Inspired by photos of an aviary made out of an old armoir, my partner and I set out to turn a dining room hutch into a rat cabinet.
We successfully transformed a beat up piece of thrifted furniture into a lovely pet enclosure that the rats loved as much as we did.
Step 1: Materials
Step 2: Prepping and Painting
We found a cheap hutch at Value Village and cleaned it out, sanded it down and then painted it.
A Dremel was useful for sanding in all the small molding details.
We painted the outside of the hutch black and the inside grey. After the paint was dry, we coated it in varnish so it would have a more durable and easy-to-clean finish.
Step 3: Rat-proof Bottom
To protect the base of the cage, we used a two part clear epoxy that is designed for refinishing kitchen counter tops.
We followed the package directions, mixing the base and activator, coating the bottom of the inside of the rat cabinet, and then letting it cure.
On the inside walls of the lower part of the cage, we applied stainless steel backsplash panels. The panels were cut to size and glued in place with construction adhesive.
Step 4: Making It a Rat Home
We added wire mesh to the front of the rat enclosure, where there once would have been glass. The mesh was stapled in place and then trim was added around the edges to protect the rats from any sharp ends on the mesh.
To add levels to the enclosure, we used parts of a cheap shoe rack and wooden ladders from the pet store. Eye hook screws were used to attach the pieces to the cage walls, so everything would be easy to remove for cleaning.
Finally, we replaced the door pulls with locking stainless steel hasps from Lee Valley, so the rats wouldn't be able to push the doors open.
Step 5: Tips for Ensuring You and Your Rats Enjoy Their New Digs
Rats, like all pets, have their own unique personalities. Some rats like running on wheels, some hate them. Some rats are content to chew on the treats and toys you give them, while others will insist on gnawing on their cages.
We were fortunate to have rats who were not interested in chewing on their new cage. If your rats are likely to destroy any wood they come in contact with, you may want to consider covering all of the inside of the enclosure with stainless steel or another chew-proof backsplash material.
As there are 3 solid sides to this rat cabinet, there is potentially less airflow than in a traditional rat cage. Consider the placement for the cabinet so it doesn't get too stuffy, too cold, or too hot for your little furry friends.
Did you know that you can potty train your pet rats? Even if you don't litter train your rats, I have found that they tend to keep their business to a specific corner, which makes cleanup fairly simple (although it is still a good idea to occasionally clean the whole enclosure).