Why buy rat toys when you can make them?
Every walk down the toy aisles of the local pet store always amazes me--such an assortment of colors, toys, and treats my pet rat would adore! I love looking at all the things I could get for my pet rat--OK, I like splurging on them, too. But why buy a toy every time Rattie needs one, especially when it's so environmentally friendly to reuse unneeded materials?
I've created a collection of easy DIY toys for pet rats and other small animals made mostly from materials you probably already have around your house. I'll be adding pictures of each of them as I make or remake them all myself.
Try your hand at making a pet rat toy, tell me what you think of them, and submit your own ideas and pictures!
Tell us... - If you've ever had a pet,
No-Work Rat Toys
Use everyday items as rat toys - no handiwork required!
Use an empty tissue box as a rat house.
Throw in a ball of crumpled paper.
Use yarn to thread a roll of receipt paper to the cage bars; they'll unroll and chew it like toilet paper.
Ratties love to chew empty, glueless paper towel and toilet paper rolls.
Weave paper strips through the cage bars.
Throw in some popsicle sticks for chew time.
If you can part with it, give Rattie a small, hardcover book to destroy.
Holey socks and old jean legs make cozy nests and warm tunnels.
Old rags make great nesting material for Rattie.
- Old sock (cleaned)
- Cut the sock lengthwise across the top of the sock. Use the scissors to cute small slits in four corners of the sock. Cut four long lengths of yarn. String one length of the yarn through on of the holes, tie a knot around the edge of the sock, and use the rest of the length of yarn to hand the sock from the cage bars. Repeat the process with the other three corners while making sure that the outside of the sock is the inside of the hammock. (This ensure that Ratticus, shown in the picture, and your rats don't get their little claws stuck in the terry cloth or loose strings.)
Rattie Paper Candy
- Empty kabob-type toy
- Leftover/half-chewed wood or mineral chews with a hole drilled in the center
- Colorful paper - used printer paper with soy ink - or magazine pages
- Cut the paper into pieces large enough to cover the wood chews. Place a wood chew in the middle of a piece of the paper and twist the ends of the paper so the chew is wrapped like candy. Cover all the wood chews and put the paper-covered blocks on the kabob post by piercing the paper. Hang in the cage and watch your rats go nuts!
- Glue-free toilet paper roll
- Yarn or other safe string
- Small treats
- Twist or fold over one side of the toilet paper roll to close it. Put a palm full of small treats inside. Close the other end and hang from the top of the cage so it dangles just out of easy reach. Watch your rats try to get to the good-smelling treats!
Tightrope Rat Rope
- 1 + feet of thick natural-fiber rope
- Purchase a length of thick rope from the hardware store. String it across the cage and through the cage bars. Tie knots in the end to hold in place.
My Favorite Rat Care Guide
Wrapped Rat Treat
- Your rat's favorite treat
- Piece of newspaper or used inkless computer paper
- Put the tasty treat (treats with a strong smell work best) in the center of the paper and wrap it, twisting the ends like candy. This simple little treat toy makes my rats go mad!
- Large box
- Scissors or craft knife
- An assortment of crumpled paper towels - tissue paper - used printer paper - old dish towels - or other material
- Small rat treats
- Use masking or packaging tape to tape all the sides of the box completely shut. Cut two doors, one on each side of the box. Fill the box completely full of crumpled paper towels, tissue paper, used printer paper, old dish towels or other similar, rat-safe material. Add a few rat treats and shake the box around the scatter them. Let Rattie explore and burrow in her new cave!
- Note: If she doesn't want to go in right away resist forcing her. Put a treat outside the door, then just inside, then further inside, and then allow her to crawl all the way in on her own.
Cozy Clothing Tunnel
- Fabric scissors
- Needle and thread
- Old pants - especially soft sweat pants
- Small embroidery hoop (separated)
- Cut off the pant legs. Place a hoop inside one pant leg entrance to hold the pant leg open and tack into place with thread. Do the same with the second leg. Sew the opposite ends of the two pant leg pieces together into one large tunnel. Cut a few windows in the length of the tunnel and show your rat an entrance!
Since certain chemical ingredients appear harmful but have not conclusively been proven as such, manufacturers are not required to disclose them on labels. As with human toys, buy only toys and materials certainly made of #2, #4, #5, or phthalate/PVC-free #7 plastics and untreated wood and leather.
Is it better to BUY pet rat toys or MAKE toys? Tell me why!
- One 1x4 wood board (untreated)
- Cutting blade or saw
- Craft sticks
- Wood glue
- Screw gun
- Hinge with screws
- 2 small metal hooks
- Cut the board in half and reattach the two pieces with the hinge and screws (this is to fold the bridge for easier storage). On the opposite side of the board, glue each craft stick on the board (perpendicular to the board) with approximately 3-inch spacing. The rats will use these as treads. When the glue is completely dry cut off the excess length of the craft sticks. Screw the hooks into one end of the bridge. Attach the bridge to the top of your rat cage and extend the bridge to the floor, a nearby couch, or other supervised play area. (You may have to coax your little ones with treats to use the bridge. Start by placing the rat near the end and using a treat to urge him forward, then do it again with the rat a little further back. Repeat until the rat runs all the way from the cage to the far end of the bridge.) Now if you're watching T.V. or a movie your rat can join you on the couch and return to his cage as he pleases!
- BRIDGE MODIFIED FOR EXTRA WIDTH: We modified the bridge as shown in the picture to make it wider to accommodate a rat who grew clumsy thanks to a head tilt. We removed the hinge and put the two halves of the bridge side by side, attaching them together with 3 straight brackets and 12 small screws. This doubled the width, which is what we wanted, and halved the length of the bridge, which was fine for our needs at the time.
- Plastic flowerpot (use #2 #4 or #5 plastic for safety; wide bases work better)
- Craft scissors
- Masking tape
- Turn the plastic flowerpot up-side down and cut a door on one side and a large window on the other. Tape the rough edges to protect you rat from scratches, and place in his cage for an easy hideaway!
Milk Jug Hut and Wading Pool
- #2 Plastic gallon-size cleaned milk or water jug (#4 or #5 plastics are also safer)
- Scissors (very sharp)
- This is the simplest rat house ever. Recycle the milk jug lid and cut off the bottom of the milk jug evenly about an inch, inch and a half from the bottom. Use the scissors to make the edges of the bottom half, the wading pool, smooth. Voila! Fill half-full with water and you're done with that part! To finish the hut cut an arch in a corner or a side of the jug for a door (an arch has smooth sides). Use the scissors to round the bottom corners of the doorway and to make sure all the edges and cut smoothly. If you have a hairless rat you may want to tape the edges if they still feel sharp. Voila! A rat hut! My hairless rat, Ratticus, likes to reach us and stick his nose out of the opening in the top!
- A whole lot of Lego building blocks (Lego brand building blocks are PVC and phthalate-free)
- Create a rat house hideaway with legos complete with door and windows. Place in the cage or build it on a base for out-of-case use. Your rattie will love a new hideout, and you or your child will love seeing him crawl through this fun, hand-build house.
Rat Ledge Hideout
- Ferret-sized corner little pan
- A source of heat to warm the nail
- 2 screws - 2 wing nuts - 4 washers - OR - florist wire
- Bedding or old sock or rag
- If it already has tabs, just hook it up high to the sides of the cage in a corner. If it doesn't have tabs use a hot nail to pierce two holes in the base of the pan, on on each side edge, and attach it high in the cage with a screw, wing nut, and washer on each side. Use the hot nail to pierce two holes next to each other on EACH side of the pan and attach with florist wire. Fill with bedding or an old sock or rag. If it's particularly high add a bird ladder for access. Your ratties will long this new sleep and play place!
Avoid nickel metal, pine/cedar wood, or scrap wood (which may be chemically treated) when making pet rat toys. They can harm your rattie!
In years past experts recommended avoiding newspaper as the ink, when ingested, made rats sick. Today's newspaper inks are safe but stay away from inkjet inks!
Reader Toys, Thoughts, and Pics
Jessica Peri from United States on September 20, 2014:
I just got two new little girls (older girls passed) and I love your ideas. My older girls used to love treats hidden in toilet paper rolls but they would fight over them - maybe if I make it into a pinata instead the new girls won't be so rough about it! They also love making nests out of cheap 99¢ brown paper lunch bags from the supermarket - it used to keep my older girls occupied for hours. And sometimes I would bring boxes home from work as destruct able play houses. Rats are so easy to amuse with simple things!
anonymous on August 05, 2013:
Until a few weeks from now I don't have much to buy toys, so for my cage, (I'm getting my first two rats ever tomorrow, and they are 5 weeks old), I bought a small basket for a dollar. My cage is a wire cage. I took some thin black cord and tied it to each end of the basket. I strung it through the bars so that it looks like a small loft bed. it's hung on the side of the cage so it won't swing too much and i filled it with bits of paper and and bedding. I also have a clay pot and an empty coffee container that i took the label off of as hideouts. The chew toy I bought though because I couldn't find a good piece of wood to put in.
anonymous on September 15, 2012:
This is such a great website! I also get some ideas from The Dapper Rat website! My girl rats love the toys I make for them! One of my rats goes mental!!! :)
anonymous on April 14, 2012:
A great and easy toy to make at home - cut an egg carton in half (down the middle, not cutting the lid off the bottom), fill the egg cups with different snacks and close the lid. It's easy enough for them to open up, chew open, or poke their heads though the side with the hole to get the treats. Hours of rat fun!
glutenallergy on April 11, 2012:
This is full of great ideas! We tied an empty toilet paper roll with yarn earlier today, per your suggestion. Although our rats haven't chewed it up yet, I'm sure they will. This is the first toy we've made for them, so they probably just need some time to figure it out.
JessyGene on January 27, 2012:
nice lens, great ideas
darciefrench lm on January 03, 2012:
What a fantastic resource for pet rat owners. I really enjoy your tips and pictures of homemade toys. My little guy will too :)
shandigp (author) on December 12, 2011:
Ideas from SuZ, posted in the Duel above:
I made my rats a swing/bridge using wooden chew sticks wired together hung by thick wire at the corners. NOTE: When using wire, be SURE to fold over loose ends until you can't poke yourself on the ends at all so your rats won't get hurt. The swing also has the benefit of lasting a while, unless the rats take a special liking to those specific chew sticks. I end up not following through on most of my ideas due to material or construction concerns, but it is fun to make them things. Just do your research before using new materials, because you really never know unless you check.
Indigo Janson from UK on November 29, 2011:
These are fantastic toy ideas for rats! They need a lot of stimulation and things to chew on, and these clever ideas are just the thing. Cheap to make too! Oh and your rats are so cute. Angel blessed.
annieangel1 on June 22, 2011:
great lens - angel blessed and I'll feature it on my new lensroll when it is next published
anonymous on June 20, 2011:
Well, quite an awesome collection of rat toys, sure they are going to love them.
Robert T Gasperson from South Carolina on May 07, 2011:
Fantastic Lens. I would love to own a Rat, but they Wigg out my wife.
shandigp (author) on April 18, 2011:
@tandemonimom lm: I lensrolled Best Chew Toys for Rats to this lens, too. They seem to feed off each other well!
tandemonimom lm on March 14, 2011:
Love it! The only thing I would worry about is the plastic milk jug, since my rats always get sick on plastic. ** BLESSED ** and featured on Blessed by Tandemonimom; also lensrolled to Best Chew Toys for Rats.
dannystaple on February 17, 2011:
Love these ideas - not sure about the Lego - I could see a rat chewing through it in no time...
Stoney2009 on January 21, 2011:
Love it, not sure I would have a Rat as a pet though, but very good none the less! Good luck!
Jayszeman on January 20, 2011:
Very good ideas here!