Finding the perfect rat cage can be really hard. You likely want to give as much space as possible to your rats, while still having a cage that fits into your home and that you can afford. This can be very frustrating to many people. After all, there's only so much money and finding a good size cage for an inexpensive price can be very hard to do. So, more and more people are turning to building their own. Should you build your own or buy one?

Building Your Own
There are lots of options when building your own. You are after all the creator of the cage and can come up with a variety of options. Here are a few common choices.

  • Old furniture. You can take a piece of old furniture and turn it into a rat cage. To do this you will need to build a door with wire mesh (often sold for "fences" at the hardware store). You will need to drill large holes through the shelves and make sure that you give them lots to do. You can use a book case, an entertainment center, an old dresser (with a bit more work), and so on.
  • Closet shelving. You can get closet shelves that are made from thick power coated wire. These make great options for rat cage. You can cut them to length (or have them cut to lenth), zip tie them together, and place them in a short tote such as the under the bed sort.
  • Wire mesh. You can build your own frame and put wire mesh tacked to each size. You only need to make a boxed frame and cut the mesh to go over each side. Just make sure that the wire mesh is 1/2" by 1/2" and not chicken wire (which is cheaper, but easier for the rats to get out of).

Advantages of Building Your Own
There are a few advantages to this method and that often leads to people making their own cages and getting creative.

  • You can get a huge cage without spending a huge amount of money. This alone is a huge motivator for many people.
  • You can customize it to fit your space. If you want a large cage, but don't have a 2 by 3 foot footprint (the size of the Critter Nation Cage and as well as many ferret cages used) available then this will let you create a cage that will fit in your space.
  • Did I mention that it can be cheap?

Disadvantages of Building Your Own Cage
While the cost, the size, and the customization of building your own cage is often what leads rat owners to building their own, there are some disadvantages. These disadvantages lead many to buying pre-made cages later on when the budget permits.

  • Pain in the butt to clean. While some complain about this more than others, there is no doubt that homemade cages are harder to clean. This is for many different reasons, they are more likely to have hard to get corners. If made of wood or particle board (even sealed or laminated) will eventually start to smell bad due to the waste. If you can train your rats to use a litter box then that's great, but man can't. Many are heavy, hard to open, and hard to move around for clean as well.
  • Pain in the butt to move. Because of being heavy or awkward they are often hard to move around and that can lead to other problems later down the road.

Pre-Made Cages
There aren't many options out there for rat owners. Many "rat" cages are really small and many large cages have bar spacing that rats can get out of. There are a few good options, but you need to make sure that there is enough space for the number of rats you will be keeping in there.

  • Critter nation. This cage is the "critter" version of the popular Ferret Nation cage. It is beautiful, but huge with a 2 by 3 foot footprint. The bar spacing is perfect for all rats (unlike ferret cages) and it is easy to clean with two doors that open up the whole front. But with a price tag over $150 for the small version (one floor verses two) it isn't for everyone.
  • Martins cages. Martins cages come in a huge variety of shapes and sizes. They too are pretty pricey, but you can choose a smaller size that is more likely to fit in your space and you can also pick a price that fits your budget a little better.

Advantages of Pre-Made Cages.
There aren't a ton of advantages over pre-made cages and choosing one carefully is required in order to make sure that these advantages do apply.

  • Easier to clean. In many cases it is easier to clean a pre-made cage. However, this isn't always true. You will want to make sure that it is easy to get to every nook and cranny to clean it out well.
  • Easier to move. In most cases, pre-made cages are much easier to move than custom built ones, especially when size is taken into consideration.

The huge disadvantage to pre-made cages is the price tag. For a good size cage you will pay at least $100 and you are much more likely to be forking over more than that (up to two and a half times that!). Pre-made cages are often too big or too small as well. It is hard to find a cage that fits your space perfectly.

Choosing whether or not to make your own cage or to buy one is really up to you. However, it should be noted that many people who have built their own cages give them up a couple years down the road because they are hard to clean, too heavy, too bulky, or too awkward. However, that puts you into the group hunting for the perfect cage at the perfect price! Check out Rat Cages: Finding the Best Cage for more information on finding a cage to buy.