Animal Care

Rats & Mice

ratsThe Right Pet for You?

Mice are lively and easily tamed, but are active at night and may smell. Rats are intelligent and interesting to look at, but need a lot of space and attention.

What do Rats & Mice need?

  • Companionship - to be with other rats or mice and to have human company.
  • A balanced diet of mixed grains, washed fruit and vegetables. Rats can also have seeds, nuts and small pieces of cooked meat. Both should have a salt or mineral lick to keep them healthy.
  • A constant supply of fresh, clean drinking water in a drip feed bottle with a metal spout. A large home kept indoors in a warm place, out of direct sunlight.
  • Rats need a lot of floor space, ideally on more than one level.
  • Mice should have a solid exercise wheel (with no open rungs) fixed to the wall of their home.
  • A nest box inside their home and plenty of hiding places.
  • A clean layer of wood shavings on the floor of their home with soft hay and kitchen paper for bedding. Do not use newspaper or cotton wool. 
  • Toys to play with, like cardboard tubes and ladders.
  • Their home to be tidied every day and thoroughly cleaned every week.
  • A hardwood gnawing block to wear down long teeth.
  • To be taken to a vet if they are ill or injured.

Life span
Rats and mice usually live for two to three years.

Mice need to be with other mice and rats with other rats. Male mice are likely to fight, unless they are littermates, so it is better to keep female mice in groups. However, they can be territorial, so introduce new mice into a neutral area first. Rats like the company of humans, but are clever enough to escape if they have a chance.

To pick up a rat, place one hand round its shoulders and support its hindquarters in your other hand. Handle rats fairly regularly to keep them tame. To pick up a mouse, lift it up by the base of the tail while supporting its body with your other hand. Hold it on your hand and keep it close to the ground or over a flat surface. Rats and mice may bite if frightened.

The DSPCA strongly advises that you do not breed from rats or mice. The best way to ensure that they do not breed is to keep males and females apart. A female rat could have a litter of up to 11 young every four to five weeks, while a female mouse can have as many as 14 in a litter.

If a mouse develops skin sores, bathe them with a mild antiseptic. If they persist, seek veterinary advice. Loss of fur and sore skin could also indicate parasites (tiny living things which live on other creatures) or the fungal disease ringworm. Symptoms of respiratory disease in both rats and mice include a loss of appetite, a nasal discharge and uneven breathing. Keep the animal warm and seek veterinary advice straight away. Rats and mice can suffer from overgrown teeth if they do not have enough wood, hard pellets or raw vegetables to gnaw on. Your vet may have to cut them back.

If a rat holds its head on one side and walks in circles, it may have middle ear disease. Seek veterinary advice straight away. Injury or a virus can cause paralysis in mice, and you should seek veterinary advice straight away. A rat that has a sore nose and is sneezing could be allergic to the materials in its home. Use only good quality hay and wood shavings rather than sawdust. Rats, especially older ones, often develop lumps and tumours. If you notice any unusual growths, seek veterinary advice straight away.

Remember - a pet needs your time and interest for the rest of its life.


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