Rats and mice need to have a secure, safe enclosure which is cleaned regularly and aerated to avoid the build-up of ammonia. They need to be kept in an area which is free of draughts and protected from extremes of weather including heat and cold. They need to be fed a low calorie, low fat, balanced diet for optimal health.
We can advise on worming and mite prevention in your rodents as well as desexing. Regular health examinations will help ensure that your little pet lives as long as possible. Rats are generally intelligent, affectionate and interactive and can be taught tricks and other trained behaviour. We get quite a few rats and mice coming in for check-ups and health care. We recommend rats over mice when it comes to keeping them as pets purely based on sociability, size and a longer lifespan. Rats also have far less odour if their cages are kept clean.
Rats and mice are generally social animals and are usually kept in groups. If they are not desexed or kept in same sex groups, this can lead to breeding and a lot more rodents than you were wanting as pets. Some rats do not do well with others and may need to be housed separately. Mice can be kept in groups of females only but more than one male in a cage will end up in a fight.
It is important that your rats and mice are not overcrowded and that the cages are well ventilated. The bigger the cage, the better but ensure the wire spacing is small enough to prevent escape. Aquariums are not a good idea as it can lead to respiratory diseases due to high levels of ammonia, even if cleaned often. Ensure clean water daily and a healthy diet. You can also add in hides and toys to keep your little pets active and healthy.
Disease and health
It is important to choose your pets well. It is often better to purchase from an established breeder rather than a pet shop. This is mostly due to the possibility of mycoplasmal respiratory disease. If you see rats in the cages that are showing breathing difficulty or are sneezing a lot, they may be ill. Once cages are contaminated with the disease it can be very difficult to eradicate and the next rats that live in the cage are likely to pick up the disease. This is also why it is often better to purchase a new cage instead of a second hand one so you do not have the chance of your new pet picking up illnesses from the cage.
Female mice and rats often develop mammary tumours as they get older. These can be removed surgically and prolong their lives. Males can be desexed to reduce odour and prevent them from fighting with each other. Rats often suffer from hair loss, itchy skin and dermatitis that may require treatment. We recommend that you give your rats and mice a once over every week and include a weight check. Sudden weight changes often signify a problem.
Other signs of illness include:
- Hiding or not coming out of their hide as much as they usually would
- Being lethargic and not moving as much as normal
- Being picky over their food or generally eating less or not at all
- Changes in urination and faeces
- Discharge from mouth, nostrils or eyes
- Dragging legs or appearing paralysed
- Wounds, bruises, swelling, bleeding
- Bleeding gums or broken teeth
- Wheezing, sneezing, breathing difficulty
- Lumps (even small ones)
Any signs of illness should be taken seriously as by the time symptoms are showing it is generally already quite advanced. Don’t hesitate in getting assistance as soon as possible.