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Prairie Dogs - Housing

By Rick Axelson, DVM

Care & Wellness, Pet Services

What type of cage does my prairie dog require?prairie_dogs-housing-1

Prairie dogs should be housed in as large a cage as is possible, as they require room to move around and explore. The biggest cage you can afford is probably too small! Space should be allowed for exercise. Prairie dogs do not need to climb, so shelves and other climbing equipment are not recommended. Since prairie dogs love to chew, they should not be housed in wooden cages. Rather, stainless steel cages are preferred. To prevent odor buildup and respiratory disease, at least one (and preferable all) sides of the cage should be open to allow adequate ventilation. Cage sides should be high because prairie dogs love to dig and burrow. They will often dig and hide under cage bedding, and therefore can be messy as the bedding is flung around. Preferred bedding materials are wood shavings, commercial pellets, or shredded paper and the bedding should be deep enough to allow for adequate digging. Avoid sand, mud, and cedar wood shavings (cedar might be toxic.) Provide tunnels, dark areas and boxes to allow for exploration by the prairie dog. The floor of the cage can be solid, or can be wire with an under-the-cage pan to allow for bedding and excrement accumulation.

"The biggest cage you can afford is probably too small."

Due to their reputation as curious creatures and escape artists, prairie dogs should be housed in a cage that can be securely closed and locked. The cage MUST be escape-proof!

Preferred temperature for prairie dogs is about 70°F (21°C) with about 30-70% humidity. Extremes in temperature should be avoided. High temperatures may cause heat stroke, and cold temperatures may cause sluggish behavior (called pseudo-hibernation.) A stress free environment is preferred by prairie dogs.

Does my prairie dog need bedding in his cage?

Prairie dogs like to hide. Bedding provides a hiding place and allows for a cleaner cage. Bedding should be changed at least weekly and preferably more often as waste material accumulates. Clean up all fecal matter and urine as it accumulates daily to help maintain a hygienic environment.

What else do I need in the cage?

"SUPERVISED exercise, out of the cage, should be provided daily."

As mentioned, hiding places (nest boxes, tunnels, etc.) mimic the outside environment and let prairie dogs exhibit normal behavior. Toys are not needed. Blocks of wood or non-toxic material should be provided for your prairie dog to chew. Your prairie dog will appreciate daily exercise. SUPERVISED exercise, out of the cage, should be provided daily.

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