Rats and mice have been domesticated for over 100 years and often suffer from a bad reputation, connected to their wild counterparts. However, these modern pets are actually quite clean, highly intelligent and very social animals, making fantastic pets for children and adults.
Rats and mice are easy and inexpensive to keep and come in a variety of colours. This brochure will help with the general care requirements of these fascinating pets.
The average lifespan of a rat is 2 - 3 years and a mouse is 1 - 2 years.
Rats and mice need a 'gnaw proof' cage such as a solid plastic or glass tank with good ventilation and a secure lid. There are many varieties available - a good rule of thumb for choosing a cage is to go with the largest you can afford and have room for.
Minimum cage sizes are:
- Rats - 35cm L x 28cm W x 44cm H
- Mice - 35cm L x 28cm W x 30cm H
Avoid wire cages as they are too drafty, allow bedding to fall out and are hard to clean and disinfect.
The flooring should consist of wood shavings or paper. Straw is too sharp and should not be used. Sawdust should also be avoided as it is too fine and can irritate the eyes, nose and ears.
Create a sleeping area with something like a bird nesting box filled with shredded paper.
Create a playground-like environment in the cage for your rat or mouse to stimulate their mind and provide exercise. There are many plastic toys available or you can add fruit tree branches and rocks. Rats and mice will be able to 'self-exercise' in this kind of environment.
We like to chew
Rats and mice have teeth that grow continuously. They must chew to wear them down so the mouth occludes properly. Always provide gnawing toys, branches or sticks.
Rats and mice should not be left to run loose in the house as they will not only destroy furniture and bedding, but could chew electrical cords.
While rats and mice can eat a wide variety of food, it is best to provide a good quality dry rat or mouse pellet mix. This should make up most of the diet. PETstock provides complete rodent mixes that provide a balanced diet for your rat or mouse.
You should also provide small amounts of fruit and vegetables such as broccoli, sprouts, carrot, avocado, tomato, apple and banana.
As a treat, rats love corn-on-the-cob, while mice adore dandelion leaves.
Feed your rat or mouse from dishes that are easy to clean. Leave food out all the time, but change it daily.
Ensure fresh water is available from a non-drip bottle with a stainless steel nozzle, to prevent the enclosure from getting wet.
Wash all fruit and vegetables thoroughly before feeding to rats or mice.
Living with others
Rats and mice live in colonies and are social animals so, while they can live alone, they will enjoy the company of a friend. Generally, opt to keep same sex animals as a male/female combination will result in constant breeding and offspring. Do not keep two male mice together as they will fight. Rats can live with some dogs and cats but be careful when introducing them and never leave them alone together. It's not wise to try this with mice.
Rats and mice should not be housed together.
Domestic, hand reared rats and mice rarely bite and if they do it is usually from fear rather than aggression. Begin handling your pet rat our mouse by stroking them for the first couple of days, letting them get used to your smell.
If you have been handling food, wash your hands first as they can mistake your finger for food, which may result in a bite.
- Rats - use two hands forming a cradle and scoop them up, allowing them to rest comfortably in your palm. Don't pick them up by their tail.
- Mice - Use the same method, but you can use one hand.
Rat & Mice check list
- Cage or fish tank
- Shredded paper
- Exercise equipment
- Food mix
- Sleeping box
- Food bowl
- Mineral stone
- Wood shavings
- Plastic/wooden toys
- Water bottle
Cleanliness is the best way to keep your pet mouse or rat happy and healthy. It will also keep odours to a minimum (rats generally don't smell, while male mice give off a strong musk odour).
The food bowl should be cleaned daily and the water bottle at each refill. Change the bedding every 3 - 5 days. Finally, clean and disinfect the cage, toys and accessories once a week with a special small animal disinfectant (your local PETstock store will be able to provide a recommendation).