American Fancy Rat & Mouse Association

This article is from the Summer 2000 AFRMA Rat & Mouse Tales news-magazine.

A House for your Mouse (or rat) (Cages)

By Nichole Royer

A House For Your Mouse (or rat) (Cages) - Part 2

This issue we will cover Plastic Carriers, Tube Systems, and Lab Cages.

Note: The number of animals appropriate to each cage will vary greatly by the age/sex/size/personality of the specific animals kept, and often a fewer number than indicated would be ideal. The rule of thumb with cages is “the bigger, the better.” Please use good judgment. The opinions expressed are of the author, and may differ from those of other fanciers.

Mouse in House

Plastic carriers do not come in the wide range of sizes that glass aquariums do; however, they are frequently used as housing, particularly for mice. Some fanciers replace the plastic lid with a homemade one to improve air flow and prevent animals from chewing out. I will only be talking about the larger two sizes of carriers as all others are too small to be considered permanent housing.

Pros: Light weight, animals are easily visible, easily cleaned/disinfected, comes with lid, does not break as easily as glass, lids come in a variety of colors, inexpensive and very easily found in pet stores.

Cons: Plastic scratches/becomes brittle over time particularly when exposed to sunlight, small, lid does not allow much ventilation, can be hot and stuffy, rats and mice can chew plastic.

Large Plastic Carriers
Large carrier
This large carrier is being used for Dwarf Hamsters. Photo by Karen Robbins.
  • Price: $8–$14
  • Size: approx. 14¼″ x 8½″ x 8¼″T
  • No. of Animals:
    Mice: lone male, male and female for breeding, female and babies.
    Rats: Carrier only. One animal for relatively short trips.
  • Comments: Do not pick up using handles on lid (bottom WILL fall off). It can be difficult to attach a water bottle. Try punching out round hole in lid, put several rubber bands around 8 oz. water bottle or one of the rings used in the tube system to connect tubes together, set water bottle in hole and adjust so that rubber bands/ring hold it at appropriate level.

Jumbo Plastic Carriers
Jumbo carrier
This jumbo carrier makes a nice house for mice. Photo by Craig Robbins.
  • Price: $18–$30
  • Size: approx. 17½″ x 11¾″ x 12″T
  • No. of Animals:
    Mice: 3 females and accessories.
    Rats: Temporary housing for young/ elderly rats, good "hospital" cage, mom-rat with newborn babies.
  • Hamsters: Up to 4 Dwarf; 1 Syrian.
  • Comments: Great traveling cage. Very good for mice/hamsters. Expensive compared to equivalent size glass aquarium.

Jumbo carrier
This jumbo carrier is being used for a mom-rat and her new babies. Photo by Karen Robbins.

Large (L) & Jumbo (R) carriers
The large carrier (L) is housing Dwarf Hamsters, the jumbo carrier (R) is home for a Syrian Hamster. Photo by Karen Robbins.

Tube systems (Habitrails, SAM, Critter Trail One, etc.) are a very interesting and colorful way to house your mice and hamsters. Designed to be very appealing to us, the owners, mice and hamsters seem to find these cages adequate in meeting their needs. These cages are designed to emulate an underground environment and are particularly nice for children and schools. Because these cages can be added to indefinitely, I am going to mention just the standard large setup.

Super Pet “Critter Trail One”
This is the Super Pet “Critter Trail One” hamster home.

Pros: Very attractive to humans, colorful and interesting, animals are easily viewed, keeps shavings confined.

Cons: Very difficult to clean and disinfect, some animals can figure out how to escape, male mouse odor will permeate the plastic pan bottoms, VERY expensive, some animals chew on plastic, limited air exchange, have to be totally dismantled to properly clean tubes, not recommended if you have more than one or two animals due to this difficulty.

SAM, Habitrail, Hagen, Super Pet
  • Price: Basic starter setup $5–$50. Can be purchased used at garage sales and on e-bay.
  • No. of Animals:
    Mice: 3–5 depending on their size, and the attachments you have.
    Rats: Not recommended. Tubes are way too small for even young rats.
    Hamsters: Up to 4 Dwarf; 1 Syrian.
  • Comments: Look for these at yard sales. Designed for “people appeal” and very expensive. Some mice raised in a tank environment find tube systems overwhelming. Some systems are combining the traditional plastic setup with wire to create a more open and ventilated system.

Modular cube system cage
This is a modular cube system cage. It is not recommended to house mice. We just used it for one display. Photo by Craig Robbins.

Lab cages are rarely seen in the pet industry; however, for the fancier with a very large collection of critters, they are worth the investment. They are very good for moms with young litters. They also make great carriers, particularly for trips lasting several days.

Lab cages are essentially a plastic dishpan with a fitted wire lid. The lid contains an area for food and a section for a water bottle. The animals can be fed and watered without ever opening their cages.

They come in many sizes, some which are the equivalent of 10 and 15 gallon aquariums, though only about half as tall. The bottom is made of rigid heat- resistant, break-resistant plastic (laboratories put them through high heat sterilizers) and the lids are stainless steel. These cages make it possible to humanely care for a large number of animals; however, some people find them somewhat small and sterile looking.

Pros: Feeding/watering can be done without opening cage, very lightweight, easily emptied, cleaned, and sterilized, low profile so many can be housed in single shelving unit, shavings do not spill out unless animals are extremely exuberant, animals can be easily seen through clear bottoms, plenty of ventilation.

Cons: Little headroom, little or no space for accessories, sterile looking, very expensive, small.

Lab cages
Small and large sizes of mouse lab cages. Photo by Mickey Maeckelbergh.

Small Mouse Lab Cage
  • Price: differs by company but often $20 or more.
  • Size: approx. 10½″ x 8″ x 6″T
  • No. of Animals:
    Mice: Lone male or female with babies.
Medium Mouse Lab Cage
  • Price: differs by company but often $25 or more.
  • Size: approx. 13½″ x 9″ x 6″T or 12″ x 8″ x 6″T
  • No. of Animals:
    Mice: Female with babies or 2–3 mice
Large Mouse Lab Cage
  • Price: differs by company but often $30 or more.
  • Size: approx. 15″ x 13″ x 6¾″T or 18¾″ x 10¼″ x 6¼″T
  • No. of Animals:
    Mice: 4–6 mice
Small Rat Lab Cage
  • Price: differs by company but often $30 or more.
  • Size: approx. 18¾″ x 10¼″ x 8¼″T
  • No. of Animals:
    Rats: Lone male, female with young babies. Good temporary housing for young animals and very good as a hospital cage or a home for an older or injured rat. Can also be used as a transport cage.

Lab cages
This mom-rat just had babies in this rat lab cage. Photo by Karen Robbins.

Large Rat Lab Cage
  • Price: differs by company but often $40 or more.
  • Size: approx. 20″ x 16″ x 8¼″T
  • No. of Animals:
    Rats: 2–3 young males, 2–4 young females, male and female for breeding, female with litter. Good temporary housing for a litter before they go to new homes.
  • Comments: These can sometimes be found on e-bay at good prices. Used lab cages can be a great buy if they are in good shape.

Part 3 will cover wire cages and miscellaneous cages. *

Go to Part 1: aquariums.

Back to top

Updated March 5, 2015