RAT/MOUSE INFO-Includes care

Section currently covers  Choosing between a rat or a mouse, male or female and the housing and feeding of both rats and mice.

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Rat/Mouse Information and Care

 

The differences between a pet Rat and a pet Mouse – which is right for you?

Rats and mice make very different pets, a rat may look like just a bigger version of a mouse but owning either is quite a different experience from owning the other. Both can become very tame but rats are generally a lot more interactive. A rat is about as smart as a dog, which means you can teach it tricks and let it out of the cage to run around etc (once it’s tame and used to you of course). You can't let pet mice run around in open areas but they can become very tame and will learn to come to the side of the cage to see you and climb onto your hand etc. That is to say both rats and mice can learn to enjoy human contact and even seek it out.  In terms of maintenance, both are fairly easy and cheap to care for after the initial set up costs of buying a cage and accessories. However, one of the biggest factors to consider if you need to decide between a rat or a mouse is how much time you have available to spend with that pet. Rats need a lot more attention, and really need to be out of their cage every day for at least an hour. I find if they don't they become destructive, mess up their cage and are generally upset. Mice on the other hand do like to come out and be held but will be ok with not coming out every day or only coming out for a little while and are much better at entertaining themselves, especially if you have more than one mouse.

In conclusion, mice and rats can both make very rewarding pets and which one is right for you just depends firstly on what you’re looking for in a pet and then secondly on what kind of time and resources you have available to spend on that pet. I wouldn’t say that either pet provides greater enjoyment over the other, my rats crack me up and I enjoy trying to teach them new tricks. But there’s something about having a pet as small as a mouse that can learn to completely trust something as large as a human that really appeals to me also. If you need more help working out which pet is right for you, don’t hesitate to email me for assistance at Jacqui.cleworth@gmail.com

Male or Female

There are a few differences between the two genders however they are not always all present in every animal and sometimes a female will act more like a typical male or vice versa. Hence I would never advise someone to pick an animal based solely on gender but rather to pick out the animal they like the best in a bunch and then work out the gender of that animal. This is of course unless you want an animal as a friend for your current animal and so therefore need one the same gender.

I do however see slight differences between my males and females. Sometimes from the way babies act when I try to pick them up I can guess whether they’re male or female in that males tend to be the calmer ones in the group. If you are only able to have one of either a rat or a mouse, I would always recommend getting a male.  Females tend to suffer more than males from being kept by themselves, and so long as you have enough time each day to go and see a male rat or mouse they often don’t show any signs of missing a same species companion. Females like to live with at least one other female, and they will become very attached to the other females they live with and seem to bond more strongly to each other over their owner.  Males on the other hand tend to be more interested in and attached to their owner over other rats or mice. This is unless they decide they can’t live together and fight and then they will dedicate a lot of time and energy to trying to hurt each other. Females can fight too, especially if you try to introduce a new female into their cage but generally cope better with living in groups. Male rats seem to be slightly better at coping with living with other males than mice but in both cases I find the males ignore each other for the most part and just struggle to get my attention. Many people will say that males make more loving pets, and as I said before they do tend to be calmer than females and often more happy to just sit with you and be patted etc. The trade-off however, at least with mice is that the males do smell a lot more. Neither male nor female rats smell, but the males will mark their territory-which can include you. This is a tiny amount of urine that you can't really see and is practically unnoticeable to the human nose.  I’ve had 3 male mice introduced as adults that all live together and rarely fight and when they do it’s just the dominant one giving another a quick warning nip. When I first moved them in together the cage smelt bad, but after a while they calmed down and now it’s not so bad. If you only have one male though it’s not as bad, in fact after a while it’s barely noticeable as he won’t feel as much of a need to mark his territory.  The smell itself isn’t that bad, it doesn’t smell like droppings or anything, it’s just a unique male smell. Overall though I find the smell of your pets is much more dependent on how often you clean the cage than their gender.

Overall though as I said before, when choosing your first pet I don’t think the decision should be based purely on which gender you think you want, but rather on which animal appeals most to you in a group as I think this will lead to you having a pet that’s more suited to you.

Food and Housing

Needless to say, rats will need a bigger cage than mice and mouse cages are generally not suitable for rats, so for example if you’ve had mice before and decide you want to try a pet rat, you will probably need to invest in a new cage. I personally think the best cages for both rats and mice are the ones that have a plastic bottom and then bars and levels that the animals are able to climb. These cages are well ventilated so don’t smell as much and allow the animals to do a lot of exercise in the cage. It also allows them to watch and smell from the bars so they can keep track of what’s going on and provides them with a bit of entertainment. Glass tanks are also ok but you really need to make sure you keep them clean as dirty bedding can make mice and rats very sick and cause respiratory problems. Also for the roof you will need a lid to protect them and one that has holes so air is coming in. And not just like the lid for a fish tank that has a tiny gap for the filter to come out. Those plastic lids with heaps of tiny holes are better suited. Those plastic tunnel cages that are made for mice are also good cages, except in most cases a lot harder to keep clean. I also find that mice kept in those sorts of cages tend to be less tame to those kept in wire cages, as I guess there is more interaction possible between you and the mice in a wire cage so they become more used to humans. Once you have your cage, a few other things you will need are a food bowl – preferably one that is heavy enough for them to sit on the side and eat out of, a water bottle – bottles are better than bowls because they keep the water cleaner, and especially if you have a wire cage, a little house for them. If you’re using a glass tank often they will just build a nest to sleep in out of the bedding in the corner of the cage. You can also add any toys you like to the cage, there are heaps of tunnels and wheels which mice love and bird toys are often pretty good for rats. I find my mice love empty toilet rolls. The only thing with wheels for mice is to make sure you get one that is entirely enclosed, that is not made out of open bars or spokes. This is because they can hurt themselves on open wheels. I’ve never had a rat who liked running in a wheel but there are wheels out there big enough for rats and I’ve heard of rats who do enjoy them, especially if they’re introduced to them when they’re young. In both rats and mice, the females are more likely to enjoy running on a wheel than the males.

To line the base of the cage, there are a number of options. Most pet shops sell saw dust to use which is good at controlling odours. However you need to make sure that you get one that is safe for small animals as some are made from trees that are poison. The other problem with sawdust is that some animals seem to find it an irritant and it causes them to sneeze etc. This is a lot more common in rats and especially rats that suffer from already present respiratory problems. Another option is to use kitty litters that are made from cardboard and paper. This is also good at controlling odours. Some people use newspaper but I would advise against using this by itself as it’s not as absorbent as the other two litter options and some animals will tear it all up and move it into one corner to make a nest.  I personally put down a few layers of newspaper and then put some cardboard kitty litter on top. This also makes it easier to clean.

For food, most pet shops will sell mouse and rat food which is good. Some pet shops will try and sell you rabbit and guinea pig food. This is ok except that these mixes also include a few parts that your rat or mouse won’t eat, such as dried grass etc. So if this is all you can find for your pet you just need to be aware that even if their bowl still looks full of food, it’s possible they’ve eaten all the seeds and bits they can from it so you will need to refill it. On top of this mixed seed diet, from time to time you can add bits of fresh fruit and vegetables, bread and nuts etc. In fact, pretty much anything that you want to eat, your pet and especially pet rats will want to eat too. This doesn’t mean you should give it to them, too much fresh produce can lead to your pet developing diarrhea, and too much sugar, salt or fat will make your pet fat or can even cause it to develop diabetes.  Any food outside of their normal seed mix diet can be considered a treat and whilst these treats can be healthy for the animal, they should not replace or be considered substitutes for their normal diet. Some of the favourite treats of my pets are frozen peas, corn on the cob (they will go crazy for this), toast with butter and vegemite, porridge, carrots, apples, peanut butter, cheese, museli bars and salty biscuits.

The other thing I should mention is that when feeding your pet a dry diet of seed mix it is extremely important that they always have access to cool, clean water. This water needs to be changed regularly, not just when they finish all of it.

 

If you have any other questions that I haven't answered in this guide or any information you feel needs to be added please feel free to email me at jacqui.cleworth@gmail.com