NCVMA: Rodents 101 – Different types of pet rats & mice

Posted by Big Rat on Campus on Apr 18, 2013 in Rat News | Subscribe

By the North Carolina Veterinary Medical Association

A rodent can make an outstanding pet, but it is important for potential owners to recognize that owning a pet mouse or rat is a different experience than owning any other type of pet. To ensure that you have a positive experience with your new pet, make sure to select the type of mouse or rat that best suits your wants and needs.

Your first important decision is determining what type of animal you want. Rats, typically larger than mice, will need larger cages and more food. Rats usually live between two and three years, and are nocturnal animals. Male rats are typically larger and lazier than their female counterparts, which are generally smaller and more active. On average, adult male rats’ weight falls between 0.6 and 1 pound, with adult female rats weighing slightly less. Rats are very social creatures and thrive in pairs or groups. If you decide to adopt more than one rat as a pet, you may want to consider getting pairs or groups of the same gender to prevent reproduction, which will otherwise occur at a very rapid rate. Rats are intelligent, easily tamed and relatively easy to care for. However, rats do need a fair amount of attention and exercise time outside of their cages, usually about one hour each day.

Like rats, there are a variety of different types and breeds of mice that make excellent pets. Mice are usually smaller than rats but share many of the same general traits and characteristics. Considerably smaller than rats, domestic mice typically weigh less than an ounce. Because they are social and playful, mice can be wonderful pets. Like rats, it is often best to adopt more than one mouse so they can keep each other company. To prevent reproduction, however, make sure to buy pairs or groups of mice that are the same gender. When they are well cared for, mice typically live between one and three years.

Special considerations
Because there are so many breeds of both rats and mice that can make great pets, it is important to recognize what is most important for you as a pet owner in selecting your new pet. You will certainly want to consider size and gender, as mentioned above. You may also want to consider your rat or mouse’s appearance. The biggest difference between many breeds is the way that they look. It is recommended that potential rodent owners spend time looking at a variety of breeds before making a selection that best suits them and their taste.

What to feed your pet
Rats and mice can both be fed a diet primarily based around store-bought food that is specially formulated and prepared for them. This is a safe option that ensures that they are not exposed to harmful food or anything that could be bad for their digestive systems. However, the same food for every meal can get boring, so it is safe to supplement your pet’s diet with small servings of most fresh fruits and vegetables. Unsweetened breakfast cereal is also a favorite treat of many pet rats and mice.

Regular Care
In all instances of caring for any rodent, it is important to keep your pet’s cage and environment clean, make it a priority to provide proper nutrition, and be certain that all of your new pet’s needs are met to ensure wellbeing, health and happiness. As with any pet, be sure to consult with your veterinarian for the specific needs of your rat or mice, as they may be different for individual animals.

The North Carolina Veterinary Medical Association (NCVMA) is a professional organization of veterinarians dedicated to compassionate animal care and quality medicine. For more information, visit, follow us on Twitter at @NCVMA, or call (800) 446-2862 or (919) 851-5850.

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