Making Rats’ Free Roam Time Fun & Safe: Free Roaming Ideas

by Acacia Crossley
Rat free roaming ideas

Rats are as social and playful as they are adorable, so it is crucial to provide a space for your rats outside of their cage so that they can run around, have some fun, and bond with you! 

Creating a safe space for your rats to free roam is just as important as ensuring that they can make the most of their free roam time. Remember, rats should be given 1-2 hours to enjoy time outside their cage every day so identifying a space for your rats to free roam should be done at the same time as setting up their cage

Here are a few tips on how to create the best space for your rats to explore, play and exercise.  

Keeping Rats’ Free Roam Time Safe 

Rats chew a lot, and there are plenty of items and objects that could cause harm to your rats that first-time rat owners might not think of. Luckily, there are ways to prevent you or your rats from getting hurt while they enjoy some free roam time outside of their cage. 

Put Dangerous Objects Out of the Way 

It goes without saying that you should always keep anything that can cause harm to your rats out of the free-range space. Things that might harm your rat if chewed include:

  • Electrical wires.
  • House plants or flowers that may be toxic to rats.
  • Anything else that may be toxic to your rat if ingested, for example medicines, household cleaners and essential oils.

If your rats’ free-range space is a contained section of your room, ensure that there are no wires or cables in the space or hidden underneath carpet or furniture that they could potentially dig up. 

However, if your free-range space is not contained, it is important to do a thorough check of your room for dangerous objects before letting your rats run free. Remove any sharp objects or portable wires from the room, including anything off of the ground. Rats are very capable jumpers and climbers (especially when exploring a place that they are familiar with) so even if you have moved an object from the floor to the table, it may still pose a risk. 

Making rat free roam time safe

If you can’t remove items such as plants or in-built wires, section off unsafe areas with a barrier. So long as your rats can not dig their way through the blockade or climb over it, then their free-range space can still be safe without having to rearrange your whole room. 

I use a thick cardboard wall to create a stable makeshift fence for my rats to free roam in, but you could also use mdf, perspex sheeting, plastic boxes or fences to help create confined space for your rats. Ensure that these barriers are sturdy enough to not constantly develop gaps (keep an eye out for rats chewing them), can’t be climbed, and are high enough to prevent rats jumping to the top (over 60 cm minimum).

It is important to also exclude other pets from the free-range space. Larger animals such as cats or dogs may grab your rats and cause them harm. Even if your other pets are well used to being around your pet rats when they are in a cage, their natural instincts can cause them to attack your rats as they roam. 

Similarly, rats are natural predators, and can injure other pets, especially smaller animals such as other rodents, fish, and birds. It is best to remove your other pets from the room while your rats are free roaming to ensure that your rats can have the space they need to enjoy their time outside of their cage, and everyone is kept safe.

Leave No Hole Uncovered! 

As natural explorers, rats love to dig and squeeze their way into places they are not really supposed to be. 

If your separated free-range space has holes that your rats can escape through or you have furniture that your rats could get under, they could easily get stuck and cause potential harm – to themselves or to you. This can also include sofas or mattresses that could develop accessible gaps in the fabric, especially if the rats do some helpful chewing! 

The best way to stop your rats from finding their way into gaps they aren’t supposed to be is to create a confined free-range space separated from any potentially accessible furniture.  

If you are unable to create a confined free-range space for your rats, use barriers, old blankets and other bigger items to block off potential entrances, gaps, and holes in furniture that your rats could get stuck under. Or, if possible, remove the furniture completely. 

Check Your Rat’s Storage After Free Roam Time

Rats hiding and playing

Rats are scavengers, and even if you have removed every item from your room, your rats may find something to take back to their nest for themselves. After all, rats do have a habit of storing food and other items, such as buttons and screws. 

Before you put your rats away, check that they have not stolen something that they should not have and taken it back to their cage. Likewise, check the free-range space after your rats have been put away for any stashed food or items that could go moldy or cause harm in the future. 

Make Enough Exercise Room 

When it comes time to giving your rat free roam time, it is not only their playtime but also their exercise time. Having a big enough cage for your rats is already important but creating a space where your rats can release all of their energy outside of their cage is important too. 

The more rats you have, the bigger you need to make your free-range space. After all, it will be hard for 4 or more rats to run around in a space made for 2. 

You should also ensure that your free-range space allows your rats to climb and explore, but in a way that they can’t jump out of. Purposely creating safe-climbing spaces in your free roam area for your rats to enjoy will help them get exercise from climbing and jumping without escapes. 

If you are letting your rats have free roam of a whole room, and you allow them to climb up shelves or furniture, make sure to monitor them, and check that there is nowhere that they can fall and injure themselves. Or, section off climbable furniture to prevent injury when your back is turned. Remember that rats can move much quicker than a human can.

Rat Free Roam Ideas: Making It Fun

Making rat free roam fun

Free-range spaces allow your rats to really exercise their mental skills and release all of their energy, either playing or exercising. As such, it is essential to have enough toys and accessories in your rat’s free-range space to keep them entertained for a few hours at a time.

Engage Their Natural Instincts 

Rats are natural foragers; they love to dig and explore and their free roam time is a great opportunity for them to exercise those natural instincts. 

Hiding treats around their free-range space for them to hunt and find will not only keep them entertained but will also earn them a delicious treat! 

If you run out of new places to hide their treats, invest in a puzzle toy instead. Or use small storage draws and leave your rats to figure out how to open them themselves. Digging boxes are also a great way to make your rats free roam more fun and will make them work their mental capabilities for their treats. 

Change Things Up

Remember, you don’t have to buy super expensive toys to keep your rats entertained. In fact, there are plenty of household items such as paper that can be turned into rat toys and keep your rats happy for hours on end.

However, it is important to change up your rat’s free-range space every now and then. Just like humans, rats can get bored if their play space is kept the same for too long. But that doesn’t mean you have to buy a new toy every time your rats become bored. 

When you are setting up your rat’s free-range space, only use a few toys, accessories, or entertainment pieces from your collection at a time. Then next time, choose a few different ones from your collection and switch them in and out every few days. Simply changing where you put the items in the space will also make the space feel new and exciting to your rats. 

If you have time, you can make a maze for your rats using an array of pipes and cardboard. Mazes will be very easy to change whenever you want to create a whole new puzzle for your rats to solve. Just remember to hide some treats in the maze as an incentive. 

Create a Place to Rest and Refresh

Place to rest free roam rats

There will be times when your rats are too tired from playing or just want to cuddle up next to you while they have the space to do so. Making sure that there are spaces within their free-range area to do so is just as important as their play areas. 

Your free-range rest space could be on the couch with plenty of blankets for your rats to burrow into when they want to have a nap (although be warned that sofas are very chewable). Or give them a nice, cosy box to cuddle up in when they have tired themselves out. It’s also important to make sure rats have access to fresh water in their free-range space. It’s a great opportunity to offer them a shallow bowl to paddle and pea-fish in.

How do you ensure your rats enjoy free roam? Tell us in the comments below. 

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2 comments

Elizabeth June 9, 2022 - 7:48 pm

One weekend we had to move our rat cages from the living room to a spare bedroom, where we normally let them free roam. So we had them in that room with the door closed, and overnight they popped the door off the cage and free roamed all night! Good thing that is a room we already had mostly rat proofed, but they still got onto a desk (which we normally restrict access to), dug half the soil out of several plants, and moved lots of papers and other things from the desk to under a chair to make a nest. They probably had the best night of their life.

Reply
Monika June 9, 2022 - 11:20 pm

Lol definitely sounds like it! They must’ve had a blast!

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