Tutorial: Place-mat Shelf Liners


Some rat cages and accessories are made from wire.  While this material isn’t inherently dangerous for your rats, did you know there are some things you should be aware of?

First, if too much of the walking area of the cage is made from wire, your rats may be susceptible to a painful condition known as “bumblefoot”, where their feet become infected and swollen.  Second, if the spacing of the wire is too far apart, it’s possible for your rats’ legs to slip and get stuck between the wires, leading to broken legs or feet.

Both of these concerns are easily preventable by covering some of the wire walking areas with a sturdy material (and all areas where wire spacing is a concern).

Here’s a list of some materials you might try in your rat’s home to cover the walking areas:

  • Paper grocery bags
  • Cardboard
  • Cardboard lined with fleece
  • Place-mats
  • Sheets of linoleum
  • Carpeting

My favorite solution is using old plastic place-mats.  They are very inexpensive – I am usually able to find them at second-hand stores for about $0.50 each, or they can be purchased new from the dollar store.  You can cut them to size, they’re durable, and they’re easy to clean and reuse.

In this example, I’ve got a hanging basket made from powder-coated wire.  I’m going to attach this to the ceiling of my rat cage to give them a new area to climb and explore.  However, I’m a little concerned about the spacing of the wire, so I’m going to cover it with a place-mat to make sure their legs don’t slip through.


Pictured here are the supplies and materials.  I have scissors, a sharpie pen, a place-mat, and the wire basket.


I put the place-mat under the wire basket and trace out the dimensions, then cut to size.


Be sure to carefully round the corners so your rats don’t cut or poke themselves.

Then, place the cut place-mat into the wire basket (or other location).  If desired, you can secure the place-mat to the surface with binder clips or by punching holes and using zip ties.

There you have it!  A safe and easy way to cover some of the wire walking areas in your rat cage.  Enjoy!


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