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Thursday, October 17, 2013

Using U-Haul Furniture Pads with Rat Cage Liners - Part 1: Construction

U-Haul Furniture Pad
We previously blogged about our experience using Zilla Reptile Liners for lining a rat cage:

Zilla Terrarium Liners - Part 1
Zilla Terrarium Liners - Part 2 (Martins R695)
Update on the Zilla Liners

While they worked fine in the R695 with just Loki in residence, they didn't work as well in the Dual Critter Nation with the three girls and Pirate. The cage started to smell after only a couple days and while they held up better than fleece, they still suffered some chewing damage. Switching the Critter Nation back to fleece was the best option for us.

While the pillowcase style fleece liners + towel combination handles odor well (we only have to change the liners and towels once a week with the four rats in the DCN), it still has some serious drawbacks:

  1. It is a wasteful when it comes to the fleece. The fleece layer on the bottom of the pan is never used. Plus, the pillowcase design requires the fleece pieces to be longer than the shelf itself, with extra length included for folding under the shelf.
  2. The young girl rats love to chew the fleece and burrow underneath it. I am repairing or replacing liners every week.
  3. The rats, once under the fleece, start chewing on the towels, leaving them in tatters. Replacing towels at this rate, even if they come from the thrift store, is expensive. Leaving them chewed is a hazard because loose threads could eventually get tangled around rattie feet and cause them injury.
Rather than continue to throw money at a solution that isn't working as well as we'd like, we are going to experiment to see if we can find a solution that might work better. Because my husband does not like the mess and dust associated with litter and because I do not like to produce so much waste or spend money on all that litter on a weekly basis, litter alone is not an option. Plus, the girls have just started to figure out the litter training.

We have read about a material that Guinea pig owners have been using for a while now as an absorbant layer in their cage liners. That material is a Furniture Pad sold by U-Haul. It is about 1/8" thick and measures 68" x 85", is made out of recycled denim (although the pad itself does not resemble jeans fabric in any way - it is much thicker and softer), costs about $8, and it is supposed to be very absorbant.

I have reservations about how well this material will work in a rat cage, however. To my knowledge, Guinea pigs are not extensive chewers. This material may not hold up as well with rats. And I don't know how rats compare with Guinea pigs regarding odor and urine production. Rats are notorious markers - I am not sure if the same is true about piggies.

Before using the furniture pads, I washed them in hot water 3 times (the water drained a slight blue color and I was hoping that repeated washes would rinse out any dyes that may run - but no luck). I then dried it in the dryer to preshrink it. For this first set of liners, I started cheap and simple - constructing them from a top layer of fleece to wick away moisture and a bottom layer of furniture pad to absorb it.
Dual Critter Nation Liners Made from Fleece and Furniture Pad

The pad is designed to sit on the tray, similar to the way the Zilla liners do. I can clip them in place with large binder clips, or, if that doesn't work, add grommets and clip the liners to the cage bars so that they cannot be completely tossed aside by the rats.

I cut my fabric to the following dimensions for a Critter Nation:

Dimensions for the Top Level of the Critter Nation

  • Shelf (top and bottom): 16 1/2" x 22 1/2" (15 1/2" x 21 1/2" finished size).
  • Bottom Level: 23" x 34 1/2" rectangle (22" x 33 1/2" finished).
  • Top Level: Same as the bottom level but with a notch cut out in the corner that extends 5 1/2" into the long end and 9 1/2" into the short end.
One furniture pad contains more than enough fabric for a set, with plenty of material left over. For the fleece, about 1 1/2 yards will make one set. Assuming an average price of $5 a yard for fleece when on sale, the total cost for one set of DCN liners would be around $16 - and this includes having a lot of extra furniture pad left over for future projects. That is about the cheapest liner option I know of so far - if they are absorbant enough and hold up as constructed.

It may turn out that we need an extra layer of furniture pad in order to control odors well. It may also turn out that the exposed layer of furniture pad is a temptation to chew and that I need to add a layer of fleece to the bottom to keep the pad from being exposed.

My hope is that the rats will be less likely to chew these liners because they can more easily burrow underneath them without chewing. That may be wishful thinking. We will have to see.

Supposedly, the furniture pad can also be used instead of batting for things like cuddle cups. I haven't tried this, but given its heft and thickness, I can see this working well. Many people do not like to use batting because it is hard to work with and it's fibers can be hazardous to little feet, so keeping excess furniture pad material for these projects may be worthwhile.

I will be installing these new liners with a new set of Halloween hammocks in a few days when I do the big cage clean. I am curious to see how they will hold up.

Related Posts:
U-Haul Furniture Pads with Rat Cage Liners - Part 2: Early Review
Liner Instructions for Critter Nations and Martins R695 Cages

7 comments:

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