Although mice and rats are seen as pests and trapped by many homeowners, domestic mice and rats are growing in popularity as pet companions. They require a fairly small living space, are easy to care for, and are cute, playful, and hygienic.
Rats are highly intelligent and can even be taught to respond to their name. Mice and rats are both easy to keep happy, as long as they are provided with basic toys to keep them active. Although they are nocturnal creatures, they easily adjust to being awake during the day, allowing pet owners to play with them and watch them in their amusing activities throughout the day.
Mice and rats are social animals and should be kept with at least one other companion, although mice and rats should not be housed together. Rats typically live for two or three years, and mice for one or two years.
Pet mice and rats usually don’t bite but may under some circumstances. For example, they might bite a finger that smells like food, or when they are protecting their young.
Mice and rats have teeth that keep growing for their entire life, so they need to be given things to chew on so they can wear down their teeth to prevent them from getting too long. Sticks, wood blocks, soup bones, and dog biscuits are good chewing materials for your little pets and will keep them busy for hours. Males are larger than females and tend to be more docile, but have a stronger odour. The smaller females only have a faint odour. Because mice and rats are prolific breeders, it is important to keep two or more of the same gender to prevent them from overrunning your house.
It is very important that you don’t let your mice or rats run freely around the house, as they can easily be lost or be stuck or squashed behind furniture. They are also likely to chew anything in site, including electrical cords. Instead, keep them in an enclosed area free of objects they could chew or eat. Mice can be put in a rolling ball that will protect them from these dangers while they explore a room. It is important to supervise these small pets at all times when they are outside of their cage.
A wire cage with a solid bottom is ideal for these animals. A cage that is 12 × 24 inches is good for two rats or four to five mice. If possible, find a cage that has two floors, allowing your pet to explore and enjoy lots of room for playing.
Bedding should be absorbent and easy to remove, and should be changed at least every few days. Aspen wood shavings, pelletted bedding, and shredded paper are all good bedding materials. Avoid cedar or pine shavings, as they may contain chemicals that are toxic for mice and rats. Keep the cage in a quiet, sheltered area.
Mice and rats are very active creatures and need toys to stimulate them, especially when they are kept in cages. If they are not provided with adequate stimulation, they may try to escape and could hurt themselves in the process. Exercise wheels, chew toys, plastic tubes, toilet paper roles, and PVC piping are some examples of materials that will keep mice and rats busy. When provided with enough playthings, mice and rats will be kept active and content in their cage.
Mice and rats have a slight smell that is stronger among males than females. To reduce these odours, and to keep your pet healthy, it is important to clean its cage on a regular basis. The bedding/litter area should be changed daily and the entire cage should be cleaned at least once a week. Clean the cage with soap and water and then sanitize with mild bleach. Vinegar is also a good sanitizer. Make sure the cage is thoroughly dried before putting new bedding in the cage, to prevent mould from growing. Food and water should also be changed daily to prevent mold from growing. This will keep your mice or rats from developing respiratory problems.
A good diet is very important for your pet mice and rats, just as it is important for a cat or dog. A bad diet can result in obesity, overgrown teeth, and diarrhea, and can jeopardize the life of your little pet. A good diet should be high in fibre and low in fatty foods. Nuts and sunflower seeds contain high amounts of oil and should only be given to your mice and rats in small portions as treats. Commercial mouse and rat food will ensure a balanced diet with enough fibre. Ideally, this should be supplemented with small amounts of fruit and/or vegetables, such as carrots, broccoli, and apples, and with small amounts of seeds.
Rats like sweet foods but should be given fruit rather than sugary foods and pastries. Small amounts of dog food, corn on the cob, and low-sugar can also be fed to these pets. Make sure uneaten fresh foods are removed at least daily. Other food should be kept in a food dispenser rather than a dish, as food in dishes is easily spilled and can quickly become contaminated.
Don’t be worried if your mice or rats eat their droppings. These animals are herbivores and eat plants, which are difficult to digest, to get their nutrients. After the nutrients are broken down the first time they are not all absorbed, so mice and rats eat their droppings to get the remaining nutrients.
Health Problems and Diseases
Mice and rats are usually very healthy creatures. However, if your pet seems to be ill, check with your veterinarian. If you aren’t careful with what you feed these pets, they could become obese. Also, if they aren’t given enough things to chew, they could develop overgrown incisors. Tumors are very common among mice and rats but are usually benign and can be easily removed if they are small, before they become infected. Sniffling, sneezing, red-brown tears, and audible respiration are all indications your mouse or rat may have a bacterial infection or other disease. If you are concerned about your pet’s health, contact a local veterinarian.