Essential Tips for Newbie Rat and Mouse Owners


Does the idea of a pet rat or mouse appeal to you? Similar to other small pets like hamsters, gerbils, and guinea pigs, rats and mice are a common choice for parents of young children who are begging for a pet.  Or maybe you just want a cute little guy to sit on your shoulder or in your t-shirt pocket!  Whatever the reason you have for wanting one, it’s important to remember that small pets are not always less of a responsibility or less expensive to care for than dogs and cats.



The American Fancy Rat & Mouse Association is a great resource for anyone interested in learning more about rats and mice as companion animals.  They’ve put together a helpful list of things to think about before you add a furry little rodent to your family.  Here’s a brief summary…you can check out the full and very informative article HERE:


Males vs. Females

If you’re concerned about possible odors associated with rats or mice, choose a female over a male.  Male rats may mark their cage with urine more than females, although their natural odor is not offensive.  Male mice can have a more “musky” odor than females, according to the AFRMA.


Choosing a Healthy Pet

Healthy rats and mice should have sleek, glossy coats, and be curious and active.  Warning signs of a sick animal include sneezing, wheezing, low body weight, hunched posture, eye and nose discharge, bloated abdomen, and diarrhea.


How Many to Get?

Rats and mice are both social animals, so two (or more) is always better than one.  Keeping the same sex together is recommended, except for male mice.  If you have multiple rodent species, be sure to house them separately.  Rats can become good friends with the family dog or cat, but it’s best to keep cats and mice apart.


Essential Supplies

A glass terrarium or aquarium with a screened top is preferable to open wire cages.    Two rats can live comfortably in a 15-20 gallon tank and two mice in a 10 gallon tank.  Cedar and pine bedding can cause respiratory problems.  Stick to things like aspen shavings, paper, or other non-toxic commercial bedding products.  You’ll also need a “demand-type” water bottle, feeding dish, sleeping box, an exercise wheel, shelves/ramps/ladders for climbing, and chew toys.  Pieces of PVC pipe or paper tubes make great tunnels to play in.


Proper Feeding

Make food available at all times.  Commercial “laboratory” pellets are fine, along with foods like salad greens, fresh fruits and vegetables, and whole wheat bread.  Skip the chips and cookies and give your guys treats like low sugar cereals, plain popcorn, and dry oatmeal.


Keep it Clean

Clean all food dishes once a day, and clean water bottles with each refill.  Change your pet’s bedding every 3-5 days and clean and disinfect the cage and all accessories once a week.


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