Q & A

From the Jan/Feb 1998 Rat & Mouse Gazette

Is there a way to catch a mouse (besides poison) that has escaped its cage? I cannot seem to get him and he doesnít trust me enough to come to my hand on his own because Iíve only had him for three weeks. I want to catch him - what can I do?

Pet mice are a little more difficult to catch when they escape than pet rats are, unfortunately. You can try baiting a humane trap with peanut butter in the hopes that heíll go in for a snack, but many times Iíve heard from mouse owners that their attempts at this didnít work. Another possible way to catch him would be to put his cage on the floor, making it easily accessible to him so he may decide to go home on his own.

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Do rats get hiccups? If so, do some make chirping sounds like a bird? If "no", do they have a respiratory problem?

I have been told by one person who breeds rats that they do hiccup and that the chirping sound is because it feels uncomfortable. I talked to a vet and he stated that they could possibly have a respiratory problem. He said they do hiccup but that it's normally silent. Is this accurate? He also said that, in general, rats are quiet, and if they make chirping or grinding noises, it could be an indication there is something wrong. Is this accurate?

Your vet is right regarding the chirping noises. Rats do get hiccups and they are indeed silent. Chirping noises could be an indication of a possible current respiratory problem, or even scar tissue from a previous respiratory infection.

Grinding noises, like when they're grinding their teeth, are completely normal, but for the most part, rats are extremely quiet. Grunts, chortles, and chirps are frequently signs of impending or current respiratory infections.

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When does one know when to take a rat to a vet concerning a respiratory problem? I read your article about mycoplasma and it was helpful; however, how much sneezing is normal if they continually have this mycoplasma?

Small amounts of sneezing are normal, but anything beyond that is not. It doesn't necessarily mean they have mycoplasmosis if they're sneezing, either - it could be allergies, winds blowing, a virus, etc... If you are not knowledgable or experienced enough in dealing with rat respiratory problems to treat them yourself, you should take them to the vet if you have any doubts and let your vet be the judge of your ratís condition.

Some people think starting antibiotics immediately is the way to go and others think you should wait a short time and see if the ratís own immune system will knock it down. Basically, if you're not familiar enough with rat respiratory symptoms, then you need to rely on an experienced vet to tell you when to treat and when not to treat. There's not really a specific sign I can tell you about because many rats hide their symptoms until they are extremely ill.

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I just had a Siamese rat pass away from pneumonia. It just seemed to come on very fast, unless I just wasn't aware of the signs. We were wondering if because she was a red-eye Siamese, the genetics which produced her eye color and breed weakened her system? Does breeding and all that's involved make one breed weaker or stronger than another?

Absolutely not. The only time it may be common to have sickly rats associated with a particular color or type is when it is something brand new to the fancy and has a weak bloodline. This isnít always the case, either, as many new colors, markings, and varieties have popped up without having weak bloodlines. Another possibility would be if the breeder has been breeding irresponsibly. By that, I mean breeding from lines that are not resistant to disease or animals that already exhibit symptoms of disease.

The symptoms coming on extremely fast are quite often associated with the rat getting another viral or bacterial infection, secondary to a mycoplasma related respiratory infection. When that happens, the ratís condition can accelerate to pneumonia seemingly overnight.

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Would small amounts of alcohol hurt a rat?

Not at all, unless your rat is allergic to alcohol. Just remember - everything in moderation. What you consider to be a very small amount of alcohol might be an extremely large amount for a rat. Just be careful.

There are studies that say a little bit of alcohol is good for humans, so it might very well do rats some good, too. However, this is a definite subject for debate, so although I have had rats who have shared a little cheer with me without any ill effect (when I used to drink), I would not recommend that you try to extend your ratís life by giving him a daily dose!

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What happened to Parvosol? RMCA doesnít have it anymore and I canít find it anywhere.

The company that makes Parvosol changed the formula quite some time ago and is still waiting for the EPA to approve the new formula. Itís all just a matter of paperwork, but you know how the government works! Once the federal government gives its approval, it will have to go through the California EPA process as well before RMCA will be able to sell it.

UPDATE: Castle Pet and RMCA now have Parvosol "Ready To Use" formula, which has already been approved by the EPA. Weíre still waiting for the concentrate.

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