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Rat and Mouse Care

These are some basic tips on proper care and husbandry of your little friends, to keep them healthy and try to avoid some of the common health problems we often see. We will be glad to discuss routine care further when you bring your pets in for their annual physical examination.

Housing

Most pet rodents do well in 10-20 gallon aquariums, or cages designed specifically for rodents. Avoid wood as they love to chew and can escape. Avoid wire bottom cages as these can cause injuries due to feet being stuck in the wires, and also sores from the tender pads being on the wire all day. Provide hiding and burrowing areas such as cardboard paper towel rolls or commercially made “igloos”, etc.

Bedding

Bedding can be made from a variety of substances. We recommend paper products such as “Yesterday’s News” (available at our supply store). Wood shavings can be used with care, but be sure to avoid cedar and pine, as the resins and fumes can be toxic. Also avoid sand, sawdust and dirt, as these are difficult to keep clean. Bedding must be changed regularly-preferable twice a week or more.Keep the temperature between 65-80F. Avoid areas with drafts but make sure the cage is adequately ventilated-do not use solid tops on glass aquariums as the concentration of urine fumes may cause respiratory disease.Provide lots of toys such as tubes, mazes, paper towel rolls, plastic wheels (be careful with the old fashioned metal ones which can trap toes). Clean toys regularly. Avoid housing different species together and be careful with introducing new pets-we recommend at least a 4 week quarantine in a different area of the house, a new pet examination by your veterinarian, washing hands after handling the new pet, and then a gradual introduction to the current pet under supervision (or house in an adjacent cage with wire separating them for a while). Remember, never buy obviously ill animals or animals that have been in a cage with an obviously ill animal, even if the one you pick seems fine-it may be harboring the bacteria or virus and can infect your whole group at home!

Guinea pigs, rats and mice can be housed together with others of their own species, but gerbils and hamsters are best housed individually, unless they are a breeding pair.

Diet

We strongly recommend Oxbow Regal Rat pellets for your pet rats. We have found this company to provide consistently good quality feeds and they are truly dedicated to research in pet rodent nutrition. We have these pellets available at our clinic. In addition to pellets, rats can eat vegetables, especially dark green, yellow and orange ones once or twice a week. You may give a little bit of cheeses, whole wheat bread, yogurt, nuts or seeds, but these should be no more than 5% of the diet-we discourage use of the commercial feed mixes with lots of seeds and nuts-these are nutritionally incomplete with low protein and high fat and cause many disease issues. Make sure water is available 24 hours a day and is changed regularly. As of yet, Oxbow does not have a mouse formula, but you can look for good quality mouse pellet and avoid lots of seeds.

Diseases

The most common illnesses that we see pet rats and mice for in the clinic are respiratory infections, mites, and tumors. We also see dry gangrene of the tail in rats and wounds due to bites from cage mates fairly frequently. Dr. Dean is very experienced at anesthesia and surgery for your little “pocket pets” and routinely performs tumor removals. We recommend an annual physical examination in order to detect problems with teeth, tumors, weight (obesity is very common in rats) and other issues early so we can help your friends live long and active lives.

Remember that rodents hide illness well-once you notice a problem, the illness may have already been present for a long time. It’s important to watch your pet carefully and call us at the first sign of illness, even if it seems mild.

"Porphyra" or red tears and even urine can be normal in a rat, but are often increased or noticed more when a rat is ill.

Vital statistics

Mice Rats
Scientific name: Mus musculus  Rattus norvegicus
Life span:  2-3 years(potential of 4) 3-4 years (potential of 7)
Desirable Temperature: 65-80 F 65-80 F
Humidity: 30-70% 30-70%
Age at onset of puberty: 28-40 days 50-60 days
Gestation (pregnancy length): 19-21 days 21-23 days
Average litter size: 10-12 6-12
Weaning age: 21-28 days 21 days