INTRODUCTION TO RODENT CARE
There is a lot to learn before buying your first Rodent. The care for mice and rats is very similar just never try to put the 2 together. Always make sure you have a good rodent vet on hand although cheap pet to purchase it still should be treated like any other animal and given premium care after all it is a member of the family. Do your research there are some great facebook sites out there, ask breeders, head to a rodent show gather all your information before making a decision on whether you would prefer a rat or mouse, male or female go with what best suits your situation and be prepared for the ewww that comes from people that have litter understanding of what great pets these guys make.
Rats or Mice?
Mice are a great pet for those that want to love an animal but are restricted in what they can have. Many of our mice go to Children who are keen to learn the responsibility of owning a pet without the lifelong commitment. They are small and take up very little room. Boys or Girls you ask? Boy mice are territorial, which means they usually won’t accept other boys into their habitat. If you are after one mouse only then we would strongly suggest a male they can be kept singly as opposed to females who are social and thrive better in colonies of 3 or more. Boys make lovely pets they enjoy the one on one time with you more so than females, however males can sometimes be a little more smelly than females. I have found since having mice my average males live to around the age of 2-3 years females tend to have a shorter life span of around 18 month – 2 years. I have had success with boys being kept with others when introduced at an early age but sometimes this can be short lived. The key I have found is keeping the males just a little stinky so they know where they have been. Adult females can also play the dominance game until they get used to their new friend this is generally short lived.
Rats make awesome pets and quite often previous mouse owners come to us when they are ready to upgrade to rats. Rats are very social and intelligent animals and love the company of their own kind as well as humans. Girls are inquisitive by nature and I personally find boys are more laid back and happy to chill with you, yes males do mark their territory more than females and have a different odour to them also. Unless you already have rats at home I won’t sell single rats however I am more than happy to sell same sex pairs. Single living rats can become sad when living alone and crave a friend of their own kind. I have many people say but it will be with me all the time, remember they are nocturnal so whilst you are sleeping they want to play, this is where they benefit from having a cage mate. Average life span of rat can be anywhere between 2-4 years depending on circumstances some can live longer or not as long. Rats are very intelligent animals and with training can be taught all kinds of tricks.
WHERE CAN I GET A PET RAT OR MOUSE FROM?
This is generally how people start out I have found they are looking to rescue a little furry friend. You can direct your enquiries to local animal shelters if the have any rodents needing to be rehomed. Many breeders also rescue and rehome surrendered rodents. We have been taking in rescues for a few years now and it’s very rewarding especially when they are heading off to their new homes. Other organisations to try are the RSPCA or Porsche’s Small Animal Rescue.
Buying from a breeder
Finding a good rodent breeder is highly recommended you can generally ensure your pet is healthy and will have a good temperament. In NSW you can try the registered breeders list on the Australian Rodent Fanciers’ Society of NSW website.
I recommend you visit the breeder you have selected to see how their rodents are kept, a good breeder will ask a lot of questions this is so they can guage if you to are ready for a new pet, sometimes people can buy on a whim present for a child, girlfriend, boyfriend etc with little thought being put in long term. Not all breeders abide by a club code of ethics nor do they breed to the betterment of the animal or the fancy, so beware do your homework steer clear of rodent mills. If you are unsure about the quality of the animal you are looking to buy, time to find another breeder. It is worthwhile waiting for the right breeder to have something available.
Buying from a pet shop
Some pet shops keep healthy animals, however most pets hops aren’t always aware of the condition these animals could possibly be housed in prior to making it to their shop. Pet shops do an amazing job at selling pet produce but finding a pet shop that knows the ins and outs of keeping rodents can be very hit and miss. A lot of people come to us for the first time after purchasing their heart rat or mouse to only a short time later be faced with either a sick or pregnant rodent.
How do I know which Mouse or Rat is the right one?
No matter where you get your mouse or rat from the top 5 things to look out for.
- The animals should be alert and look healthy, with no breathing problems, sneezing, injuries, scabs or scratching, weeping eyes or diarrhoea, a healthy coat and bright eyes.
- The enclosure should be suitable, not overcrowded, clean food and water, the area should be relatively clean of waste and should not smell too much.
- The rodents should be kept separated by sex it takes approximately 10 seconds for a female to fall pregnant from one encounter with the opposite sex.
- Ask about the history of the rodent – parental history, genetic health issues, any chance it could be pregnant
- A lot of people want pictures to make a selection, visit the breeder let the rodent pick you 🙂
WHAT KIND OF CAGE SHOULD I GET?
There a many different types of cages you can buy whether from a pet shop or online or you can do a DIY project and make your own. I always say go for something that is easy to clean 🙂 However you need to use common sense when it comes to how many you can house in them. Also make sure the bar spacing is appropriate if they can fit their head through the rest of the body will too.
Like mouse cages its a very similar ruling, however whatever you are using needs to be larger scale, some pet shops sell rat and mouse cages in most of these instances don’t be fooled they are possibly to small for rats.
Rodents are sensitive in the respiratory tract so you need to ensure what bedding/substrate you use for them is not going to cause any issues, below are the ones I have tried and tested and have worked for me.
Agrisorb (Hemp Shavings)
A popular product amongst breeders, for the combination of smell control and absorbency. It looks like wood shavings, but is actually made from hemp, instead of the more common aromatic pine or cedar shavings. An added bonus of hemp is that it’s naturally anti-fungal and anti-bacterial. This can only be purchased in bulk but cost effective.
Wood shavings is fine to use as long as it’s kiln-dried and dust extracted, and I have used this product for many years with success. However you do need to be careful that its not strongly scented.
Recycled paper pellets
Breeders Choice or Back to Nature is safe and easy to obtain from pet shops and supermarkets as it is relatively cheap, easy to obtain (the supermarket has big bags) and totally safe. There’s no toxins or aromatic scents to worry about, it’s safe to be chewed on, and my mice love digging through it. This is a great product to use in a litter tray when you are looking to toilet train your rats, important to have litter and bedding as different products.