Thursday, August 21, 2014

Cheapass Dog Fun: A Quieter Crate Tray Replacement

Our local thrift shops provide me with a perpetual treasure hunt, and several of them even have specific sections for pet stuff. I recently purchased a 36" wire crate minus its tray for $10. I have three different 36" crates, and at least two of them are usually set up in the house. When I wanted to use the third crate, I just slid the tray out of one of the others and brought it along with me.

When I began crating and rotating Brisbane and Ulysses, I found I needed all three crates. With
only two dogs to crate, I could still pull the tray out and stick it in whichever I needed at the moment, but this was highly inefficient and just plain obnoxious. Replacement crate pans were $30 or more, and new crates around $45 at Ross. While hunting on the internet for a less expensive DIY option, I found people suggesting plywood, cardboard, and finally horse stall mats. 

At my local hardware store, I found 24" foam floor squares. These link together, are thin enough to cut, and provide cushioning and shock absorption. They are, however, fairly thin. When I put a single square in the pan-less crate and then leaned my bony forearms on it, I could easily feel the wire crate bottom. It took three layers of foam before I could rest comfortably without feeling the bars under the foam. Yes, this did involve crawling halfway into the crate and planking on my forearms. It was worth it.

The nice thing about these interlocking foam tiles is that they are easy to cut. The width was perfect for my 36" crates, but the 24" tiles were obviously too short. A second tile, cut in half, fit perfectly. The tiles interlock nicely so I don't have to worry about them gapping, and since I have multiple layers of tile in there the seams don't have to line up. 

The tiles fit ok with just a little bending of the wavy puzzle edges, but they fit my crates much better without the wiggly bits. Note: When cutting off the wiggly bits, be sure to leave one edge intact if connecting multiple tiles! My tiles each came with a couple of thin edge pieces for making the tile a square with no wiggly bits. I put a couple of these under the plastic trays in my other two crates to keep the pans from rattling against the bottom. Brisbane doesn't like rattly crate trays, and I don't like hearing every time a dog moves during the night.
I could see this being a viable solution for any size crate, though my dogs are all under 50 pounds. The seams connecting the mats might be more prone to gapping with a heavier dog. I bought a pack of six tiles for $20 and used 4.5 of them to make a new crate floor. It wasn't a whole lot less than the $30 plastic replacement trays, but I like it a lot better. It's silent when the dogs move, and I imagine it's a lot more comfortable for them too.

The obvious downside is that these aren't quite as easy to clean as a plastic tray. When Ulysses tipped over a bucket of water in the crate, I had to pull out all three layers and lay them out to dry separately. On the the other hand, these aren't prone to warping like a big ol' sheet of plastic. They're lighter than plywood, too.

Another obvious drawback is that these would be way more fun to chew than plastic. None of my dogs is destructive, they don't demolish toys or gnaw the furniture. 
If my dogs liked to chew things for fun, I would be replacing my crate tray with a store-bought plastic or metal crate pan, or looking for an appropriately-sized metal oil pan. Fortunately, my guys are content lounging in their crates instead of eating them.

The foam crate floor has only been in service for a couple of weeks, but I already like it better than the plastic pans because it is quiet. I'm willing to bet it is more comfortable, too. While it's not a solution for every dog, shock-absorbing or anti-fatigue mats have got to be more comfortable than plastic for bony elbows and elderly joints. Have I mentioned that it's quiet? The foam crate floor is currently in one of our bedroom crates, and I no longer wake to the sounds of dogs getting more comfortable at 2am. I even used my last tile and a half to pad the existing tray in the other crate.


  1. A month ago my dog chewed all his rubber bed. My friend suggested me to get metal crate pans and yes this is great but I always add a dog beds in this crate. I am happy as the breakage issue solved.

  2. This is exactly what I'm looking for as far as silencing the rattling of the noisy crate trays. Thanks for the idea!