Ebay is a fantastic place for picking up excellent items for your rats and other rodents and i've used it many times myself to get a good bargain for my guys and gals to enjoy. However, care must be taken particularly when looking for items such as caging for your animals as sometimes items are knowingly or unknowingly sold and advertised as suitable for a particular animal when really they are way too small! This guide aims to give users a guide on what to look for when purchasing a cage, and is focused on housing for rats in particular.
It is frustrating for me, as an avid lover of everything ratty, and I know the same applies to other rat lovers out there, to see small cages, such as those suitable for housing hamsters and mice advertised as being suited to rats also. Rats require a cage much bigger than the average hamster cage, and when looking to purchase one you should be looking ideally for one which is aimed towards rats, ferrets and chinchilla's. There are many cages out on the market which fit into this category, but in particular larger Savic and Ferplast cages are excellent (these include the indoor avairy cages which are also advertised plenty on eBay and by buying supplemental shelving and hammocks and ropes you can really use your imagination and build up a brilliant play home for your ratties). A great starter cage for rats is the Jenny Cage, of which you'll see being sold on eBay very frequently. The cages rough dimensions are 30"x18"x30", so if you browse for a cage which is around this size you'll be on the right path to finding the perfect home for your furry friends. This size cage will house up to 4 rats (depending on the size of the rats themselves, with bucks being a bit beefier it's advisable to give them a bit more space) but obviously if you want a larger group of rats you'll need to look at larger cages such as the indoor avairies. Luckily with eBay being such a big place it's easy to find accessories to modify cages into the ideals for your pet rats, this includes items such as hammocks, rope toys, shelving, ladders, and tubes. Whilst it may seem easier to just get a small "hamster cage" which comes with all the trimmings such as shelving and tubes already included for the sake of your rats don't do it! Rats need a lot of space, time, love and toys to keep them happy, and it is unfair, and cruel to keep them in anything so small. Remember even an adult female rat is at least 2 times the size of an adult syrian hamster, some, and certainly males being even bigger still. Also, speaking from experience, I find it much more satisfying to know that i've designed and brought all individual equipment for my rats cages to suit their needs and built up the "insides" of the cage myself. Of course there is the added bonus on eBay that some sellers do sell their cages with added extra's, and most of the "rat, chinchilla, ferret" cages such as the Jenny and Furet come with the basics such as shelving and tubes anyway.
As well as the danger of overly small cages, aquariums are also best avoided for keeping rats in. Not only are they difficult to manouver to clean, but most importantly they can have serious effects on your rats health. Because rats urinate frequently ammonia levels inside the aquarium base, where ventilation is extremely poor because of the solid sides of the unit, build up very quickly and can cause a lot of iritation and damage to their sensitive respiratory systems. Rats are prone to respiratory disease and problems as it is, and keeping them in a poorly ventilated environment can trigger/aggrevate these problems moreso, as can using dusty bedding such as woodshavings. Also, as a glass tank is "one level" (in most cases) this does not fully meet the rats need for mental stimulation and area's to climb up and explore.
If you've never kept rats before, or are new to rat keeping and are firstly weighing up the options, these are all things that you need to keep in mind. Ideally if you haven't done so already, purchase a book and read a little more on the subject, or check out the internet for lots of great sites and talk to other rattie enthusiasts who'll be more than happy to help and steer you in the right direction, afterall, the welfare of every rat is important and giving them the best life possible is a top priority. Most sellers do not realise that the hamster cages they are selling as a rat cage are really too small, as they have perhaps themselves kept hamsters only in the past and presumed that the cage is suitable for rats as a "small rodent", when this is clearly not the case at all.
I hope that this short guide has been of help, and remember if you're not sure about anything, check out some of the online specialist sites for help!
Oh yes, and one last thing, please remember rats are social animals and need to be kept in at least pairs, it's unfair to buy one rat and keep it on it's own all it's life.