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.
I’m probably not the best person to ask because I have a deformed septum & it’s difficult for me to smell things that aren’t overpoweringly strong, but I can’t smell them at all most of the time. Mine are on fleece bedding (MUCH worse at odor control than aspen or paper-based beddings) & I can usually start to smell them a little the day before cage cleaning day. They smell a lot worse in the summer & I have to do a full bedding change every 5 days (vs. 6-7 the rest of the year)—I live somewhere where it’s very hot. I keep a box of baking soda near the cage & that helps a lot with odor.
If you have fewer than 4 males in a group, you probably won’t be able to smell them, assuming you’re keeping the cage properly cleaned. If they’re in too small of a cage (or a poorly-ventilated area), they do get *very* stinky *very* fast…mine smell awful even after just a day in their travel cages, but those are meant for 2-3 rats, not 5-6.
For what it’s worth, my two female mice smelled about ten times as bad as all 11 male rats when they were in a 10 gallon tank…I’ve got four mice in a large wire cage now & the smell is tolerable, but they still smell stronger than the rats do most days.
P.S.: I’ve had family members visit that absolutely despise my rats & would have been more than happy to inform me if they smelled, & they both remarked that they couldn’t smell them at all.
EDIT: from a helpful anon!:
my male rat doesn’t smell! he actually smells better than the girls, he smells like popcorn and babies, warm and musky, the girls are usually the stinkypants in our cage ^_^ for the other anon x
Hi! If it’s a new rat, I wouldn’t be concerned unless he’s showing other signs of illness, as it’s very common for rats to sneeze a *lot* the first 1-2 weeks you have them. If you’ve got any air fresheners or candles or near the cage, move them. They also shouldn’t be near a drafty area or have a fan blowing directly on them. You can try changing the bedding, some rats are more sensitive to dust in the bedding (so switch from Carefresh/other paper-based bedding to aspen or vice versa).
If it is a rat you have had for a while, here’s an ask that I answered the other day that should be of assistance, but here’s the TLDR answer: if it’s just sneezing, it’s more than likely okay, but if you hear any unusual noises coming from the lungs (most often sound like grunts, clicks, moos, coos, whistles, or wheezing), or the rat starts puffing out their fur or having excessive drainage from the eyes/nose that he’s not cleaning off, he needs to see a vet ASAP because it’s a respiratory infection that will only get better with antibiotics (most often Baytril or Baytril+Doxycycline).
Hi! I’ve been asked this a lot recently, so I’ll go ahead & publish it, I hope that’s okay. I have never had females, so I can’t comment from first-hand experience, but I’ve talked to a lot of people & read a lot of things, so I feel relatively safe in commenting on the matter. :)
I hope that helped! Hopefully some people who actually own females will comment here to give more input. :)
Haha, I LOVE THAT MY SEXUALITY IS SO CONFUSING!!!
I don’t really like labels. I just kinda figure I like whoever I like & that’s that, you know? I guess I’m bi or pansexual, I just don’t really think of it as something to label myself with, because I’m not really that concerned with gender or sexuality, if I’m attracted to someone, it’s going to be because of them as a person & not whether they identify as male or female or whether they’re biologically male or female.
I HOPE THAT THIS WAS HELPFUL! I’m not very good at describing myself in a coherent, non-rambly fashion.
Hi! Rats realllllly should, in general, be very quiet & not make much noise other than occasional squeaks if they’re playing or fighting. Here is an *extremely* helpful site I found that has videos of rats making abnormal noises & brief explanations.
With that being said, I have had several rats who just make noise & have for a long time, without being ill. Simon makes these clicking sounds when he’s frustrated that if I didn’t know any better, I would think he had a respiratory infection. He also grunts if he’s scared. He’s done this all of his life & he’s almost three now & has never had a respiratory infection or shown any other symptoms of illness. They’re not normal rat sounds, per se, & if I heard another one of my rats making them, I’d definitely take them to the vet, but they are normal for Simon. I also had a rat named Wyatt who didn’t brux when he was happy, but he’d make little chirping/squeaking sounds—again, that’s not something you’d normally want to hear, but he wasn’t showing any other signs of illness & was perfectly healthy.
Pretty much what I’m getting at is that if she’s only making the noises in a certain situation (e.g.: at night when playing), it’s entirely possible it’s just a noise she makes. If the noise gets even a little bit worse or she starts making it at other times, like during the day or when she’s sleeping, or if she starts showing any other symptoms of illness (puffed out fur, excessive drainage from nose or eyes, lethargy, not eating), I’d take her to the vet as soon as possible.
I hope this was helpful & not just confusing! I don’t want to say “Oh, there’s definitely nothing wrong with her!” since I am not a vet & I’m also not there, but I would be inclined to think it’s nothing serious if she’s just making it under particular circumstances.
Hi! They’re much, much harder to socialize from feeder bins (or really any pet store where they haven’t been regularly handled), particularly for first-time owners, so I strongly advise you either get a rat that’s been owned by someone before (from a humane society or maybe Craig’s List) or from a breeder, as they’re going to be more accustomed to being around people & less likely to be skittish.
As far as rat-proofing a room, basically make sure there’s nothing on the floor that can be consumed or peed on. Never, ever let a rat you aren’t 100% comfortable with out in a room without supervision, & it’s an extremely bad idea to let new rats out in say, a bedroom or any other room with furniture they can hide behind—somewhere small & enclosed, like a bathroom, is much more preferable. They are really hard to catch & it’s extremely stressful & frustrating.
Other random things I wish I had known when I first got rats:
Sorry if this is a little rushed, I have ten billion things going on at once! (well, okay, it feels like it) :P but if you have any additional questions, feel free to message me again!
I do not regularly bathe mine—the only times I do are unusual situations (like when Oliver had mites, or if one has poop all over him, or when Wyatt decided he wanted to leap into a pile of used aquarium filter charcoal). I know a lot of people prefer to bathe them, but it’s really kind of like bathing a cat…it’s a lot of stress for something that’s not really necessary, so I prefer to just avoid it entirely. It doesn’t harm them (assuming you don’t use inappropriate soaps—I wouldn’t feel comfortable using anything other than watered-down Dawn dish liquid or maybe a very mild oatmeal shampoo), but it’s not something most rats really enjoy.
I do wipe them down with unscented baby wipes if they start smelling icky, & Wyatt always got scrubbed down with a toothbrush+watered-down Dawn once a week because he overproduced buck grease & it made his skin incredibly disgusting & itchy if I didn’t scrape it off regularly.
I don’t regularly trim my rats’ nails, largely because I have a bit of a phobia of nail-trimming (yay for traumatic experiences in childhood!), but many people manage to do so successfully. I’ve heard it’s easier if you use dog groomers’ nail clippers (the kind that just have the little round hole to put the nail in) instead of human nail clippers. The only time I ever trim is when I absolutely have to, like if a nail is posing a danger to the rat—if a nail is broken or too long (either due to a foot injury or hind end degeneration not allowing it to file down naturally), it can seriously injure a rat if it gets stuck on a towel or fleece, they can break their leg or chew the toe off trying to get loose.
I’ve heard that putting a rock (make sure to sterilize it first!) in the cage right underneath the water bottle helps with wearing the nails down, because skin-scratching is a problem. One of the main things I teach new rats is to not climb up my skin. If they start trying to climb up my arm, I’ll move them to my shirt instead…they catch on pretty quickly, especially once they figure out it’s much easier to climb up cloth than skin. I haven’t had one try to shimmy up my skin in a while now, the only time they ever try that is if there’s an extreme situation, like one’s being aggressive & chasing another one, or something like that. You can also try clapping or making a loud sound every time they attempt to climb up you, to let them know it’s not something they should do.