller model I really resent the lack of smaller feeder doors and the even bigger doors make it very difficult to reach around to hang things.
  • Rockford (81x54x183cm) - this is another double cage, with each section measuring 81x54x76cm. It is a quite narrow floor-standing all-metal double cage which is useful for improving flexibility for all the group-juggling required when I have litters, rescues coming in or rat-sitting for friends, etc. I'm currently using it as two separate cages in two separate places. The build quality is superb; it's very light, yet incredibly sturdy. Access is OK but not great, with a large door at the front of each section (although unfortunately the door pivots on the hinges, which makes the usable opening smaller) and a couple of feeder doors on the sides. I have also added custom cut deep perspex trays to both sections. For some unfathomable reason, the horizontal support bars on the side panels aren't at all level with the support bars on the front/back panels, making it more difficult to hang things in the corners.
  • Alaska (84x48.5x44cm) - I have four of these, with 1-4 assembled at any one time for various temporary intro groups, young litters and short ratstays! They are not big enough as a permanent home but immensely useful; brilliant for birthing, as a general short-term spare, intros, group shuffling, hospital cage, etc. Great access and sturdy construction, and they literally take about a minute to assemble and derect.
  • Marchioro Igor (62x37x30cm) - not a permanent home for any species, but I usually keep it on the worktop and to hand all the time. A small but sturdy cage with nice build quality and a huge front door (the whole front pretty much opens up) which makes it a really convenient cage to use for tricky rescues, intros, hospital stays, or if anyone needs to be taken out of the main groups for extra feedings.
  • Ferplast Criceti 9 (46x29.5x22.5cm) - a tiny so-called "hamster" cage (but at that size it definitely isn't a suitable home for a hamster); it is very low, so useful as a hospital cage to restrict climbing and also in the very short-term for carrier-method type intros.

SRS/Explorer triple combo SRS top half SRS bottom half Swing modelling the perspex tray Marchioro Samo 82

Spare cages not currently in use:

  • Marchioro Samo 82 (82x51x117cm) - I'd coveted this cage for a long time before I bought it, as they are really lovely and spacious and in addition to the flatpackability you can also assemble it at half height so it really is a fantastically versatile spare cage. The only drawbacks are really the stupid corner clips which get chewed, and the tiny silly doors although I've modded mine with a big door at the front.

Previous cages

My very first cage was a Critter 2 - the biggest cage available in the petshop (70x42x68cm). I thought it looked great! It started out as "The Denim Palace" as I didn't have many toys for them so the main things in there were hammocks and shelf-coverings all made from old cut-up jeans. After a few days I modded the door to open outwards and covered the wire shelves with lino off-cuts, but wee would get under the lino - even with daily wiping - and make the bars stink. It was a nightmare to clean as it was extremely heavy and difficult to maneuver to the bathroom, especially since our hallway is narrow and I have a bad back. It also seemed to hold on to bad odours after having used it for just a couple of weeks, so that even after washing it down completely there was still an unpleasant smell about it. The whole opening top was useful to pick little terrified girls up - but useless for hanging hammocks - and Bernie and Ellie seemed to like tearing around in it, but the smell and the weight really made it difficult for me to like it.

So, after a just few weeks I'd had enough and started looking at other cages. I really liked the look of the Marchioro Tom cage (80x50x80cm) and it had very good reviews. Unfortunately it doesn't flatpack and it arrived with the bars dented on one side, but the company refunded me some compensation and it was too much hassle to pack it up and send it back again so I ended up keeping it. Despite not being massively bigger than the Critter 2, it seemed absolutely immense in our living room! The girls loved it, there was so much space and they were suddenly able to climb all the way from the bottom to the top. Access is excellent thanks to the huge door, and the base is lovely and deep and the substrate didn't ever get kicked out. I loved it! The main drawback was that it was very cumbersome to move into the bathroom for cleaning, particularly the wire-part just about fit through our narrow hall, but it was very light and easy to clean and - unlike the Critter - didn't hold bad smells at all, and it felt like a very clean and fresh cage. The Tom is a cage I would have again if we had the space; if we had a bigger house I wouldn't have gotten rid of it, but as we don't have a lot of storage space I sold it on after I'd bought the big parrot cage.

I had a Marchioro Rene 72 (72x44x43cm) for a fair few years, which again was extremely useful for intros and as a birthing cage. It is a really nice cage, again with a deep base, although access was typically Marchioro (ie, poor!) so I modded it by cutting out some bars and adding another couple of hamster doors and tieing them together as one bigger door. It flatpacks completely into its own base and is even more convenient to put up and take down than the Furet Plus. I eventually sold it as the corner clips were mostly eaten and I found that I was using the Alaska instead.

I also had two Ferplast Furet Plus for several years - one old-style, with slightly wider bar spacing than the newer model, but still flatpacked and had the same nice big door and lovely deep base, and one newer model which has slighly narrower bar spacing. These were used as general-purpose spare cages for new arrivals and intros, etc. They are convenient to store as they flatpack - though unfortunately not completely into the base - and only takes a few minutes to put together. The build quality is reasonably sturdy and the base is lovely and deep.

For a while I had two Mamble cages (100x54x64cm) - they are very useful for litters once the babies start moving around properly. It's a good size cage with a deep base and big footprint and it's not very tall which also makes it great for older and less mobile rats. I didn't much like the build quality however, and it didn't flatpack as well as I'd hope and I found it awkward to assemble and derect. It has two decently big doors at the front although I modded one of mine by putting an additional large door on the roof so I could fit a wheel through it.

Prior to the SRS, I had an unbranded double parrot cage for 3.5 years which was really great in every way except the bar spacing (22mm at the widest point) which sadly became impractical and dangerous when one of my young does found that she could squeeze out, so when I bought the SRS I gave the parrot cage to a rescue centre. It was a wonderful cage in all other respects though and I often miss having it. I had also modded it so that the two sections were joined together but could easily be split into separate partitions.

My favourite cage to date is my Savic Royal Suite/Explorer triple combo (95x63x180cm) - this was my main cage for a few years for my biggest group. The top two sections were joined (without a base) to provide better climbing opportunities, with the bottom 'basement' section accessible via the cut-out in the middle tray. It was a nice solid cage although I never really liked the fully opening doors, especially in combination with the lack of smaller feeder/access doors, as it makes it very tricky to reach everywhere when fixing perches and other cage furniture. I replaced the bottom tray (stupidly flimsy and thin and let lots of substrate fall down the gap) with a 15cm high base tray I made by glueing custom cut transparent perspex pieces together. I very sadly had to give up this cage as my knees have never been great and I felt like climbing up and down on a stool was an accident waiting to happen. I sold off the top Explorer part but will be using the SRS in the future.

For a few months I also had an Explorer 2nd edition (91x63x120) due to winning it in a raffle! It is definitely an improvement on the previous version (such as metal trays and better door mechanism) and the build quality was very nice, although it did also have new annoying shortcomings (mainly the removal of the wire grill between the levels so you can't hang anything from the ceiling in the bottom section). It didn't fit the space where I had to put it so I ended up selling it.

Critter 2 (the awful Denim Palace) Marchioro Tom Marchioro Rene with modded door

Cage layouts

Grab some inspiration from the [Cage layouts - not yet sorted] page where I keep more photos of my cage layouts :-)

Carriers

The rats have six carriers; two Pawprint carriers which are handy for vet visits etc, a tiny barred carrier, a small cat carrier, a large rabbit carrier, and a Cabrio where I sometimes put them while I clean out the cage. The Pawprint carriers are a very convenient size for vet visits and train journeys but the closing mechanism is terrible and it's easy to trap little toes and noses - luckily I have been able to avoid it so far. I have drilled holes in the side - one large enough for a water bottle spout and smaller ones to allow it to be securely attached with garden wire. The Cabrio is bulky and quite heavy so only really useable when I'm getting a lift somewhere. It's easy to strap in with a seatbelt and a lovely carrier overall. It's also good for intros or shorter hospital stays, you can easily hang a small hammock or cube with chinchilla clips and it has bowls that are removable from the outside as well as a transparent front piece so you can check on them. Finally it's very useful to take along to shows.

Pawprint carrier

Substrate and bedding

I use cardboard substrate - my preferred substrate is cardboard squares. I can get Freshbale locally so tend to use that. On occasion I buy Ecobed and Green Mile (shredded cardboard). I also sometimes use Finacard (shredded cardboard) which is nice and soft although I have found it comparatively dusty compared to the other two. The rats love to burrow and dig around in the substrate, and cardboard is great for them to rummage through for the scattered food - they also like carrying the bigger pieces around and some of my does have been known to make quite elaborate nests! I find the squares in particular works well for smells and makes it somewhat less messy around the cage because they don't kick out the larger pieces as easily. To give them a change, I sometimes mix up the cardboard with a bit of Aubiose hemp substrate, Bedmax (good quality horse shavings) or good quality hay from Dust Free Hay.

They always get shredded paper for nest-making and a litter tray with 100% paper pellets; either Back2Nature, Papelit, or Yesterday's News cat litter. Most of my rats are quite good at using litter trays, although far from exclusively.

I use one or two water bottles, as well as a coop cup which provides an open water source for washing, playing and drinking. Food is scattered in the tray and all around the cage in the evenings, and fresh food and veg is also scattered or given in a hay rack or feeding ball.

Finacard Ecobed Green Mile Back2Nature Yesterday's News Papelit pellets Impressive nest!

Cleaning

The cages get cleaned every 2 weeks or so, as needed. I remove and wash smelly cubes and other fabric furnishings, change the cardboard, and give everything else a good wipe. The litter trays are usually changed every week(ish) and I also brush up the worst cardboard mess on the floor every week or two as otherwise the entire room starts resembling a cage base. Once a month is my big rat room clean, when I sweep under the cupboards, mop the floor, change the throw on the sofa and generally tidy up. I also clean all the cages thoroughly every few months, removing all the furnishings and toys and spraying the cages with a solution of vinegar, washing-up liquid and water, then wipe down and dry.

Soft furnishings like hammocks, cubes and vetbed get machine-washed at 30 or 40 degrees with detergent, and plastic toys and shelves are scrubbed in hot water with washing-up liquid and dried.

At clean-out, toys and hammocks are also swapped for new and interesting ones (I have a huge selection and seem to constantly acquire more...) and the layout is usually also changed to ensure a stimulating environment. If I'm in a rush I will do like-for-like swaps as the rearranging tends to take me longer than the actual cleaning - a full clean and rearrange will take me 1-4 hours depending on cage size.

I occasionally use a Luminaire air-purifier, no essential oils though - just water, and sometimes a drop of red clover tea Tap-a-Drop.

 

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