A Squeak About Mice
From the July/Aug 1997 Rat & Mouse Gazette
As one of the few mouse participants in the Rat and Mouse Club, I often get requests for my opinions and input on mice. Well, after almost two years of observations, I finally have a few things to say.
THE TRUTH ABOUT RATS VS. MICE
My initial interest in RMCA was in rats. However, I quickly learned that rat competition, both in breeding and showing, is fierce. The mouse area of RMCA seemed largely under represented, making it an attainable challenge to become a big cheese among mousers. I found that mice require less attention while still maintaining an amicable disposition as compared to their rat counterparts who seem to crave human companionship at all times and whose personalities reflect accordingly. (It is easy to tell which rat breeders spend a lot of time with their rats and which ones do not.)
Another plus in the mouse's favor is that they require less space because of their obviously smaller size. I found that a larger sized critter keeper is large enough for a pair of mice, and a ten gallon aquarium provides ample space for a small colony of five to ten mice (varying with the size and sex of the colony members). I also experienced over time that mice are easier to place in quality homes because they are so low maintenance, there are only a handful of breeders, and not very many people have mice as show/pets yet.
MAY THE BEST RODENT WIN
When it comes to competition, rats rule the shows. With so many rats vying for honors, I felt intimidated and unsure about how my rats would place. Still, I wanted to be involved and thought that mice would be a great place to start.
My first step was to attend a show as an observer to learn about the desirable qualities in a show mouse. I then gathered my own "show quality" breeding stock. I found the competition among mice to be few, but encouraging, and even forged friendships within the mouse circle. The mouse portions of the shows do not last as long as the rat categories, and there seem to be more categories and color/marking selections to work with. My home office/den now proudly boasts 21-plus ribbons and 11 trophies for my efforts.
THE MAKING OF A SHOW MOUSE
Some of the first tips I received on breeding mice for certain varieties and patterns was to "breed relation back to relation to get..." or "cull out this type or that sex to get...". I chose not to observe these practices since I do not feel qualified enough to tell if a young mouse is going to be a show mouse or a great pet mouse.
Additionally, as a "breeder", I feel a responsibility to each mouse I bring into being, to provide him/her with the best possible future. Of course, the best way to have mice with competitive qualities and dispositions is to start out with those kinds of mice and to spend time nurturing those qualities, taking care to only breed the best candidates so as not to overpopulate the mouse community. I also provide my mice with a large variety of food, ranging from formulated lab blocks to fresh cut fruits and vegetables on a regular schedule. Another all important factor is mousercise. I provide every mouse house a fully operational wheel. This keeps them toned and ready for competition. Perhaps most important, I found the best bedding materials, vitamins, and cleaners to provide for my critters' care. With a little time and observation, I have been able to figure out what my mice like best to eat, sleep on, and play in to keep them healthy and happy.
THE LAST SQUEAK
It has come to my attention that some of you rat lovers have had distasteful mouse experiences in the past. To this I say, try, try again. Mice are just as loving and intelligent as rats (although I would never go so far as to say that either species is better than the other), but mice really are the underdogs in such a great club. It would be great to have more people involved in the mouse end of things both in showing and in breeding. So, I send out a challenge to all... try out a mouse in your house!