Figure 6 a &
b Commercial Epol™ mouse cubes;
Cleaning, Bedding & Disinfecting
One layer of wood shavings is more than enough for rodent
bedding. Finer wood shavings and sawdust may increase
the incidence of irritation and respiratory
problems. Wood shavings are available from most pet shops and some woodwork
factories. Ripped or shredded pieces of newspaper, pieces of
sponge and toilet paper can be added as
optional environment enrichment. Shredded paper from office shredding
machines is not effective if compared to wood shavings in absorbing
water and urine and may
lead to a cold wet floors and paper-cuts and should never be
used as sole bedding for rodents.
Rather use ripped newspaper. Make sure wood shavings are dust free and free from any dangerous insecticides.
Cages or containers should be
cleaned once to three times a week depending on the number of animals per cage and the
size and type of cage. Bedding should always be dry. The cage or
container itself should be washed every time the bedding is
disinfected at least once every two months.
undiluted disinfectants may cause respiratory problems, skin problems and may even kill
rodents and their young. Appropriate diluted chloride solutions like Milton™ or Jik™ are probably the best to use. Make sure to follow the instructions
mentioned on the label. In most
cases the solution can be diluted quite a lot, but also use your own discretion.
Rinse excess solution off with clean tap water after wash,
dry and let it sun dry for at least 20 minutes before re-use. Cages can be cleaned
and disinfected in the presence of pups and kittns. Adults and babies can be carried over
to a clean cage with bedding while the dirty cage is cleaned.
Babies can be separated from the mother for up to a day, but this and the cleaning of cages while there
are babies can result in
some degree of cannibalism by the mother, other females, other males or the father. In spite of
good success rates it is better to
handle the young as little as possible and to clean cages only when necessary.
Hamsters on the other hand will almost always kill and eat their
babies after handling of any sort by humans. Rather use clean gloves or toilet paper or something
similar to handle babies when necessary. It is also interesting to
mention that we have seen nursing mouse females raising dwarf
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Breeding Rats & Mice:
A sexual active buck can be placed with up to six does
(6:1 ratio). Two or more males per
cage (especially small cages) can end up in brutal fights for domination
which will ultimately end up in reduced fertility and matings.
When a cage is too large a male can have difficulty in "catching"
and mating with females. In this situation more males and females can be added although it might
not be of any good.
When using males in rotating systems, one should be at least
weeks with a female for ovulation and mating to take place.
Mice can get between 3 and 21 pups per pregnancy. Rats should be about the same but
on average rats may have slightly larger litters, comprising ten or more
kittns. Mice can
conceive (give birth) about every 29 days. The gestation period or pregnancy (from
fertilization to birth) is 19 to 21 days for mice and 21 to 23
days for rats. Rodents usually get pregnant and conceive while
Rat kittns are usually weaned at the age of five to six weeks after birth. Commercially
mice can be weaned at three weeks but the success will depend on the
genetic strain. The suckling stage is very important for the development of
any mammal. Milk is
a very good source of calcium and proteins. The longer babies can
be kept suckling the better. Hoppers are usually sold directly after they
are weaned. Generally
young can be weaned a few days after they start to eat solid food.
Puberty (sexual maturity) starts about six to twelve weeks after
birth and is dependant on weight.
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Food Related Problems:
Deficiencies can rarely be seen when low
quality, self-mixed or non-commercial mixtures are fed. The
two groups that are theoretically most affected are the
post-weaned growers and the pregnant and fostering
females. Signs of deficiency include cannibalism, i.e.
lower numbers of surviving pups and kittns and an overall
reduced number of offspring born per pregnant female. Both
males and females might also take longer to reach puberty or
if a male is severely affected a whole group of females might
fail to reproduce. All these signs will most often disappear
very soon after a good quality food is introduced.
The most common deficiencies are probably protein and/or Calcium
(Ca). Both these deficiencies can be prevented by feeding a
balanced, pre-mixed or commercial type of food. Protein deficiencies can be supplemented
to a degree by including peanuts or
dog food in the ration. Nursing mothers or mothers late in pregnancy can
develop Ca deficiencies, especially if dietary Ca sources are inadequate. This
is due to the high commands for in utero foetus development and the
initiation of milk production.
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Generally rats tend to fight less among each other than mice, even
after the introduction of new cage mates. Rats should
as a breeding rule never fight among each other, not even among the same gender. This is usually not the case
when they are not raised together. Aggressiveness is an
unfavorable characteristic in pet rats and mice and should be
a criteria for selection. Although mice are
naturally more aggressive, the above rule should still be kept in mind.
By not breeding with aggressive animals the incidence of the trait will
gradually reduce in a breeding population.
The following situations can cause more than normal
fighting among each other and aggressiveness towards the keeper:
Fights among the same gender are common, especially among males and in smaller
cages or containers.
Males usually fight for dominance over their "territory". Note
the difference between
aggressive fighting and young animals playing among each other
or males trying to mate with females.
Females can get very aggressive towards new arrivals when they are nursing their young.
Neither rats nor mice should attack humans, even if they
are under stress or have
Males and females should also not eat or kill their babies under normal circumstances
(excluding handling, cage cleaning, transporting, underfeeding or anything else that may cause stress).
These animals should NEVER be used as breeding stock.
Under normal circumstances animals might fight (sometimes brutally) when
one or two new animals are introduced to a settled group. Never
introduce single animals to settled groups, especially when one or two females have
The "attention" to new arrivals can be reduced by adding three
or four individuals at a time or by introducing them directly
after the cage has been cleaned. Rats and mice will explore
their new clean environment and then establish the breeding and
dominance pecking orders. Both males and
females are territorial so by removing their pheromones and
dominant smells the pecking order must first be re-established
before unnecessary fights will happen.
Hungry, unfed animals might confuse a finger with a nice piece of meat.
might also kill and eat their babies for the same reason. Note
the incidence of biting among each other, cannibalism and
aggressiveness towards the owner might increase by
feeding any type of meat and/or fresh blood containing
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Rats & Mice To Other Animals:
Rats and mice are excellent balanced food for other animals and can be fed to a variety of
snakes, lizards and amphibians.
pet is another person's food... or feeder." - Melissa
The feeding of live animals has become quite a large topic over the last few years.
It is seen as unfair, inhumane and cruel and is already banned in
countries such as Europe, USA and South Africa. In South Africa
the feeding of live animals is prevented in the
Protection Act 71 of 1962 (see the
Acts section on
RepVet.co.za for more info). For more info on this go to the
Vs. Dead Prey and
Of Live Prey sections on