Mice and rats can make excellent little pets and are very popular with children. However, their average life-span is only about two years. Having been bred in captivity for nearly one hundred years, there now exist forty different varieties of these tiny creatures. Pet mice are easily handled by children and do not require large or expensive facilities.
Caring for your mice and rats
Just like rabbits and guinea pigs, mice and rats are extremely sociable animals who require companionship. It is thus recommended to house at least two mice (or rats) together. Again, to avoid unintended litters, be sure not to mix entire male rats with entire female rats.
When choosing a home for your pet remember that bigger is better! Select the largest cage possible, making sure that it is well ventilated, easy to clean, and predator/escape proof. The cage lid should be hinged to allow access to the animals and facilitate cleaning. Be sure to provide a small dark nesting box, fitted as a gallery close to the lid of the cage, with access to the box supplied via ramp, as mice suffer great stress if such a retreat is not available.
The floor of the cage should allow for good shaving litter 2.5cm deep with ample bedding straw cover. Ensure that the area you choose to keep your pet’s cage is draught-free and will not be prone to severe weather conditions, as mice are prone to heat and cold stress. Mice are also sensitive to dust and sprays, so be mindful to ensure that your pet does not come into contact with either. Clean the cage regularly and change the bedding to avoid ammonia build-up. Finally, make sure to provide dripper type water bottles, which are less likely to be contaminated or tipped over, and can be filled without having to open the cage.
Mice and rats are talented climbers. Ropes and ladders should be provided, along with a strong exercise wheel. Ideal for exercise is a multi-storied mouse cage.
Mice and rats generally groom themselves, providing their cage is kept clean. Rats enjoy dipping their face and paws in water while grooming, so ensure to provide a shallow dish of water in their cage and replenish it frequently. It is recommended you handle your pet daily to check for signs of ill-health. Daily handling also helps keep your furry friend tame.
Mice and rats are both omnivores (they eat plant & animal material). They will eat a wide variety of food if offered.
Mice and rats feeding guide:
- Mice and rats should be fed a combination of ad lib fresh fruits and vegetables and small amounts of good quality mouse/rat pellets or cubes (ensure they have a protein content of at least 16% & fat content of 4-5%).
- Some examples of fruit and veggies include: apples, pears, banana, melons, stone fruits, citrus fruits, broccoli, cabbage, brussels sprouts, endive, carrots, bok choy/other Asian greens, celery, parsley, berries, tomato, fresh corn, beans, peas.
- Avoid feeding mice or rats a seed/grain mix as these are too high in fat and sugar. Mice are very prone to becoming obese & malnourished on these mixes. They tend to ‘select’ their favourite bits in the mix and therefore miss out on some important nutrients.
- Access to fresh clean water at all times.
- The following should be considered as treats and should only be offered in very small amounts: cereals, grains, seeds, breads, biscuits, sweets, cooked pasta & rice and breakfast cereals.
- Please ensure that any changes to the diet are made gradually to avoid gastrointestinal upset.