The table I wanted to bring in is too buried but I did run across a very large cage that would be perfect for Buddy and a new friend. The ramps are wider so that he can get up and down more comfortably and the width and depth of the cage is more suitable for such a large rat. Also important is that I can sit up to the cage and trust train him out into my lap. I again realized the importance of this when I set up a makeshift cage for him today.
His owner will be here later in the week to help me get the cage inside.
We use the online rat cage calculator to estimate whether a cage will hold one, two or more rats. One thing that should be taken into account though is the size of the rat. I realize the cages are crazy expensive. They aren't always well made either because I've had several that have rusted. That is where a homemade or makeshift cage comes in handy. Several times I have dismantled old cages, saved the still usable sides and connected them with J clips, cage clips or even zip ties to make what I need. Just try to avoid having anything with rust near the rat because that could be poisonous. This is where having the cage open on a table, with ledges, is perfect because the cage does not have to be completely closed in.
Surprisingly rats seem to prefer to have some kind of cage than none at all. Dr. Koob pointed out, when I said I went cage-less, that they need a place to hide. So a roof (even if it's just an old sheet) and a few walls is important.
I put Buddy's old cage bottom on the sofa, with him in it, while I set up a makeshift cage. He didn't seem to mind this because he's used to the sofa smells. Once I finish setting up his cage I was able to scoot up a stool next to the sofa and he actually came out of the igloo. He wandered around a little bit and then went back in, but when I lifted the igloo, picked him up and put him on my lap, he did not squeak! A clear victory!
The new setup only affords Buddy about five extra inches of depth and width but considering that he is almost 5 inches wide that's a big difference.
After I held him on my lap for a few minutes I picked him up, held him close to me and carried him to his new setup. When I put him down he was very excited! He did not run straight into the igloo, but made the rounds of everything---his bulletproof paper roll, his wheel, his hiding/chew log, his Ka-bob and then he went and sat in his litter pan. I was so proud of him, I praised him over and over. He seemed to wonder where the ramp was, but definitely wasn't bothered by its lack. He had not visited the top of his cage since he's been here. I'll never know for sure but my best guess is that he could no longer get up the ramp but really wanted to move around. He did come out of the cage last night to get his food block that I left out for him. But there had been no signs of him coming out and staying out. I hope now that everything is enclosed in one area he will keep moving.
His igloo is rearranged now so that I can easily hold a spoon a distance away from it and he can move toward it while still staying under cover. I think this will make trust-training more effective.
If anyone is interested in making a cage, there are several sites online that have instructions: the rat fan club and the dapper rat are two. I would be happy to email photos of our set-ups if you request them at firstname.lastname@example.org. I got the idea for ledges on the tables from a rat rescue in Pennsylvania.