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This pet is more unique than your average cat or dog! Tom Dock of Noah’s Animal Hospital celebrated Fancy Rat and Mouse Day with us by teaching us about pocket pets and bringing in three little rats for us to play with.

Long considered pests for most of human history, mice and rats have also garnered the attention of pet enthusiasts, especially when interesting mutations or colors appear.

While our pet mice and rats don’t differ biologically from their wild cousins, they are often tamer, more comfortable around people and exhibit fewer reactions to new experiences or new foods.

The Fancy Rat hobby got its start in England early in the 20th century while their cousins, the Fancy Mice, have roots that go back to 18th century Japan.  There are even artifacts dating from more than 3000 years ago that depict mice of various colors from Egypt and China!

As stated above, the most common distinction between wild mice/rats and our pets is a distinctive and unusual coloration.  Examples include:

Sometimes, a different body type, such as Dumbo Rats (larger ears) or Manx Rats (lack of a tail) can be found.  Some mice and rats can be bred to produce longer hair, long, satiny hair, or even no hair at all!

In general, many pocket pets, including mice, rats, hamsters, gerbils, etc can make excellent pets for individuals who are limited on space, who live in dog/cat-free residences, or who are just looking for a more unique pet.  It should be mentioned that many of these pets might not tolerate handling from smaller, younger children, so care should be taken when considering a pocket pet for inclusion in the family.

Pocket pets are generally healthy and not usually too susceptible to illnesses, but it should be stressed that their cage/home should be kept in a draft-free area and it is vital to understand their unique nutritional needs.   Bedding should be cleaned on a regular, even daily basis.

Above all, with respect to housing, try not to just get the minimum set up.  Mice and rats are very inquisitive creatures and will greatly benefit from environmental enrichment in and around their home.

Some mice and rats will form strong bonds with their human family and might be allowed to roam freely while being supervised.  Keep in mind that most of these pets are not amenable to “house training” like a dog or cat, but many will choose a specific corner of their cage to use as a toilet.

While these pets don’t require the extent of care that dogs and cats might need, having a good veterinarian who understands the needs of mice and rats is important.  Health issues can include problems with their teeth, susceptibility to the development of pneumonia, development of tumors, and, believe it or not, rats can be spayed or neutered!!

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