Over the years we have had many small pets including rabbits, guinea pigs, mice, rats, a chinchilla, gerbils, Siberian hamsters and dwarf hamsters. Early on, I started with the modular cages. You know, those colorful plastic things you can attach tubes and accessories to. However, these cages are not the best or safest choice for housing. The cages are lightweight, easy for other pets to push around, and the tube can be knocked apart. An industrious critter can quickly chew through the tubes. We had this happen with a couple gerbils. Luckily, we were able to catch them! The way the doors latch can cause them to loosen and pop open as wires are bent slightly to secure the door. The floor space (you do not count tubes as living areas) is too small for these animals. Finally, they are a pain to clean. After using modular cages for a short time, I decided to find better, safer ways to house my smallest pets.
My first step was to find a cage that was solidly built with more floor space. I discovered Martin’s Cages in Pennsylvania. Martin’s ships and includes what you need to put the cages together. They have a huge selection of cages and will do some customizing. I used rabbit carry cages and had them use 1 inch by ½ inch coated wire instead of 1 inch by 2 inch wire. If you do not want to do this, Martin’s also has cages for various small pets. When I order, I request a lifting lid as well as a front door if possible, for the kind of cage. Because Martin’s cages use springs and hooks to secure the cage to the tray, I find them more secure. From here I went to looking at tubes to attach to the insides of the cages. The key here is inside.
Critter Trail tubes have a variety of different lengths, T connectors, short sections, 90-degree turns, longer J-shaped tubes, four-way cross attachments, different running wheels and sleeping units. I purchased several different packages of tubes and accessories that would fit in the cages. My kids spent hours with tubes and cages designing things. Once you get the layout you want, use cable ties to secure the tubes inside the cage. If a critter chewed through tubes, there was no risk of escape as the tubes were confined in a secure cage. When the tubes needed to be cleaned out, we had others that we could replace them with.
What if you have dwarf hamsters or mice that could slip through many cage bars? You can still adapt larger aquariums. We used reptile climbing rocks and untreated blocks of 2-by-4 pine as supports and were able to spiral tubes for climbing. There are commercially available cages for dwarf hamsters that have wire sides. You can attach tubes to the insides of these cages, too. However, I found that if knocked over, the wire can disconnect from the base. Therefore, I stopped using these cages as well.
For cages, you can visit www.martinscages.com.
Various tube expansion packs can be found on Amazon or at many pet supply stores.
Cable ties can be found at many stores and use the ones at least 8 inches long.
If you have hamsters, gerbils, dwarf hamsters or mice ,consider this housing option. In the long run, tubes inside cages are safer for them.
Karen Peak is the developer of The Safe Kids/Safe Dogs Project and owner/operator of West Wind Dog Training in Prince William County.