Mouse & Rat Care In Temporary Shelters

DIET:  Feed commercial rodent chow daily.
Can use guinea pig or rabbit pellets, Cheerios, or dog or cat food is a last resort.
Offer a teaspoon (mice) or tablespoon (rat) of timothy hay, vegetables, or fruit daily.
Do not feed seeds, nuts, or dried fruits unless no other food is available.
Water must be available at all times in both bottle and bowl, watch for clogging of tube.

HOUSING: Minimum temperature 60 degrees, maximum 80 degrees. Move to indoor climate controlled facility if needed to prevent heat stroke over 80 degrees.
Use original cage if possible to decrease stress.  
Use wire cages with maximum 1/2 bar spacing, aquariums with lids, or plastic totes at least 12 inches tall (mice) or 18 inches tall (rats) if there are no holes they can reach to chew.
Escape artists need extra latches on all potential escape routes.
Use bedding of paper towels, aspen or pine shavings, hay, or recycled or shredded paper. Clean out urine daily. Deep bedding to allow burrowing is preferred.
Do not use cedar shavings, corn cob, cat litter or straw as bedding. 
Provide a cardboard or commercial hiding box to decrease stress.
House alone or with same sex cage mate if no fighting is observed. Male mice will often fight. Female rats will often fight.

RESTRAINT: May bite, use gloves, will panic if approached from above.
Scoop from underneath, then use one hand over shoulders and one under hindquarters or grasp the scruff of the neck and base of the tail.
Wrap in a towel like a burrito or place inside a small container like a cup.
Never lift or restrain by the tail except at the base near the body.

COMMON MEDICAL PROBLEMS:  Overgrown teeth may cause drooling and loss of appetite.
Overgrown nails are common.
Wet tail, or diarrhea with staining of the fur near the anus can indicate a life threatening illness. Can result from stress, overcrowding, shipping, diet change, or various diseases. Requires immediate attention from an experienced exotic mammal veterinarian.
Never use antibiotics without consulting an experienced veterinarian to avoid toxicity.
Rats are prone to respiratory issues, seek vet care if wheezing, sneezing, or coughing.

OTHER:  Chewing on plastic is dangerous, provide cardboard paper towel tubes for chewing.
Fruit tree branches (not sprayed with pesticides) are safe chew toys.
Do not disturb female with babies, and do not place male with them.
House mice and rats away from each other to avoid contagious diseases.

Compiled by Julie Burge, DVM, Burge Bird Services and Burge Bird Rescue, August 2016

Immediate Intake Care of Small, Unusual & Exotic Pets by Critter Camp Exotic Pet Sanctuary
Exotic Companion Medicine Handbook for Veterinarians by Cathy Johnson-Delaney, DVM, Diplomat ABVP-Avian