Two years ago I got Cocoa, my guinea pig. Right away her cage looked too small. With her house, food, hay and water, she had almost no room to run and play. So last year my Dad and I drew up some plans to make a new, bigger and improved cage. While it took some time to start making the cage (almost a full year,) we finally got started this summer. We bought all our materials at The Home Depot. One thing to keep in mind is the cost can add up very quickly. My total was $116.78, but it's still half the price of most 2 level cages, and I have a decent amount of materials left for other projects or expansions. This cage has a lot of steps, but it's pretty straight-forward, (and is easy to adapt other solutions to, if you make a mistake or choose to work with different materials) In the end, it totally payed off, Cocoa absolutely loves all of the freedom and room to explore!
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Step 1: What You Need
12 (twelve) 8’ x 2’’ x 1’’ pine furring strips (actually closer to 1.5" x 3/4")
2 (two) 8’ x 3’’ x 1’’ pine furring strips (actually closer to 2 3/8" x 5/8")
2 (two) 2’ x 4’ Hardboard Sheets
1 (one) roll 25’’ x 2’’ mesh
15 (fifteen) 1’’ x 1’’ tiles
1 (one) LED lights
1 (one) Connectors for led lights
2 (two) Hinges
1 (one) Caulk
2 (two) Stair grip
You will also need 3” screws, 1 ½ “ screws a jigsaw and a hand saw or compound miter saw. Also, make sure you have a brad gun or hammer, and small nails and staples.
Step 2: Prepping
For cutting I used a compound miter saw. It was easy to cut with and made the process very fast and efficient. If you don't have one, a simple hand saw will work. Before cutting, I sanded down all of the 1.5” boards and 2 ⅜” boards to avoid splinters.
1.5” board cuts:
(8) 22 ½ “
(2) 32 ¾”
(4) 10 ½”
2 ⅜" board cuts:
(4) 23 5/16”
(2) 32 ¾ “
Step 3: Floors
The two floors are manufactured identically, so these instructions explain how to make one, and when done, just repeat the steps to make a second. You could even make a third, if you want a really HUGE cage, as there's more than enough mesh left over, but you'll need more of some other materials, too. Here's what you'll need for a single floor:
- (1) 24" x 36" Hardboard (cut from a 24" x 48" sheet - make sure you keep the 24" x 12" scrap!)
- (8) 1' x 1' Tiles (
- (4) 1.5" x 22 ⅜”
- (2) 1.5" x 36”
- (2) 1.5" x 33”
- (2) 2 3/8" x 23 5/16”
- (1) 2 3/8" x 36”
- Clamps to hold pieces together
- Hammer and small nails
- Box cutter and straight edge for cutting/scoring the tiles
- Carpenter's square for ensuring that all corners are square, and to help with drawing lines
- Power Drill with two drill bits, each a little smaller than thickness of your 3" and 1.5" screws
- Brad gun with 1" - 1.5" brads
Step 3.1: Start by laying out your frame. The two 36” x 1.5" boards lay at top and bottom, while the four 22 ⅜” x 1.5" boards lay in the middle, about 12” apart from one another. Using a brad gun or your drill and screws, fasten it together to make the "frame" for the floor. Next, you need the wood sheet (2’ x 4’). Using a jigsaw, cut it to be 24” x 36”, and set the remaining piece aside for the cage back that'll be used later on. After you have smoothed the edges, lay it up against the frame, hold down the board flush with the edges, and fasten it in place. Look at photo 1 for reference. After that, get out the 1’ X 1’ tiles. Peel half of the paper and stick the first tile in one of the 4 corners. Make sure the corners of the tile line up with the corners of the floor. There can be no overlay, if there is, peel the messed up tile off of the floor (you may need to use a putty knife to get it off) and use one of your other tiles. At a point, you may need to get extra tiles. You should still have at least 4 tiles left for the walls.
Step 3.2: The next thing to attach are the walls. These are here to prevent bedding from spilling over the edges. You will need: Two 23 5/16” x 2 ⅜” boards,and one 36” x 2 ⅜” board. Start by lining up the two short boards with the front of the floor, and hold them in place with clamps. Look at photo 2 as reference. Once you have done that, screw them in from the bottom using 3” screws and a power drill. Screw in 3 screws on each board; one at each end, and one in the middle. Once you have both sides firmly attached take the 36’’ board and clamp it onto the back of the floor. There should be a gap along the back just the right size for the board to sit flush with everything. Screw it in using 4 screws total; one at each end, and two near the middle. Avoid putting screws at the very end of the boards, because the vertical "legs" will need to be attached there, and you'll have no where to screw them in.
Step 3.3: After you have all of the walls in place, you need at least 4 tiles, a box cutter, a straight edge, carpenter's square, and a surface that is not easy to cut through (i.e., a thick piece of scrap wood). On the side of the tile that has the paper, trace a line the same height as the wall. An easy way to do this is to hold the tile against the wall where it's going to go, and trace the edge of the wall so you'll know where to cut to make the tiles flush with the walls. Use the box cutter to score a line and snap the tile. The printed part won’t snap alone. So, place the tile on the wood at a right angle and cut the printed design. Once that is done, peel and stick the correct tiles in place. Also, you will find that the tile overlaps the full tile. When this happens draw a line where the overlay ends. Use the corner edge to draw a straight line to cut. Follow the same steps for the rest of the tiles. Next grab your clear caulk and go around the edges, corners and anywhere one tile ends and another one starts. Use water to smooth everything down. Make sure you also add some to the top of the wall to make sure the tiles stay. Make sure the caulk is well done and covering every crack so its sealed as much as possible. Follow the same steps for the second floor. Once all steps for the first and second floors are complete you have now completed the longest step.
Step 4: Attach Supports
What you need:
- (4) 48” wood boards
- (4) 24” wood boards
- (2) 33” wood boards
Step 4.1: The first thing you want to do for this is turn the two floors on their sides, 14 ½ “ apart. Next, take two of the 48” boards and screw them in along the outside of the floors. Flip the cage and do the same on the other side. Make sure the top of the wood is 16” above the floor of the cage. The floor should be 14 ½” tall as well. Attach the sides using 3” screws, 2 on the wall, 1 on the base. Next, take 2 of the 24” boards and screw them into the top of the supports using 3” screws. Do the same on the bottom. Then, take two of the 33” boards and screw them on the top of the supports with 3” screws. Do the same on the bottom as well.
Step 5: Building the Doors
What you need: (for both doors)
- (2) 32 ¾” x 1.5”
- (4) 10 ½” x 1.5”
- (2) 32 ¾” x 2 ⅜”
- (2) 33” x 1.5”
- Corner clamps
- Regular Clamps
Step 5.1: To start, line up all the boards in a rectangle. The two 10 ½” boards go on the sides, the 32 ¾” x 1.5” board goes on top while the 32 ¾" board goes on the bottom. Screw them all together with 3” screws. Screw one of the 33” boards on the bottom of the floor. These are here so we can attach the hinges. Use 3” screws for them, too. Attach the hinges to the bottom of the baseboard (what was just screwed in), then have someone help you hold the door so you can attach the hinges to the doors.
Step 5.2: Next, we used scrap wood to prevent the top door from going all the way in, and latches to hold the doors closed. We measured the corner pieces by holding them up to the corner, tracing the angle and cutting it at that angle. We cut out 3 3” x 1.5” latches and screwed them in so they would keep the doors closed.
Step 6: Attaching the Back
What you need:
- The full 2’ x 4’ board
- The smaller, scrap pieces from the floors (you should have a total of three pieces of wood)
- A brad gun or hammer and small nails
Step 6.1: Start by nailing the biggest board to one of the top corners. Make sure its flush. Use 1.5” nails (anything longer will make the nails go through the wood) and nail the board on. Next, take one of the two scrap pieces and nail it on next to the big piece. With the final piece, nail that on in the spot by the big piece, that's missing. The back should be filled in, on the two main floors.
Step 7: Attaching the Mesh
NOTE: If you plan on using LEDs, now would be the best time to do it. Jump to my last step on how to attach them.
What you need:
- Staple gun
- 1 roll 25’ x 2’ mesh
- Metal sheers/snips (heavy-gauge)
Step 7.1: To start the mesh, measure two 24” x 25” pieces. Draw a line in the middle of the square. Use wire cutters and cut along the line. Once cut, mark another piece the same size. Using wire cutters, cut off the ragged edges. At first we folded the wire over, but we found that cutting the edges off was a lot easier. This will leave a nice, neat finish that you won't cut yourself on. Staple one of the finished pieces onto the bottom shelf going up. Then staple the second piece on, overlapping by 2-3”, the second piece will overlap onto the top of the cage. Bend the mesh over and staple it as flat as you can. Follow the same steps on the other side of the cage. For the top of the cage measure out one 35” x 25” piece using the same method as the walls. Once cut start stapling at one end and work down the cage, covering the overlap. Try your best to put staples on top of both layers. If a staple is sticking up to much, use a hammer to flatten it. The doors are the easiest. Measure out one 23 ½” x 25” piece and cut it in half. Staple one half on the inside of the door, and the other half to the bottom door. Once you have the mesh attached to the doors, walls, and ceiling, this step is done.
Step 8: Building the Ramp
What you need:
- Scrap wood (we used the 1.5" furring strips and scrap sheet of ¼" plywood we had laying around)
- Square clamps
- Traction mat
Step 8.1: Cut out a 10" x 8” piece of plywood. This will be the flat platform that the two ramps will attach to.
Step 8.2: Measure and cut out (4) 6” x 1.5”, and (2) 8 1/2” x 1.5” boards. Start by attaching two of the 6" boards to each end of the 8 1/2” boards with 3" screws using the square clamps, creating two "C" shapes that are 10" x 6". These are the legs, and will be attached to either end of the platform.
Step 8.3: For the ramp angles and lengths, you can do whatever suits you and your furry friend. For us, we had drawn up several designs before settling on the one shown in the pictures. We then measured and cut (1) 13” x 5” board, and (1) 15 ½” x 5” board to be the ramps. Trace a 5" x 7” rectangle on the second floor and cut out with a saw. If you want, use a circular bowl that is 5” across the top, trace it and cut it out. There is a time lapse of this down below.
Step 8.4: Place the platform in the cage where you want it, close to a back wall. Next cut out (1) 5” x 1.5”. Lay the shorter ramp piece in a way you that allows you to draw a line horizontal to the platform. Cut at that angle, or skip that step and leave the gap (you could cover it later). After that, take the 5" piece and line it up horizontally with the platform. then trace an angled line and cut. It should fit under the smaller ramp. Screw the new piece into the platform with 3" screws. then take the smaller platform and screw it into the the attachment with 3" screws.
Step 8.5: Lay the second ramp piece in the hole you cut, and draw another horizontal line to cut flush with the platform. Once both ramps are cut move onto the supports. For the taller one, screw tiny hinges onto the board attaching the ramp to the platform. Line it up with the top of the hole, and using 3” screws, screw it in to the top floor's support joists. There may be a gap, but that's okay. With the bottom piece, we left the side that was going on the floor uncut. For the top piece, we used a piece of scrap wood and held it horizontally with the ramp and platform, and drew a line where to cut. Once it was cut, I screwed it into the platform, the I screwed the shorter ramp into the board.
Step 8.6: The next (and final) step for the ramp is to add traction. We bought cheap rubber traction sheets, meant for normal staircases. They are way too big, so we traced where to cut and eventually covered the entire thing with the rubber. We used liquid nails and clamps to connect it to the wood. Make sure the traction is facing the way that allows your friend to climb up it. We left about an inch extra to overlap the top of the ramp so she would be easily able to climb up.
With those steps done, you’re done with building! The only steps left are to attach the LED's and move your fuzzy friend in!
Step 9: Hook Up LEDs
The final step is to attach the LEDs. This step is completely optional, we decide to do it because the bottom floor doesn't get nearly as much light as the top floor. We did the LEDs as our last step, but if you decide to do the LEDs your self, I would highly suggest doing them before the mesh is attached. This would give you full acsess to all walls.
What you need:
- LEDs: 16.4 ft, 5050 LED Rope, Full Kit with 44-keys IR Remote Controller & Power Supply
- LED connectors: 10 mm, 5050 LED Strip Light Connectors Kit
Step 9.1: Measure out (2) 23 3/8" pieces, and (1) 36" piece. You can only cut on the spots that it tells you to, so cut the closest one. Using a razor, strip about a centimeter of the rubber coating from each end to expose the contacts. Tuck the copper contacts under the tabs in the connector. We used the straight connectors because the corner connectors where giving us a lot of trouble. Assemble all three pieces to fully test the lights. We used hot glue around all the edges of the connectors to ensure they wouldn't come loose during the next step.
Step 9.2: To attach the LEDs, first attach the control box to the inside of the frame. Stick double sided tape to the back and stick it on. Then, run the black power cord out of the mesh, run it along the side and plug it in. Start in one of the corners, peeling all the paper off that side, and slowly work your way forward; pressing firmly against the LEDs until one side is fully attached. Next, unpeel about 4-5" of the paper from the longest LED strip along the back and stick those LEDs on, repeating the process 4-5" at a time until it is all firmly stuck on. Once that is done, follow the same steps to do the last side.
After you have attached your LED's and finished everything else, you are ready to move your furry friend in! Remember that they might not instantly be able to go up and down the ramp. With Cocoa, I routinely put her on the ramp and helped her up and down. After about 4 days she'd fully adjusted, and goes up and down whenever she wants!