The Pet Project – Part 7

There are several key differences between domestic guinea pigs and hamsters as pets: one is their obvious difference in sizes – both of our two cavies are just two months old and already several times larger and heavier than Stacy, who is herself an adult hamster. Another is their social behavior: Syrian hamsters are solitary by nature, and do not need or desire enclosure partners. Thirdly: hamsters are escape artists, while cavies are not. This latter behavioral difference was instrumental in my deciding whether to build my own enclosure or buy a large one off the shelf. And I decided for the former since I didn’t have to worry about the critters gnawing, jumping, squeezing through or climbing their way to freedoms in a custom-built enclosure!

There is quite a bit of information on custom built enclosures for cavies, and one popular design type is known as C&C, which stands for Cubes & Coroplast. The basic idea is to get prefabricated wire meshes to form the basic cage frame, and coroplast boards for surfaces. The coroplast boards are easily available at stationery shops like Popular Bookstore. As for wire meshes, quite a few cavy owners have gone with professional metal workers – like this company for instance – who custom make metal shelving, and also animal cages. The other and very popular option is to get them from Daiso.

The Daiso wire meshes come in varying sizes – which is very helpful for me to not just implement the design but also expand the enclosure later. Not all Daiso stores carry the meshes though, and it took four trips to different Daiso stores before I acquired enough meshes to not only build a first cage, but also a larger playpen area that I’ll bring over to our parents’ place on weekends for the cavies to roam about in the garden.

Coroplast sheets: the dark brown for the loft wall, privacy screen, and stairs. The translucent one for enclosure walls at both levels. The white one for the pull-out tray.

Making measurements and doing precision cuts on the coroplast boards.

Little helping hands!

Materials and tools for our 1.5 level 2×3 feet enclosure

10 wire meshes (of 30x60cm size) @ Daiso ($20)

Animal pee pads (two 60x90cm for the base level, and four 30x45cm for the loft level) @ Daiso ($12)

A pack of cable ties @ Daiso ($2)

A pack of velcro strips @ Daiso ($2)

3 Coroplast boards @ Art Friend/Plaza Singapura ($5.90 each)

2 3M Anti-Slip mats @ Self-Fix Store (45x60cm and 60x90cm of about $35 and $78)

Glue, tape, sharp pen knife, cutting board, etc.

And about 5 hours of labor spread across two days later: here’s the finished product.

A 1.5 level enclosure, with the loft level featuring their sleeping area and also a privacy screen which I can purpose for different occasions. The floor surface is the 3M anti-slip mat that’s comfortable for the cavies to run around on and easy for me to wash too.

I went with the slightly more complex pull-out tray design. Basically, the base just needs to be elevated. I used about 6cm elevation. If you can find different wire mesh heights, then the height around the enclosure’s circumference could be uniform. I didn’t find such matching pieces @ Daiso though, and I didn’t want to dig out my saw to cut through the higher mesh pieces, so made do.

Here’s what the pullout tray looks like. Depending on how large the enclosure is, the weight of the base might really stress the meshes, so I did a simple support structure underneath the mesh layer so that it doesn’t sag too much over time.

Close-up of the 3M anti-slip mat. The holes are a lot smaller than they look on the photo; perhaps 2mm each across? The material is fairly soft, rubbery – and comfortable for the cavies. The liquid waste easily seeps through to the pull-out tray too.

Pet Lovers Centre @ Suntec City sells a pre-made wooden bridge specifically for enclosures, but the weight of it would had put too much stress on the loft’s wire mesh. So I made my own. Constructing this set of stairs connecting the first and loft level by far was more challenging, relatively that is since the entire enclosure really wasn’t that tough to build from scratch to begin with!

The step staircase garnered I built garnered a lot of interest in the local cavy owners FB site. It took the most time as it had to be sturdy enough for the cavies to run up and down, safety side walls so that they don’t fall off when they sprint from one end to the next, and individual steps had to be cut and glued.

The coroplast sheets were too bendable. I’d just assembled for Ling in the early afternoon a set of Ikea drawers for Hannah, so I cut a strip off that used Ikea furniture box for underlining support. This cardboard support is what makes the staircase strong. I reckon it can easily bear 3 kg weight – three times the weight of an adult cavy.

To secure the stairs to the loft, I cut out an excess piece of coroplast, secured it with tape – and this piece is then used as a landing attachment to the loft. It’s probably easier to just cut a longer strip for the top layer of the stairs then bend it as necessary – but it was well-past midnight and I was dead tired already haha. The picture here is an early prototype. The actual one in the enclosure is much wider, alongside the additional guard rails.

Another picture, and of the final stairs version. I used the fairly wide velco strip from Daiso to secure this flap to the loft level. Easy to dismantle later to clean too.

The total damage involved in building this enclosure was about $167. About what I’d paid if I’d bought a pre-made cage from the store, but my custom-made one is expandable, materials can be recycled, and way more fun to build them yourself! :)

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