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Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Rat Cage Accessories - Zilla Terrarium Liners - Part 1

Recently, there has been some mention on a few of the boards about using Zilla Terrarium Liners to line rat cages. We had not heard of this before and after doing some research and finding that several people online have used this product with good success and no issues (no chewing or tunneling under the liners or injuries/ill effects on the rats), we thought we would try some out and see how it goes.

We went with the 125 gallon size, available only in dark green, which comes on a roll that is just shy of 18" wide. In a Midwest Critter Nation, one roll will cover a main level and one shelf - so one roll is sufficient for a single unit. Two rolls are needed to cover a Dual Critter Nation. Then one would likely need a second set to use while the first set is being cleaned and left to dry.

The liner needs to be cut to size, which is easy to do - especially if you have a rotary cutter set (used for quilting, but also used by many who make hammock sets for cutting perfectly straight lines). We cut ours to fit the inside of the trays (so the lips of the trays are not covered). This could potentially lead to chewing of the tray sides, but our current rats are not big plastic chewers.

Since the roll is not wide enough to cover the large trays with one piece, two pieces need to be cut for each large tray. For the bottom unit, we cut one piece that is 17 1/2" (default width of the roll) x 21 1/2", and one piece that is 15 3/8" x 21 1/2". We did not connect these pieces, it seemed to work fine just allowing them to sit side by side. For the top large tray, the smaller piece needed a notch cut out that was 5 1/2" wide and 9 1/2" long in the top right corner, to accomodate the ramp opening. The smaller shelf trays can be covered by one piece of liner that is 15 1/2" x 21." (Be sure to double check the measurements of your own cage before cutting any liners). Once all pieces were cut, there were no usable pieces of liner left from the two rolls.

Because the liner comes in a roll, it has a tendency to curl. We were able to get most pieces to lie flat, just by placing the normal cage accessories on top (huts, litter boxes, ramps, food dishes, ets). Large binder clips (2" x 1") can be used to clamp the liner to the tray if curling persists. I am guessing that with use, the liners will flatten out, but only time will tell. We will report back on that in a future post.

The material is supposed to be extremely absorbant and to control odors with the help of an enzyme coating. The material is tough and rough - reminiscent of felt, but much stronger and more durable. Despite its rough texture, the product claims that the material is non-abrasive and will not irritate sensitive feet or skin. So far, I have noticed no ill effects on Pirate, but again, I will be watching this. It does not have the soft appeal of using fleece liners, but as long as the cage is equipped with plenty of hammocks and fleece scraps/blankets to line huts and such, the rats should have plenty of other soft places to lie around. Our rats rarely lie out on the open on the ground. Pirate did not seem bothered at all by the texture.

Supposedly, the product can be cleaned by rinsing with cold tap water. We plan to clean ours by either laying it in the shower for a while, or soaking in a tub, or hosing off outside. It then can by layed flat or hung to dry. When odor-reducing properties begin to fail, the product will need to be replaced. We will report how long the liners last for us when we have that information.

The product is made from recycled materials, making it an eco-friendly option for lining a cage. It looks nice, trim, and neat, but only comes in green at this size. At other sizes, it comes in a tannish brown color. Pet stores carry this product, but we have not seen the 125 gallon size at our stores - we had to buy ours online. I do miss the brightly covered fleece lining the trays - they always made the cage pop with color and look especially nice when coordinated with the hammock design.

Zilla Liner: Initial Impressions Summary

Easy to Cut to Fit Only come in green or tan How long will they last?
Neat, thin, and tidy Not as soft as fleece How well will it control odors?
Heavy, discourages burroughing   Will it be chewed?
Easy to replace and clean    
Absorbant material.    

In a few days, we will install these liners in the Martin's cage as well, to see how well they work in a wire cage with wire levels.

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