Anonymous: "Can you tell me more about breeding rats? I know there are infinite Google sources out there but it's always nice to hear directly from someone you trust on the matter. You are very knowledgeable! What age/weights do you breed at? How long do you leave them together? How do you tell if they have mated? Etc?"

Hi! I actually don’t breed, nor do I recommend breeding. The litter I currently have is from a mom that was pregnant when I got her.

It’s reeaaaaaalllly irresponsible to breed rats that came from a pet store, because the rats there are bred without any concern for their health or genetics or personality whatsoever. That doesn’t mean they can’t make great, healthy pets, but it does mean they’re not going to be nearly as good of breeding candidates as a rat coming from a reputable breeder that has tracked pedigrees for generations. There are tons of medical issues with rats that are genetic that may not show up until the rat’s 1+ year old, by which point he/she could have already had multiple litters, & all of those babies (& their babies, in turn) are going to be predisposed to illnesses.

For example, I had four brothers that were from the same (accidental) litter, I got them from a Tumblr user. I loved them, they were all incredibly nice rats & they were gorgeous. But they obviously had terrible genetics—two passed away unusually young due to respiratory issues, one died from a tooth abscess at a young age, & the healthiest of the lot has had severe eye problems requiring surgery + a tooth abscess that has been operated on twice & won’t go away & so he’s literally living with a hole in his chin & he’ll be on antibiotics & pain meds the rest of his life. Between the four, I spent around $1300 at the vet during their lives—some rats that are sickly can get expensive, but that’s a VERY high average & since I’ve never had another quartet of rats averaging ~$400 vet bills despite having had 75+ rats, I feel extremely confident in saying they had genes predisposed to respiratory & tooth problems.

I don’t have nearly as much of an issue if someone’s breeding rats & intending to keep all of the litter, or they have friends that want them, but it seems pretty pointless to me. If you don’t have any concerns for health/pedigree (which someone considering breeding two pet store rats clearly doesn’t), go get a pregnant rat out of a snake food bin, or a nursing mom & babies, instead of contributing to the rat overpopulation problem & risking the lives of your a female that you own. Rats are creatures of survival & most deliveries go without a hitch, but that doesn’t mean it’s risk-free—I’ve gotten multiple messages from people whose mothers were having issues delivering & they weren’t able to afford the emergency vet bills & they ended up losing the mom & the litter. It’s just not worth the risk, IMO.

Also, REHOMING BABIES IS NOT EASY!!!!!! It’s fine if you end up with a small litter—the only other litter I’ve had (from a foster mother) was just seven, & I ended up keeping all but two. But I’ve got a larger litter now, 13 (which isn’t unusually huge), & I’m probably going to end up having to keep about half of them because it’s incredibly hard to find good homes, even though I’m willing to drive around 200 miles away & I have a ton of rat connections via Tumblr. If I was giving them away for free on Craig’s List, I’d have no problem, but I don’t want them to end up as snake food, I feel responsible for them even though I didn’t create them.

Frankly, I don’t really get the point of breeding any sort of animal when there are soooo many that need homes. I was walking Cece the other day & a neighbor asked me how much I’d charge for him to breed his dog to her, I politely said that she was spayed, & he said “It’s a crime to fix a dog like that” & my response was “What, a brindle lab mix? There are dozens of them being put to sleep in shelters, why would I make more?” & I feel the exact same way about rats. I have talked to lots of people that want to breed because they claim the babies are going to be friendlier than pet store rats, & I’m sorry, that’s bullshit. I’ve never bred a litter & I’ve had some of the absolute friendliest rats you could ever meet & the vast majority of mine came from snake food bins. Not all rats are going to have great personalities, but it’s definitely not necessary to breed your own to get a nice one. Just like dogs or cats, nice rats can come from anywhere.

Sorry if this seemed kinda ranty, I didn’t mean at all for it to come off as attacking you personally, especially since you were so nice with your message! I just keep getting a lot of asks from people thinking I’m a breeder (which is understandable since I’m posting babies constantly) & it’s driving me bonkers because I’m so anti-at-home-breeding, haha. If you’re still intent on learning more about breeding or maybe considering doing it in the future, I can’t really help out a whole lot with personal anecdotes since I’ve never done any mating, but Rat Guide has a breeding guide. The rest of their site is a great resource, so I assume their breeding guide is good as well!

—Lisa

♥ 13 notes — tagged as: #anon #ask #faq #rant


Anonymous: "Hi, I was just wondering if I could have some advice? I've had pets ever since I was little and most of them have been rodents however I never had any rats. I was thinking of getting some sometime soon, do have any advice/tips for first time rat owners or people who are looking to get rats?? Thank you and I love your blog! ^-^"

Hi! This might be kinda lengthy, so I will answer it by itself.

HOUSING:

  • Rats should not live in tanks like some other rodents can. The ammonia buildup is very bad for their lungs & they’re not stimulating enough for them. Bar spacing of ½” or ¼” is best, as females & young males can fit through 1” bars (you can cover larger spacing up with hardware cloth & zip ties to make the spacing smaller).
  • Rats should never live alone except under very rare circumstances (older male whose cagemates have died, health issues that make living with other rats dangerous, severe hormonal imbalances & an inability to be neutered for some reason, male obtained at an older age who has never had companions before)—“I only want one” or “my parents/landlord/whoever will only let me have one” is not an appropriate circumstance. In my opinion, if you can only have one for whatever reason, you shouldn’t have any. Rats can develop severe behavioral/psychological issues due to being kept alone & it’s not a happy environment for them, regardless of how much time you spend with them.
  • Cedar & pine bedding are both no-nos, they cause respiratory issues. Paper-based beddings, aspen, or fleece (washed in unscented, dye-free detergent) are all fine.
  • Online cage calculators provide a great guideline of how many rats can fit in a particular size cage, though they are just a guideline & individual factors need to be considered—some rats are very happy in big groups that may slightly overcrowd a cage, some rats do better in smaller groups & tend to fight if they’re around a lot of other rats. Sex, age, activity levels, size, & personality are the main things you want to think about when deciding whether or not more rats can fit in a cage.
  • Craig’s List is a fantastic place to find cheap used cages. They also tend to be cheaper on Amazon than in stores.

TOYS:

  • You don’t really need to buy a lot of fancy store-bought toys to entertain rats. I get most of my stuff at thrift stores in the kids’ section—they loooove Fisher Price farmhouses & plastic toys that they can crawl on or lie in. IKEA is also a great place to find things they will like.
  • Most rats like hammocks & hanging tunnels, which can be purchased online or sewn if you have any crafting abilities.
  • Some rats like wheels.  I don’t think it’s worth buying a really expensive one to test it out, but cheaper wheels are available & if you find that your rats enjoy them, you can always buy a nicer one later.  Don’t get the kind with the horizontal bars, as rats’ tails or feet can get stuck in them & they can get hurt, but the wire mesh ones with the tight spacing are fine, so are the hard plastic ones.

HEALTH/MEDICAL

  • It’s always a good idea to have money put aside in a vet fund in case something goes wrong. Many rats are very healthy. Others are not. A vet visit fee is generally anywhere from $20-75, antibiotics usually run an additional $10-20. Euthanasias are typically between $25-50. Surgeries vary widely depending on where you live & what’s being done, but neuters are usually $70-150, spays are $75-250, & an abscess or tumor removal is usually $100-250.
  • The primary health problem with most rats is respiratory issues. If a rat actually has a respiratory infection, there is no at-home cure—only antibiotics (from a vet) are going to help him.  Even if you take great care of your rats & keep them in a clean environment, they can still get a respiratory infection. Symptoms of respiratory distress include: puffed out fur, noises coming from the lungs (clicking, cooing, wheezing, wetness, grunting), mouth breathing, lethargy, excessive drainage from the nose, & excessive sneezing.
  • Mammary tumors are very common, especially in female rats over ~1.5.  Spaying at a young age greatly reduces the risk of developing mammary tumors in adulthood.

BOYS VS. GIRLS

  • Females are usually smaller & prettier—they are a lot more delicate-looking & more petite. They tend to be more active even into late adulthood. They are easy to introduce to new companions throughout their lives. They are very soft.
  • Males are a good bit bigger & are usually lazier (at least as adults). Most males cannot be introduced to new friends (or only introduced with great difficulty) after the age of 1. Some males can have hormonal imbalances & get in fights with cagemates—a neuter will almost always solve this. I wouldn’t say that most males need neuters (or even many), but I think it’s irresponsible to get boys if you’re not prepared for the possibility that at least one of them will need to be snipped. In my experience, I’d say maybe around 5% of males that I’ve had have absolutely needed a neuter, with maybe 10-15% more greatly benefitting from one.

OTHER

  • Rats do not bite very frequently. A scared rat is much more likely to run than bite.
  • Don’t use any sort of air fresheners or scented candles around a rat cage, they can cause respiratory issues. You can use baking soda boxes (like the kind for refrigerators) to control odor. Overcleaning a cage, especially one with males, will cause it to smell worse because they’ll want to mark everything.
  • Rats shouldn’t interact with mice, ferrets, hamsters, gerbils, or other small animals. Ferrets will kill them & they will often kill rodents that are smaller than them.
  • A rat’s lifespan is generally quoted at 2-3 years—I’d say on average, it is more like 2-2.5.  Very few rats make it over 3 years.
♥ 25 notes — tagged as: #anon #ask #faq #long post


Apr 27, 2014
11:17am
Anonymous: "What am I supposed to do then? I could maybe get another rat for company, but that's a small chance, and my cage isn't big enough for two rats. Should I give my rat away? I mean I love her so so much but if it's that bad to have one alone then idk, I mean she hasn't done ANY of the things you mentioned, and I do have her out almost all day everyday"

[re: this ask]

Like I said, I wasn’t trying to make you feel bad at all or say “OMG YOU’RE AN AWFUL OWNER!!” because obviously you have her best interests at heart if you’re even bothering to ask someone about it, I’ve seen plenty of people just repeatedly say “I’VE HAD SOLO RATS AND THEY WERE FINE SO I NEVER WANT MORE THAN ONE!!” & refuse to even admit that it’s not the best way to keep a rat, so please don’t take anything I’m saying to be an attack on you in any way, I just don’t like seeing rats alone, so I’m trying to speak in generalities. :)

If she seems okay & isn’t visibly displaying signs of neuroses or psychological issues, I wouldn’t give her away, but I do think if she started showing signs of unhappiness, it’d be the humane thing to do. I had some pretty severe issues with one of mine last year who had been alone at his previous home & I was actually having to consider euthanasia because he was so miserable alone & nothing seemed to work re: introductions, but on the other hand, I had another male who could not be neutered due to health problems & was aggressive enough with his cagemates that he had to spend probably 30% of his time alone in a “time out” cage, & he seemed perfectly happy even when isolated. I’m not saying all rats will develop psychological problems if kept alone, but it’s very common, & I *do* believe all rats are happier living with other rats (though I admit that sometimes concessions must be made, like sometimes a male might require a neuter due to a hormonal imbalance, & there are some rats that just don’t get along regardless of what introduction methods are attempted).

Here’s a handy cage calculator if you’d like to check the dimensions of your cage if you are ever able to get her a friend—it’s not really set in stone & depends a lot on the personalities/ages/sex of the rats involved, but it’s a really good baseline, in case you did wanna check it out. If the cage is an appropriate size for her, it could probably hold a second rat. To be perfectly honest, I think it’s better to have two in a slightly too small cage, (assuming they’re getting outside time regularly) than to just have one in a comfortably-sized cage (& I’m talking slightly too small, not two rats cramped into a 10 gallon tank or something).

—Lisa

P.S.: I should probably mention in case anyone reading this is in a similar situation, the only reason I’d recommend getting a friend is because the rat in question is female & introductions would be simple. If this person had a male rat that had been alone for most of its life & was now 8+mths old, introducing it to a companion would more than likely be impossible without neutering him.

♥ 2 notes — tagged as: #anon #ask #faq


Anonymous: "how do you feel about people only keeping one rat because I know that people say if you don't get two, you shouldn't get one at all and i only have one because that's all my landlord will allow and I take really good care of her and have her out all the time but I feel bad"

Hi! I’m not trying to make you feel bad or say that you’re a bad owner because I’m sure you’re doing the best you can for her given the circumstances, but I definitely would never, ever advocate keeping an average rat alone & I think it’s better to have none than just one.

There are a really small handful of situations where it’s appropriate to keep a rat alone (ex: older unneutered male whose cagemates passed away, health or mobility issues that would make living with other rats dangerous, severe aggression that’s more unusual than just typical male testiness, or an adult male whose lived alone its whole life & can’t be neutered for whatever reason), but in general, they are not going to live a very fulfilled life living alone. I’ve seen firsthand what many rats get like when kept alone—obsessive behaviors (constant wheel running or bar chewing), self mutilation, & aggression are all *very* common. Some of that can be alleviated by lots of human interaction, but the best analogy I’ve heard is that it’s like if you lived alone in a big giant house that you weren’t allowed to leave, but for one hour a day, you got to play with a dog. You’d love the dog & enjoy its company & it would greatly enrich your life, but even if you saw the dog for literally every moment that you were awake, it wouldn’t be even remotely similar to having a human friend. I see people saying sometimes that “well, it’s definitely better to have 2+, but if you spend a lot of time with them, it’s fine to keep a solo!” & sorry, I’ll never agree with that…I’ve seen way too many rats that were severely screwed up by being kept alone & turned into completely different, happier animals once they had friends. :-/

I’m not saying that all rats that live alone are miserable, but I definitely feel like it’s very, very far from an ideal life, even if they’re given tons of attention.  I’ve had some rats that didn’t interact a ton with their cagemates (or that fought a lot & had to be kept separate sometimes) that maybe would’ve been okay being kept alone, but that’s like saying people shouldn’t hang out or be friends because some people with anxiety or depression do better when off to themselves.

I know there’s not a lot else you can do in your present situation if you’re not able to convince your landlord to let you keep a second rat, but definitely consider getting her a friend if you end up moving, because I can almost guarantee you she’d be happier. :)

—Lisa

♥ 9 notes — tagged as: #faq #anon #ask


I always preface any question I ever get about rat deaths by saying that I don’t really have a typical reaction to death in general—my dad was a hospice nurse & so death was a huge part of my life growing up. He’d bring home “how to grieve” coloring books for me, my favorite game was filling out death certificates, I’d constantly ask how many people died each day, etc. I also think that it’s easier to deal with pet deaths when you have a lot of pets, because I cannot get absolutely devastated when one of my rats dies—I have way too many others that need to be cared ofr. I don’t usually feel like playing with them for a few days after one passes away, but I still have to interact with them for feeding/cage cleaning, & I’ve found that to be really therapeutic, because seeing how excited they are to see me even when I’m upset makes me feel better.

A lot of people hear that rats have 2-3 year lifespans (which to be honest, I think is pretty misleading even though it’s constantly quoted & considered the norm…I’d say a far more likely average is 1.75-2.75, with the occasional one making it to 3+) & immediately go “Oh gosh, I could never deal with that! That’s so short!” and yes, it is, compared to a cat or a dog, but stop & think about your life for a minute & consider where you were two years ago.  Maybe I just have a faster-changing life than average, but two years ago seems like AGES to me. I was in a completely different house, I didn’t have my current boyfriend, I was working at a different job, I was still in college, I didn’t know people that I’m now very close friends with…virtually nothing about my life is the same as it was two years ago. It sounds like a short amount of time, but it’s really not.

I have to be careful how I phrase the next part because I don’t want to make it sound like I think they’re interchangeable or I don’t appreciate them as individuals, but I think that as far as my relationship with rats as a species (vs. my relationship with individual rats), their short lifespans are an absolute godsend. If I wanted to devote my entire life to giving dogs a good home, realistically, I’d probably only be able to have 5-10 dogs over the course of my lifetime. Obviously, I could decide to foster dogs & adopt them out to good homes, & I’m not saying that’s not rewarding, but it’s not the same—you don’t have as long to develop a relationship with the dog & you don’t get as good of a sense of its personality as you do if you actually own it for any length of time. But I’ve had rats for just five years & I’ve personally given a good home to 40+.  I keep way more rats than most people do, so of course that’s not a number that everyone could or should strive for, but even if you’re only keeping three rats at a time, you could still have had 6-9 rats during that period, rats that would not have been very likely to have had a good home otherwise. I’d estimate that probably 95% of rats are kept in conditions that are basically akin to abuse, it’s easy to forget that when you see people on Tumblr that have blogs devoted to them, but that’s NOT the life of most rats. Most rats are kept in tiny cages or tanks on improper, dirty bedding, often alone, with no toys & very little outside time. Check out an average “rats for adoption!” Craig’s List ad if you don’t believe me. That’s not even mentioning the high percentage that are going to be snake food. Rats that are adopted by any good owner are automatically going to have it better than the vast, vast majority of rats out there, so I find it incredibly uplifting that I’ve been able to provide a good home for so many.

I have a much easier time personally dealing with older rats’ deaths, even if they are ones I loved very much, because realistically, if they make it to much over 2, I can’t ask much else out of their lives. I don’t have any regrets because I know they had a great time with me, & to be honest, most of the time, by the point that they’re at a little over two, they’re usually afflicted with a variety of maladies (arthritis, hind end degeneration, respiratory issues, etc.) that make death not so bad. I’m not saying I think older, sickly rats are unhappy—it’s definitely an individual thing, some are fine with not being as mobile & some are so miserable that I get them euthanized just a few weeks after they start having difficulty getting around. Buuuut at the same time, I wouldn’t want Wesley to live another six months—he is very happy & seems to enjoy his life, but he’s having trouble with ladders, he has difficulty breathing in some positions, & he has to be separated to eat because he is so slow about it. I don’t think that his quality of life has deteriorated to the point that it’s cruel to not have him put down, but I wouldn’t want him to continue declining indefinitely, either. I’ll miss him when he’s gone, but it’d be awfully selfish of me to want him to live for another year just so I could be with him.

With all that being said, it can be heartbreaking when they die. I’m not big on talking about things I find extremely upsetting, so I don’t post very much about some of the animal deaths that really hit me hard…I try not to dwell on them, but there are some that were really, really difficult for me.  I still have nightmares about Wyatt dying & that was 2.5 years ago.  I can’t look at pictures of agouti hooded dumbos without tearing up because of Darcy, I have a friend of a friend with a rat on Instagram that looks a lot like him & I literally started bawling when I saw a photo of him the other day. I can’t talk about him without getting really upset, & I still can’t watch videos of him even though he died seven months ago.  I’m not planning on getting any more female mice for a while after my current group has passed away & that is entirely due to the death of my favorite one, Pie, who died a few months back.  I don’t think there’s any way to sugarcoat it or make it seem better some things are just hard. 

This always makes me feel better, the entire book is magnificent if you have never read it, but that chapter is my favorite. I have “it has done me good because of the color of the wheat fields” written on my desk & I always look at it when I am missing my Bug.

♥ 17 notes — tagged as: #faq #anon #ask


Anonymous: "What are basic rat care tips? Like i just recently found out I'm suppose to wash their tails with soft toothbrush or whatever to prevent build ups, I was wondering what else there is?"

Hi! They don’t really *need* tail washing, some rats are prone to getting really dirty tails (especially older rats whose back legs are degenerating), but it definitely won’t hurt anything, so it’s not a bad idea to get into the habit.

Umm, here are general things+stuff I get asked about a lot, some of it is  pretty basic but I figured it’d be good to have it all in one place:

  • Food: 2-3x daily is best, you really want to have a decent lab block as at least one meal. Seed mixes are okay for another meal, but it’s hard to get all the nutrients from a mix since some rats get picky & only want to eat one thing from it. You could also do a high quality dog food for one meal, or a homemade mix like Suebee’s Rat Diet, or fresh fruits/vegetables.
  • Signs of Illness: puffed out fur, excessive porphyrin (red drainage from eyes or nose—normal in small amounts but if they’re not cleaning it off within a few minutes, it’s more than likely indicating illness or extreme stress), cloudy or dull eyes, lung sounds (ex: grunting, mooing, cooing, wheezing, clicking), limping, biting in usually friendly rats, lethargy in usually active rats, rapid weight loss, excessive sneezing
  • What To Do About Respiratory Infections: Occasional sneezing is normal, especially if it’s rainy or cold or a rat has changed environments recently, but lung noises like the ones I mentioned above are not good.  It’s important to know your rat—some older rats might make lung sounds on a regular basis, but in 95% of the time, it’s indicative of an illness that’s not going to get better without a vet visit & antibiotics. The go-to medicine for respiratory issues is Baytril (sometimes combined with Doxycycline), but there are a few others that work as well (Amoxicillan, tri-metha sulfate, etc.)
  • Bathing: A lot of people bathe their rats, but it’s kind of like bathing a cat—it’s not necessary & it is more trouble than it’s worth in most cases. Baby shampoo or Dawn dish liquid is best.
  • Odor Control: Air fresheners & candles are bad for their respiratory systems. I’ve found that a box of baking soda (like the kind that goes in the refrigerator) works fine, & keeping the cage clean obviously helps.
  • Ectoparasites: Mites & lice can come from bedding or food. To prevent infestation, freeze all bedding & food for 24-48 hours before putting it in the cage. Rats can be treated with Revolution (only available from a vet, put a small drop on the neck), Ivermectin (available in tractor supply stores or via Amazon, give orally the size of an uncooked grain of rice), or Advantage (available from a vet or online, put a small drop on the neck). They can also be bathed to kill off the bugs, but it’s difficult to get all of the bugs off, so it’s easiest to treat them with medication.
  • Where To Buy Cages: In general, Amazon or Craig’s List are going to be your best bets as far as purchasing decently-priced cages.
  • Neutering: I’m a HUUUUUUUGE advocate for neutering & recommend it for anyone having any behavior issues with a male under a year old (& I’d also recommend it for older males with behavior issues if they’re healthy). I think they’re a lot happier when they don’t have hormones sending them confusing messages, & it definitely makes them fight less—pretty much eliminates any sort of bickering amongst males. I pay $150 for my neuters & I’ve heard it done for as little as $70 & as high as $300. I recommend calling cities near you if you have transportation, because the price can vary drastically from vet to vet & you may find it worth your costs even if you have to drive an hour away.
  • Spaying: Spaying has more medical benefits than neutering since it virtually eliminates the chances of mammary tumors, which are extremely common in older females. It generally runs from $150-500, though again, prices vary considerably.
  • Pet Store Rats: The rats from most chain stores (Petsmart, Petland, Petco) come from rat mills, which are pretty much like puppy mills. The rats are kept in horrible conditions & not bred with any consideration for temperament or health. Pet store rats often have more health problems & may not live as long, & depending on conditions at the store, may be fearful & difficult to tame.
  • Rescue Rats: Humane societies will often put you on a waiting list so they can give you a call if they get a rat in. There are also several rat rescues throughout the country, & you can check Petfinder or Craig’s List (though many backyard breeders also advertise there, so beware).
  • Cage Things I Recommend: 12” wheel (not all rats like them, but many do), hammocks, hanging baskets (check home improvement stores in the organization section), Space Pods, cardboard boxes (12 pack soda boxes & tissue boxes are big hits), plastic Fisher Price toys from thrift stores

This is pretty much all I can think of off the top of my head! I know it is not exactly what you were looking for, but I am in dire need of a nap & not able to think as well as I probably should be to answer questions, haha. I hope someone found it useful, though! Feel free to message me if you had anything specific you were wondering about. :)  In general, though, I’d say they’re not too tough to care for, the main things are making sure they get out enough, put them in a big enough cage, clean the cage, feed them a decent diet, & take them to the vet if needed.

—Lisa

♥ 34 notes — tagged as: #ask #anon #faq


Someone anonymously asked me where my pets’ names came from. I accidentally deleted it without screenshotting, but I will post anyway!

OMG I’VE HAD TOO MANY ANIMALS but this was fun to list out & made me have lots of nice memories of deceased pets so thank you anon!!!!

♥ 31 notes — tagged as: #anon #ask #faq


Hi! I have a Canon 7D & my usual rat lens is a 60mm f/2.8, but my 100mm f/2.8 is way better (it’s just heavy & I don’t use it too often).

I definitely recommend using flash when photographing rats regardless of your camera you’re using, as they are REALLY quick & it’s tough to get them with natural lighting. A lot of cameras have flashes that are too bright & the photo might end up looking blown out, especially if it’s a pink-eyed white. You can use a flash deflector to help—I have instructions on how to make one in my how to photograph rats tag.

I always feel a little bad giving people advice on how to photograph rats because I am lucky enough to have incredibly expensive equipment, so someone with only minimal photography skills could pick up my camera & take a higher quality shot than a crappy camera could. But I’ve been shooting for fourteen years & I’ve worked my way up from an absolutely godawful Hewlett Packard point & shoot that was one of the first affordable digital cameras on the market up through various levels of Canons (Powershot A60 -> Powershot A590 -> Powershot S2 -> my beloved Rebel XS) & I can assure you that you can get great shots from a bad camera. I’m glad I didn’t get too nice of a camera right from the start because it helped me work on my basics & figure out settings & learn how to frame & edit.

I realize I’m way overly rambling, I just always feel really self conscious when someone asks me about my camera because I don’t want to make it sound like I’m like “It’s all in the photographer, everyone can take shots like mine, equipment doesn’t matter!” because that’s a lie, but I do firmly believe you can get great shots out of anything the quality of a moderately decent cell phone camera or above, just keep in mind that it might be grainier or the lighting might be worse than something done with professional equipment. :)

Hi! I’ll talk about the different sexes individually, as there are considerable differences between male & female mice, much more so than with rats. Please keep in mind that I don’t have nearly as much mouse experience as I do with rats—I’ve had probably 20 mice & double that in rats, & all of my mice come from American pet stores. My understanding is that European mice can be a lot tamer than ones in the U.S., & mice from a breeder are generally extremely friendly compared to ones in a pet store.

I’ve had female mice that vary considerably in personality. I tend to not handle most of my girls very much because many of them don’t like being handled. I’ve got some I’ve had for a year that run like I’m going to kill them every time I reach into the tank—they are visibly afraid when I hold them & they don’t like sitting in my hand or being petted. They’re usually okay sitting on my shoulder, but it’s obvious that it stresses them out a lot to pick them up, so I don’t usually do it very often. Most of the friendly female mice that I’ve had are about as friendly as a somewhat reclusive rat—I can pick them up easily & they might nibble on my finger out of curiosity or scurry around in my clothes, but it’s not something they’d actively seek out like most rats do—they’re much less interactive than a rat. My wonderful little Pie mouse, who recently passed away, was absolutely amazing—personality-wise, she acted just like the friendliest rats I’ve ever been around. She’d jump right onto my hand & loved to be petted & fawned over & liked posing for the camera. She was definitely the exception—I’ve got two others right now who like attention (Jay-Zmouse & Janice), but they’re not even remotely as friendly as Pie was. They are capable of learning their names & I’ve seen videos of them performing tricks, but I wouldn’t say it’s reasonable to expect the average pet store mouse to act in that manner. I usually tell people that rats are like a smaller version of dogs & female mice are like a smaller version of a fish aquarium—they’re great pets & I think they’re better than rats for a lot of people (especially if you don’t have a lot of money or time, or are looking for something lower-maintenance), but there’s a chance they’re going to be more for looks than much actual interaction or “playing with.”

I’ve only had three boys, so I don’t feel quite as qualified to make broad generalizations, but they’re much, much friendlier on average. American pet store male mice should not be kept together, as they often turn territorial & will hurt each other, or even kill one another, once they hit puberty—that’s why mice in feeder tanks at pet stores are often bloodied & missing bits of their tails or ears. My boys are much happier to be picked up & they seem to enjoy sitting with me. However, post-puberty, they’re not nearly as fun to watch in the cage as females are. They’re a lot lazier & not anywhere near as active. They also have a much stronger odor, but that does die down after they’ve lived with you for a little while. When I first got Bob, he smelled worse than 10 male rats put together, no exaggeration whatsoever. He marked everything constantly & it reeked. He’s mellowed out a lot now & as long as I keep him in a separate room from my female mice, he doesn’t smell any stronger than a cage of rats would.

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AAAH SO MANY NEW RAT QUESTIONS!!! I am glad to see so many people getting rats! 

Hi! That’s completely normal for new rats, especially young ones. It may take them a little while to come around to you. Some people do force bonding where they hold them down & grab them (often putting them in a little pouch they wear), & that’s fine, but I prefer to be a little more patient with mine, even though it takes longer.

I like to take the entire cage into the bathroom or another small, enclosed space & just leave the cage door open while I sit there reading a book or playing on my laptop. I do this for about 20-30 minutes a day for the first few days. It might take a few sessions before the rats come out, but they’ll eventually get curious & come out to sniff you. Lying down on the ground seems to help a little better than sitting up, I guess because you look less threatening when you’re down. The main thing that I’ve found is the key is to not stare at them or make it obvious you’re watching them—just concentrate on whatever you’re doing & let them decide if they want to come out & investigate. After they seem okay coming out & looking at you/sniffing you/walking around on you, you can bribe them into liking you more by giving them food. You don’t want to give them anything they can pick up & run off with, something semi-liquid on a spoon, like applesauce or baby food, works a lot better. Start off just holding the spoon near them & gradually move it farther away, & once they’re okay with that, you can get them to lick it off your fingers.

The nice thing about rats is that they tend to come around all at once—you might have one that’s absolutely terrified of you, but within a week, she’ll think you’re her best friend. It is really, really important to keep in mind that not all rats are super outgoing & people-loving. In general, they’re good, friendly pets, but some rats have much better personalities than others. I’ve got some that beg for attention from me & act exactly like a good-natured dog, they love playing & going to pet stores with me, but I’ve got others that pretty much lie around all day & only grudgingly come over for attention if everyone else does it first. I’ve found that after 2-3 weeks of living with you, the way the rat acts is pretty much how it’ll probably be throughout its life (though obviously activity levels may change with age).

Some were fine immediately—Alan & Rorschach are great examples—but others took a couple of weeks. I’ve had Viola & Bonkers for three & a half weeks now & Viola just started coming up to me to get petted or get food over the last few days.

Aww, I’d love to post more pictures of him, since I know a lot of people like him, but unfortunately, he has a pretty nasty eye condition. :(  He’s been to the vet multiple times & there’s not much they can do for him at this point. He’s very happy & otherwise healthy—he’s not in any pain at all—but he is almost entirely blind right now. His right eye stays very squinty, usually completely shut, & his left eye is covered in a mucusy film that looks like blood. Like I said, he’s not suffering in the slightest, but he’s not really pleasant to look at. I know a lot of people are grossed out by medical things & I also don’t want anyone to see him & think he’s not being cared for properly or is suffering in any way, because he really does look gross, so I don’t really post him that much any more. I also don’t like taking pictures of rats that look sickly because that’s not how I want to remember them when they’re gone, so I don’t even take a lot of him just to keep in my personal files. I will try to make an effort to take more webcam pictures of him for you, & I’ll see if I can get some today from his squinty side since it doesn’t look as bad!

THIS IS A NICE MESSAGE THANK YOU!!! I do like animals, unfortunately a lot of people see that as a fault, but I am glad that you appreciate it! I hope you have a nice Christmas if you celebrate it & a nice day in general if you don’t.

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Anonymous: "Hey, I was just wondering what mice are like as pets, are they're personalities similar to rats?"

Hi! Mice & rats are *very* different—I’d say that rats are probably more similar to dogs, personality-wise. To paraphrase themouseking, who has also kept both species: “rats are predators, & mice are prey animals.” I think that sums it up *really* well. I don’t know as much about mice as I do rats, but speaking from my experience, mice are not nearly as interactive as rats. They’re definitely not stupid animals, but they’re not people-oriented, whereas most rats really relish human attention.

My mice were a little tough to tame. I generally expect to have a new rat 100% comfortable around me within 3-4 weeks, but my mice were barely able to even be caught a month after I got them. They really enjoy seeing me when they’re in the cage & will poke their noses through until I talk to them, but most of the time, it take a minute or two to catch them because they tend to want to run away from my hand, whereas the rats are crawling all over each other trying to get out if I open the cage door. They’re also much less curious. “Outside time” with the mice consists of them sitting on my shoulder while I read a newspaper or study, & they’re perfectly content with that. It’s not that they’re lazy (they run all over me & down my shirt, they’re actually way more active than my rats—but that might be a gender thing), but they don’t seem to be brave enough to be all that inquisitive about their surroundings.

Maintenance-wise, they’re soooooo much easier to take care of. They’re considerably cheaper, mine seem healthier than my rats, & they don’t take up nearly as much space. I’d definitely recommend them over rats for someone who travels a lot or is busy. I don’t feel comfortable leaving my rats alone for more than 13 or 14 hours, but I’ve left my mice for 4 days with no issue (I put in an extra water bottle & lots of food). I’m not at all advocating getting any animal & leaving it in a cage all the time, but I don’t feel guilty if I skip a day or two of playtime with the mice because they seem pretty happy staying in the cage. If my rats don’t get out at least once a day, they turn into holy terrors & they make all kinds of noises all night long because they have too much pent-up energy. It’s worth mentioning that they don’t live as long as rats (1-2 years vs 2-3 years) & they’re *way* faster & jumpier than male rats…if you aren’t comfortable handling small animals or have any sort of anxiety about your ability to manage them, I don’t know that I’d recommend mice.

I guess the best way to sum them up is that I love my mice & obviously my rats, but if for some reason, I weren’t allowed to own mice in the future, I don’t know that it’d be all that devastating to me.  I’d feel sad, but it wouldn’t feel like there was a hole in my life like it would if I wasn’t able to get any more rats once these passed away.

—Lisa

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