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.
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:
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.
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!!!!
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.
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.
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.