Rats and Mice
Rats and mice can make great pets and can be lots of fun, if safely handled. However, they require plenty of attention to be cared for properly, and a decision to purchase them should take into account that they can live up to five years.
Rats and mice require a hutch to live in that is safe from predators such as dogs and cats, has an area that protects them from the weather and provides enough space for exercise. A suitable hutch design includes a dark, dry area for the rats or mice to rest and hide, bedding of soft hay or shredded newspaper and is water proof. The other section of the hutch should have access to light and be fitted with ropes, ramps or ladders to provide them with environmental stimulation and the opportunity for exercise and exploration. The floor of the hutch should be covered in at least 2-3cm of litter (wood shavings or shredded paper). It must also have good ventilation but be free of draft.
It is important to clean the hutch regularly by removing soiled bedding and ensuring the rats and mice have a dry area to sleep. Rats and mice that do not have access to clean bedding can suffer from respiratory infections, skin ailments and pest infestation such as fleas and mites.
Rats and mice can easily suffer from heat stress. Once the temperature rises above 30°C it is necessary to regularly monitor your rats or mice. It is vital not to place the hutch in direct sunlight. Keep it in the shade even on warm to cool days. It doesn't take long for heat to build up in small areas such as the hutch. On hot days it may be necessary to provide a frozen ice brick or drink bottle in the nesting area of the hutch to reduce the temperature.
Rats and mice are omnivores and will eat most foods. They can be fed pellets that are available from pet shops. Fresh green vegetables such as cabbage, lettuce, carrots, broccoli, apple and celery should be included in their daily diet and grass hay should be made available regularly. Fresh, cool water must be provided at all times, either in a drip feeder or a shallow bowl.
Rats and mice have poor recuperative powers so it is vital that you ensure your pet is as healthy as possible to prevent any illness. Any health issues that develop require advice from your local veterinarian.
Rats and mice can be good pets for children if they are treated appropriately and socialised. They must be handled regularly so they can develop a positive relationship with humans. When you pick up your rats or mice do it gently and make sure they feel secure and safe. If rats and mice are not accustomed to being handled or are mishandled they may bite. Wear gloves, if you are unsure whether your mice or rats are tame enough to handle.
Rats and mice are social creatures and prefer to live in pairs or groups. However, they should be housed with their own species. Avoid housing rats and mice together. To avoid unwanted pregnancies separate males and females. Males will be less likely to fight each other if introduced at a young age.