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Free Toys for Rats and Other Small Pets

Updated on March 16, 2014

Free Toys for Small Pets

Small pets, like hamsters, gerbils, mice and rats (that is my pet Francis right there napping on a box - RIP Francis-) are gaining in popularity. However, just because they are little does not mean you can put them in a cage and forget about them. They love to play, Especially the rats, which are my main focus since they are what I own.

In the beginning I spent tons of money on rat toys that they inevitably tore up over time. Because they like to chew, their toys are mainly MADE for chewing on, and MADE to tear up over time.

Then I realized that even though the Igloo's looked awesome, my rats were just as happy with a rice krispies treat box! That is when I decided to search for free or cheap things that my rats would love to play with, and now I'm going to share some of these things with you.


All photos (excluding images on any module links) on this lens were taken by Winona Morris or Robert Morris (her husband) unless otherwise attributed. ©2013 to present

Fluffy and Sunny

I have had many rats over the years, and it always saddens me that their lives are so short.

I have always had females with one exception. I would like to have males, but its hard(er) to find male rats in our area for some reason. I can only seem to find females for adoption. That is probably because the only store that sells rats here is Pet Smart, and they only sell Female rats in our local store. I guess that is where all the rats that need to be rescued and re-homed came from.

I have had as many as 5 rats at a time, which is part of why I tried to start finding budget friendly ways to entertain them.

Right now I have 1.

Normally I would never keep one rat alone, but my hairless rat, Fluffy (named by my husband) passed recently. That left my tan hooded rat named Sunny alone.

Instead of getting her another cagemate, as I have always done when one of my rats became alone, I have decided to stop keeping rats for a while. Not because of any fault of the rats, but because I know that between my job becoming full time and a second child having come into our family, I no longer have time to spend with them as I would like.

Fluffy & Sunny

Fluffy & Sunny
Fluffy & Sunny

What is Your Pet?

If you are here, you must own, or plan to own a rat or other small pet. What type of little friend do you have?

What small pet holds your heart in its tiny hands? Which of the following pets do you own?

See results

Pet Cages

One thing you DON'T want to go cheap on is your pets cage. This will be where they live, and where they will spend all of their time when you are not playing with them.

When you choose your pets house you want to take into consideration what type of small pet you will have, whether they will live alone or with a friend, and how much space they will need.

A bunny will need more room than a rat. A rat will need more room than a mouse. A mouse will need more room than an ant farm.

If you have a rat then you know that up and down room is just as important than side to side room.

And, bigger is always better. The bigger their living quarters the more enrichment items you can put in with them and the better life they will have, thanks to you.

Home Sweet Home - Where will your pet live?

If you were given the choice of living in a one room apartment or a wide open studio, which one would you choose?

Most people are going to choose the larger home to live in. And your small pet is no different. A grown rat doesn't want to live in a mouse sized house!

Here are some good real estate choices for your small pets.

Super Pet My First Home for Exotics, Large
Super Pet My First Home for Exotics, Large

This is the very same cage that my 2 girls currently live in. It offers 3 stories of climbing room and has PLENTY of room to add toys, sleeping huts and hammocks.

Kaytee CritterTrail Primary Habitat
Kaytee CritterTrail Primary Habitat

The Super Pet homes are GREAT for mice or dwarf hamsters. This one comes with a built in water bottle and wheel, and it has room on the sides for you to add tubes and other fun things for them to play with!

YML 3-Level Clear Plastic Dwarf Hamster Mice Cage with Ball on Top, Blue
YML 3-Level Clear Plastic Dwarf Hamster Mice Cage with Ball on Top, Blue

If you have a larger hamster, or a pair of gerbils or multiple mice, then this house is a better idea. Its taller and offers more room for them to play, or simply to get away from each other if they are feeling crowded.

Kaytee CritterTrail Playpen with Mat
Kaytee CritterTrail Playpen with Mat

Of course, nobody wants to be stuck in the house ALL of the time. If you find yourself unable to spend time playing with your pet outside their cage you might want to add a playpen to it. Just make sure access to the playpen is BLOCKED if the pet is going to be home alone.


Home Sweet Box

Your Cabinets are full of Houses

The favorite toy/nest/bed/hideaway of all my rats has to be the cardboard box. Your small pets can easily chew entriances and exits wherever they want them. Plus, the boxes are always light enough to move. My girls are constantly rearranging their boxes. moving them upstairs or downstairs in their cage as they see fit. They are never happy with where I put things.

Boxes come in all shapes and sizes and are EASY to get a hold of. Look in your own cubbard. Do you have cereal? Snack cakes? Mac-n-cheese? All those come in boxes, and each box is a different shape in size. Put several in with them at the same time to give them something to choose from. Watch them as they pile bedding into their new nest box. What them chew doors and windows into their "playhouse" box."

My girls personal favorite type of box has always been an empty tissue box. They LOVE them for some reason, and all 3 of them will climb into a box at one time!

Of course, if you would rather recycle your cardboard the old fashioned way instead of turning them into toys, or if your small pet lives in a home too small for a box, then the plastic pet igloos come in all sizes from tiny mouse sized to big bunny sized.


Photo used with permission from

Rat Houses

Of course, you might not want to have to keep finding clean and hole free boxes for your critters. If that is the case there are many more permanent options for houses in your pets cage.

Kaytee Igloo Hideout, Large
Kaytee Igloo Hideout, Large

These sturdy igloo houses have been around forever. They make a lovely little den for your pet to live in, and the plastic is fairly durable. They can be chewed up, but not as quickly as a cardboard box can.

Kaytee Woodland Get-A-Way Extra-Large Rabbit House
Kaytee Woodland Get-A-Way Extra-Large Rabbit House

Wood houses are great because they encourage gnawing. And rats need to gnaw, a lot, to keep their teeth healthy. The downside is that the wood can soak up the urine and start to smell after a bit. Better than cardboard, not as good as plastic.


Speaking of Mouse Houses

In 1987, long before I realized how awesome rats and mice were as pets (I was only 6 and thought only cats and dogs could be pets) I was gifted with a wonderful book.

The name of the book was "Need a House? Call Mrs. Mouse!"

It was all about the wonderful houses that Henrietta, the mouse architect, builds for her Forrest friends. She even builds a house for a CAT!

I absolutely loved that book, and still have my copy of it.

I used to spend hours looking at it. There is not a lot to read, but there is a lot going on in the wonderful pictures on each page.

Need a house? Call Mrs. Mouse!

The most AWESOME thing about this book to me was that you could see inside each house, and there was such detail. I was always finding new things in the house. And I would open the book and the houses would be like a "playground." and I'd have imaginary people living in thing, going up and down the steps, back and forth and being friends with the animals that lived there.

Need A House? Call Ms. Mouse!
Need A House? Call Ms. Mouse!

Frogs pad was always my favorite house!


Television Dinner Trays

From yummy to YAY!

While the BOX that your TV Dinner comes in might be a little flat to make a good house, the plastic tray inside of it is PERFECT for small animal playtime fun. There are even some non-frozen microwaveable foods that come in deeper plastic containers that can be used. Here are a few ideas.


Take an empty tray and fill it with FERTILIZER FREE potting soil. Then take some birdseed or even some of the seed from your rats food and plant it. Set it aside somewhere and watch the grasses/grains/mini sunflowers grow. When they have reached a good height and thickness give it to your small pets and watch in amazement as they DESTROY your little garden. They will nibble the greens, they will dig them up. They will have a ball.


Similar to the garden, fill an empty tray with playground sand. Bury a few small toys and a treat or two in it and watch them dig in the sand. I've found that small cat toys seem to work well for this. They are inexpensive, and my rats seem to like ones with little bells in it.


This is best when done with one of the deeper trays. I put smooth rocks at the bottom, or even aquarium gravel to give it weight so they can't tip it over, then fill it with water and put it down for my girls. Some will avoid it like the plague. Others will wash their whiskers in it, some just climb right on in and soak in the pool.

Another option is to stick a few frozen veggies in among the rocks for them to have to fish out. Green peas work well for this. Also, try putting a small ice cube or two in the water and see how they react to the mini-icebergs in their pool.


Again, this one is best for the deeper trays. You can cut a small door in one side, and turn it upside down for another rat home similar to the boxes. Except plastic trays can be taken out and washed and reused where the boxes can't.

Junk Mail

Good for something after all.

Junk mail is something that most people get. It is also something that most people hate. I'm sure a whole forest worth of trees have been thrown in the garbage after becoming junk mail.

But, just because you hate junk mail doesn't mean your small pet will! In fact, they will probably LOVE it.

A paper shredder comes in handy when using junk mail for your pets, but you can also sit and tear it up by hand. That will give you something to do while American Idol is on.

The simplest thing you can do is shred some junk mail and throw it in the bottom of your pets cage. Not as bedding, but as nesting material. They will almost always drag it into their box houses to make nests out of. Here are other junk mail ideas.


I have a rat who LOVES to play in my trash can. I think she likes the noise it makes when she moves around. So just for her I take a box, or one of my deeper TV dinner trays and fill it up with different sizes and textures of paper shreds, as well as a few wadded up pages in there. As an added bonus you can had small toys or treats INSIDE the wadded up paper for them to hunt for.


I've found that pringles cans work real well for this one. I put a few treats at the very bottom of the can. Then some paper shreds. Then some treats. Then more paper. Then more treats. You get the idea right. I do this until the can is full, then I punch a few holes in the lid, put the lid on, put the can in there and watch them as they smell the treats, work out how to get the lid off, then dig through all that paper for the treats.


I give my rats table scraps a lot (shhhhh, don't tell on me. You're not supposed to feed pets from the table, it can make them fat) But I don't just GIVE them to them. I make them work for it. I will wrap whatever I'm giving them in some paper towel. Then in a sheet or two of junk mail. They have to chew, dig, and uncover the food before they can get it. Its enrichment and a full meal all in one.


Mail image used with permission from

Paper Shredders

If you don't want to tear millions of tiny paper shreds by hand, check these out.

Monster Pets Carefresh Natural Premium Soft Pet Bedding, 60- Liter
Monster Pets Carefresh Natural Premium Soft Pet Bedding, 60- Liter

Care fresh bedding is good. Its not made of wood, since wood dust can be harmful to the little lungs of small pets.

Absorption Corp Carefresh Pet Bedding, Turquoise, 23-Liter
Absorption Corp Carefresh Pet Bedding, Turquoise, 23-Liter

Even better, it comes in colors like Turquoise!



I know I was always taught to not play with my food, but it is different when it comes to animals. Zoos often use "enrichment" devices to feed their exotic pets, and if its good enough for a tiger, its good enough for my rats.


I will sometimes take a dry corn cob, put a little honey or peanut butter on it, roll it in seed, and hang it in their cage. They have to stand up and climb to reach it and get the goodies. Or I will just put my leftover corncob from supper in there, wrapped in layers of paper, for them to dig through to eat.


Surely you've seen it in old Christmas movies. Popcorn strung up on thread and wrapped around the tree. Well, you can do the same thing with your cage. Thread popcorn, cereal, and other dry treats on a string and hang it around the inside (or outside where they can reach out and get it) cage. Again, they will have to stand, climb and reach for their treats instead of just getting them served in a bowl.

The garland can also be done with fresh fruits and veggies if you plan on taking down what they don't eat soon.

More Rattie Fun

Links to more rat toys, and other rat themed pages.

Tell me about your pets, and the fun things you give them to play with!

Your Turn

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    • profile image


      4 years ago

      our little Joey was so sad for me. He was such a smart little guy.

    • paperfacets profile image

      Sherry Venegas 

      5 years ago from La Verne, CA

      We do not have the small pets, but had rats for awhile. My son loved them. This is a delightful webpage about rats and other small pets. The toy ideas are so much fun.

    • noner profile imageAUTHOR


      6 years ago

      @Loganor: They do seem like rather satisfied rodents. I had mice before rats, and mine also LOVED the paper towel and tp tubes.

    • Loganor profile image


      6 years ago

      Wow, you must have the happiest rats in the world! I used to have mice and they loved those cardboard cores from toilet paper and paper towel rolls. The garden idea is really cool.

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      angel blessing from me

    • Brookelorren LM profile image

      Brookelorren LM 

      7 years ago

      Great job on your first lens!

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      good lens with lots of good ideas


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