Last update: March 8, 2009. More details about the cubes finally added in the “Materials” section.
Do you need a cage that has a lot of room, is safe, and will not cost you too much money? Here is a great method that has worked wonders for two house rabbits I have fostered (future posts). This cage may also work for small dogs, guinea pigs, chinchillas (?) and a variety of medium sized pets that cannot fit through very tiny places. Read and decide if it will work for you. So far it has been tested on rabbits (personally) and small dogs (from discussions) that I know of.
When I had to foster a few indoor, house rabbits, I wanted to have plenty of space for them to play and run without their having to sleep in their food and waste as well. They would be out of the cage when we were home, but they still had to spend a lot of time inside of the cage. I am big into getting a cage as big as possible for an animal that has to have one. I went looking around and was horrified by the tiny cages they expect cat-sized animals to live in most of their lives. Along with that, the prices were incredibly high. Most were bad for their feet and really did not have the animal’s well being in mind. They seemed more for the people than the animal. I figured I could do better. And I did!!
They were so comfortable with the cage, that at times they preferred to just hang inside even when the doors were left open.
This cage can be customized to fit whatever space you need. I do not know if this cage would be weatherproof if built outside so I do not recommend it.
In this post I will explain how this particular cage was built, with rabbits in mind. You can adjust to suite your needs.
Note: The pictures were not taken with detailed building instructions in mind. This predates the blog. I hope they help in some way regardless. I have since found a home for the bunnies and the new parents now have and use this cage.
- Organize-It cubes (or equivalent such as Nice-Cubes). I purchased mine from Target at around $12-$15 per box. The box was white and green at the time and located in the shelving section. There are other types out there, just as good, under other names. Do not get the pre-assembled cubes as they will cost much more for fewer panels.
These particular cubes come in six cubes per box (not assembled). This is 20 square grid panels, 14.5 inches to a side. These particular ones have White Wire Storage across the box front which may be more noticeable than the brand name at first. It says these can take the weight of 50 lbs. (226 kg.) evenly distributed.
- Zip ties (cable ties). Various lengths and strong scissors or something else to cut the ties. Get a bulk container-cheaper. You will need a lot. (Hardware store, Target)
- Cheap, carpet runners (lining). (Home Depot, Lowes)
- Cheap, plastic runners (for flooring)
- Or in place of Zip ties, use Crimps (crimp-ons?) and crimper for stronger, more permanent, chew-proof fasteners
- Thick dowel rods (~3/4-1 inch diameter) (roof support, cross beam)
- Medium/small (?) length Bungee cords
The picture to the right shows the cage with the front doors closed. The picture at the beginning of the post has them open. I am hoping you will be able to zoom in on the pictures to see how the zip ties were zipped.
The squares can be bought at Target. They often have sales. They are reasonable for a box of them, especially considering the price of an already made cage. You will need multiple boxes. I am hoping I come across one soon to let you know exactly how many boxes were needed for this one. But, I am guessing 3-4 boxes at this point. It has been over a year since I built this. But if you find the boxes before I do here is the approximate number of squares used; For just the cage, I used 45 squares. The shelves added around 18 or so more. Add another 9 for two side panels (one can be seen all the way to the right in the picture) I added to prevent them from going behind the cage.
These squares are designed to be used connected together with plastic connectors (supplied) to form cubes in which to store your stuff. Toss the connectors aside. They do a poor job of holding the panels together, especially for your pet. You want to be able to secure the panels or squares very well so they cage does not collapse on your pet and so your pet does not get caught between the squares should it try to work its way out of the cage or just play rough.
Each square is the same size so you can easily get an idea what space you need. My cage is 4 squares long and 2 squares wide. It has a roof, but no floor. I will explain the floor soon.
The cage is wide enough for two large litter boxes sitting side by side (under a shelf at one end). This arrangement was not shown here. I later found this the best set up for these two. All the litter at one end, and they slept at the other. (Note: never use regular cat litter for rabbits).
The height allowed me to get in easily to clean the cage or to mess with the rabbits. Since I did not have anything above the cage, I built upwards so they could have more play space. If I had the rabbits longer, I had planned on adding more levels. They use it all.
On the far right side, you will notice an extension or side panel sticking out from the cage (above picture). I call these “flaps”. I added these to the sides near the wall so the rabbits did not go behind the cage (hard to get them out). The flaps were attached to the cage and the other side rested against the wall. A bungee cord attached from the flap to the cage provided enough tension to keep the flap from being pulled away from the wall by the rabbits when they were out. Unhook the bungee to swing the panel away from the wall so you can get access back there for cleaning.
You will notice I had two shelves on each side with a ramp between the sides. They loved the ramp and often pushed toys down it to watch them roll. In the center, attached to the roof was a “hop-across”. It was just a hanging shelf securely attached to the roof and back of the cage. This just added another level for them to explore. The ramp and shelves were lined with cheap, carpet runner cut to size and zipped down. These need replaced on occasion so stick with the cheap stuff. The bare grid is hard on an animal’s feet and body so I suggest lining these with something, even if with several towels. If this cage is for rabbits though, the towels will get eaten and shoved off of the shelves. Mine even found them delightful to urinate on. Joy. Carpet worked better.
I did not make a floor, but left it open below. Rabbits are messy and I did not want the grid to catch debris. This also allowed me to pick up the cage and shift it since it is light enough for me to move but too heavy for the rabbits to do so. Underneath I have cheap, plastic runners overlapping and taped down. They extended beyond the walls of the cage to catch debris they push out. Next time I would fold them up against the outside of the cage to improve keeping stuff in. Rabbits are very good and pushing all sorts of materials out during the night. Though they did not chew the cage, they did chew the plastic runner a bit. Sometimes it needed replacing. You may come up with something better. Or perhaps you will be able to put it on a tile floor rather than carpet like I had to do. For other animals, you may have to do differently. Dogs, for instance, may need that bottom or they may push the cage around. I am not sure as I have not directly tested this on small dogs. It was mentioned in passing in a forum I visited.
Zip ties were fine for rabbits. They did not chew them for some reason. But you need to be sure the final product is tied tight (except for door hinges). But when you do tighten the ties, be sure you manage to keep the panel edges flush rather than overlapping.
Note: Do not fully tighten the ties, or cut them flush until complete so you have some wiggle room when you are doing the final assembly. Fully tighten them when everything is together, then clip off the excess ends. Use pliers to pull the ends during this final tighten. You get a better grip and it gets that much tighter. Wire cutters may work better than scissors for cutting these but they both work.
In this picture, I tried to zoom a little on the ties and adjust the contrast to make them a little clearer. I am hoping you can zoom a little on them. Sorry about the quality. Arrows 1 and 3 point to door hing ties. Arrows 2 and 4 point to ties holding panels together.
Notice in the picture (I hope) that I tied the zip ties in a figure “8” between panels (arrows 2 and 4). A grid wire is in between to prevent the squares from shifting. You may need to experiment a bit to get it the way you like. Also, where four squares meet at the corners, I usually tied the corners too. This is not shown in the picture since it is taken where a door meets the wall.
For the doors, I also did a figure “8” (arrows 1 and 3) only I left the ties loose so the door could swing. The doors “hung” off of the grid wires in the wall panels. Start at the top of the door so it hangs while you zip the rest. Otherwise you will be fighting gravity. :) Zip the top, middle, and bottom, then go back and add any others that might be needed (you should not need many). Doors are a little tricky so expect to try this a few times.
Construct the walls first and put together the shell of the cage. I left the roof off initially so I could move around inside while installing the first shelves. Up to you. Doors I added last. I suggest having some wall in the front where you have the doors, rather than having the entire side becoming a door(s). This bit of wall adds more support and you can secure shelves to it.
Shelves: I tied the shelves (the ones going all the way across) together first then inserted them into the cage. Tie the back of the shelf to the wall first with a few zip ties. Next swing the shelf up and secure the ends. Go back and add more ties to fully secure it. If you think you have too much sag in the center, place a 3rd square (these were 2 panel shelves) in the middle of the shelve, across where the original two joined. Tie this panel down to the shelf, then to the wall. For this one, put this 3rd square on top, not underneath the shelf.
Corner shelves, where there is just one square secured in the corner of the cage, are a little trick. Since only two sides of the shelf is attached to the cage, it tends to sag a little. You can fix this by propping it up from below (rabbits chew that) or lining several zip ties together and connecting this from the shelf corner up to the shelf/roof above. Be sure to twist the long chain of ties so there are not openings in which the animal can get a limb or head caught. Unfortunately I do not have a picture of this one. I added a few of these later.
Ramp: The ramp needed to be a bit stronger so I connected the needed number of squares to get length, then I added squares over the join as described in the shelf section. I then connected the ends to the chosen shelves. Finally I attached the side of the shelf to the back wall. This took a little bit of maneuvering but it works. Use plenty of zip ties. This ramp did not sag or shift at all when finished.
Roof: This roof I made the exact dimensions of the cage rather than having a lip. You can barely see it in this picture (left) but if you look towards the very top, middle, you can see the corner of a square I put directly in the center of the cage for support. I lined up the corners with where the panels met so it sat like a diamond. You can just make out the corner of this diamond. Notice it is lined up with the edges of the panels below it. This diamond was zipped down very tight. The walls held up the rest. It worked very well. Because I liked to store items on top of the cage, I also added the dowel sticks across the top and tied the roof to those (upper right corner of picture). This gave a little more support where the doors were. The doors could not support the roof there. It worked very well. I had quite a bit of supplies up there later to get things out of their reach. No sagging, even after a year. But you do have to go back and zip things very tight when all is finished.
Note on the dowels in this picture: Because these dowels did not reach all the way across singly, I had to zip the dowels together to get the proper length. If you use multiple dowels like this, be sure you do zip the dowels together as well as to the cage or they will not support the roof.
Remember, go back and add more ties and then fully tighten them when you are satisfied with the completion of your cage. Then cut off the excess bits of zip ties. They may leave sharp edges so do check to see if this is a problem.
Give it a good shake and go over everything well. You want your pet to be safe and secure as well as have plenty of room. If it seems unstable, rethink your design or see where you can secure it better. It is worth the effort to do now, than after something goes wrong. I had no problems with the rabbits in this cage.I kept extra zips handy for awhile because I was constantly finding a spot I missed. Then I could just pop one on.
*If you do not build the cage where you intend to place it, be sure it will fit through the door when done or build sections.
If you think you will take it apart at some point, plan ahead and think of how you would dismantle it to allow sections to simply fold down. This way you can avoid taking it entirely apart. Otherwise label each section before taking it apart so you can get it together again with less fuss.
*Remember, I have only personally tried this with rabbits. I cannot give advice on how well it will work with any other animal, even ideas I suggested.
This guy above is happy and relaxed! There really is another rabbit but she was camera shy. This one was a ham.
Pen: You can create a pen this way as well. Just create several sections, however many squares high you need, then tie them together using loose connections like I described for the doors. Now you have a flexible wall that you can circle around into a cage. The taller it is, the longer the wall you need to make to increase the diameter of the circle for stability.
Different connectors: If you can get them tight enough to hold the sections together, use crimps ( a bit of metal that curves around that you clamp onto the sections-I may have the name of these wrong) instead of zip ties to hold things together. This is more permanent but may leave areas for toes to get caught.
Gates: Use a grid of these to place in a doorway to use as a gate to keep pets in (or out) of a room. Do not use this for babies. If you can secure this well in a doorway, you can even add a gate. I did this successfully but, unfortunately, I did not take pictures and it is too hard to explain how I did it. But you can do it. The rabbits chewed up any actual baby gates I used.
Rabbits can jump high. If you use these to block out rabbits, make them at least 3 high and do not have anything on which they can jump onto next to a gate. They will just launch themselves from that.
If you have any questions about this cage, please leave a comment or email me (listed in my About in Brief page) if the question needs a longer answer. I will get back to you as soon as I can. :)
I recently was contacted by those who adopted our bunnies. They are still using this cage! It has been a few years and it is still in great shape! Worth any hassle. (June, 2009)
Are rabbits worth having inside (vs. outside). Definitely. I will post about house rabbits and resources later on, but not soon.
Are rabbits high maintenance? Oh my, yes.
(Research rabbits before buying. They are the 3rd most abandoned pet in the US at the time of this posting. Spay or neuter, even if you do not plan on breeding. This keeps them trainable, less destructive, and friendly. They are adorable, but work. I do not recommend them for small children.)