Q & A

From the Nov/Dec 1998 Rat & Mouse Gazette

I was wondering if over breeding a rat can produce less intellegent off-spring?

I am not entirely sure what it would or could do to the offspring, since I personally have never overbred a rat in my life. However, I do know that it will harm the mother immensely, and may even shorten her life, if you don’t lose her in the birthing process. I suppose, logically, the only conncection to lessened intelligence in the offspring would be, by overbreeding, the mother would not have the nutrients necessary to pass along to her young, thereby not giving them the proper nutrition to feed the brain properly, which could lead to diminished intelligence.

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Over the years we've taken our ratlets to the vet many times to treat lung infections and tumors. We are looking for a "pet" class rat, i.e., one that is bred for temperament and longevity as opposed to a "show" type rat that is mainly bred for coloration. Do you know of anybody Southern California that is trying to develop rats like that?

Many breeders breed for health and temperament as well as color and conformation. However, the respiratory infections and tumors in rats are very common and are extremely difficult to breed out. The only sure way to get animals that don't carry mycoplasma pulmonis (the organism that causes the respiratory infections) is to get Specific Pathogen Free rats from a laboratory. Unfortunately, these are things we have to deal with when having pet rats at this time.

Male rats get fewer tumors than females, so you might want to consider geting only males. Being prepared to treat a rat's respiratory symptoms before they are too serious also makes a big difference. Diet and surroundings also make a difference. If you were using pine or cedar shavings that would cause lung and liver damage, and would exacerbate or even cause respiratory symptoms in many cases.

Feeding a healthy diet of quality lab blocks, a small amount of grain mix, and lots of fresh fruits and vegetables will keep their immune system in good shape to help fight off health problems as well.

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My mouse sometimes bleeds from the corner of her eye. Also, one of my other mice sometimes can't open one of her eyes and there is sort of a crusty blood cut a couple of millimeters under her eye. Do you know what this is? Did my two mice get scraped near the eye or is it more serious?

They probably got scraped, but if you can’t take her to a vet, then the best I can offer you is to gently swab the area around the eye with a cotton ball with a mixture of half boric acid and half distilled water. You can find boric acid at the drug store, just ask for it. The "blood" is not blood usually, if around the nose or eyes. It is the mucus of the mouse or rat, which reacts with air to change its color and looks like blood. It is an indication of some physical illness or stress.

If it continues, you can try to find the cause. Are you using some sort of bedding (such as pine or cedar shavings) which causes an allergic reaction and is toxic? Are you feeding her a food that she is allergic to? (To test food other than the usual rat/mouse grain mixes, simply stop feeding her just one type of food for several weeks to see if the situation improves. If not, try another food that you usually give her.) Perhaps the cause will never be found. Just do the best you can, and try not to dwell on it.

Roxanne Fitzgerald, “Fitzgerald’s Fancy’s”

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I have had two mice for about two months -a male and female. The female I bought was older and larger than the male. It seems that the female resists all his attempts at mating. Is this normal?

As with humans, mice don't always "automatically" hit it off. Sometimes it is a matter of the doe being too dominant in her own cage, as when a male is introduced to her cage, instead of her being introduced into his cage (the preferred way, to prevent her attacking the male). If this is the case, give the male his own cage for a week or more, and then introduce the female.

Sometimes it takes a long time for a couple to mate, and once in a while, you may have no luck. They may even be mating, but one of them may be sterile. The doe is in estrus when her vagina is more open-looking than usual. For a few hours after successfully breeding, there is a plug in it also. So, if you see the plug, but no litter, then steriility is a possibility. In any event, wait a few months at least.

Roxanne Fitzgerald, "Fitzgerald's Fancys"

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I teach in a preschool where we rescued a white 'feeder' mouse from being eaten by a snake in another room. Is it okay to keep these mice as pets? I seem to only be finding information about fancy mice on the internet. Also, this mouse, Ralph, has had babies. They are threeweeks old. At what age do they need to be separated (from Mom and each other)?

Yes, it is fine to keep white mice as pets. They are the same as the fancy mice you are reading about on the Internet.

Mice are pregnant for 21 days, give or take a day. The babies can be left with mom until about six weeks, when the males should be removed since they will become sexually mature and will breed with the females, most likely. If you keep the father in, he may get the mom pregnant the day she gives birth, and you will have another litter in three to four weeks. If you remove the father, you cannot put him back in until the litter is grown and away, or the mother may treat him like a stranger and try to kill him.

A full article about this subject appears on pages eight and nine of this issue.

Roxanne Fitzgerald, “Fitzgerald’s Fancy’s”

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