Q & A

From the Sept/Oct 1998 Rat & Mouse Gazette


Iím so tired of my rats always getting mycoplasma. I heard there is a vaccination they give to cows for mycoplasma. Can we get this for our rats?


Unfortunately, the mycoplasma organisms are different that effect cows and rats, and there is no vaccine currently available for the organism that effects rats and mice, mycoplasma pulmonis.

Because cattle are a ďbig moneyĒ business, it was worth it for the pharmaceutical companies to invest the mega-bucks necessary to create a vaccine. Unfortunately for our rats, they are not a big money industry, so itís unlikely that anyone will spend the money to create a vaccine. There actually have been some mycoplasma vaccines tested (and/or used) in laboratories on rats, but apparently they were either not successful, or it was just cheaper for the labs to purchase ďmyco-freeĒ rats.

Daryl Mabley, D.V.M., called around to many drug companies several years ago in the hopes of getting one of them interested in working on a vaccine. Most of them laughed at his request. Itís sad, but thatís how our pets are looked at in the drug world at this time. Letís hope that changes in the future.

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My pet rat had a fall and his top teeth fell out. He still has his bottom teeth and is not in any pain. He can still eat broken up foods, but has trouble biting into things. I was wondering if his teeth will grow back ,and if not, can you can get replacement teeth?


A ratís front teeth (incisors) grow continuously throughout his life, so as long as it was caused by an accident, his teeth should grow back. However, his bottom teeth will still be growing while his top teeth are missing, so they may need to be trimmed until the new top teeth begin to grow in and he can grind his teeth together again to keep them at the proper length.

It is possible that the injury may have caused permanent damage and his teeth may not grow back properly aligned, causing a condition known as maloclussion. If this happens, he will need to have his teeth regularly trimmed to keep them at the proper length. Consult a veterinarian for lessons on how to trim your rats teeth. Many people are able to do it themselves at home, but many people prefer to have the vet do it.

There are no replacement teeth for rats available.

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If I have a pet rat, sitting in her cage, and I would like to move her (be it to another cage, onto my shoulder or into a pocket), how can I do this so everyone has fun? Iíve been picking her up by the tail.


First of all, rats are very social animals and should be kept in same sex pairs for company. Depending on the age of the rat you now have, you will have to take certain precautions when introducing a youngster into her cage, as some rats become very territorial as adults and will injure or kill a new rat if you donít go through the proper introduction procedures. (For more information on introductions you can see past issues of the Gazette or the RMCA web page on the Internet.)

As far as picking them up, itís not a good idea to pick her up by the tail. In an emergency itís okay to carefully lift her by the base of the tail, but itís not recommended Ė it does make a rat feel very insecure, and this is not going to help you and her develop any kind of relationship. Never pick her up by any other part of the tail (other than the base) or you may pull off the delicate tail skin, resulting in necessary surgery to amputate the affected part of the tail!

Itís best to train her to come to you when you open the cage door. Do this by offering a treat and calling her name. It will take a little time and effort on your part, but it will be worth it in the long run. Rats bond very closely to their people and this method of getting to know one another helps in that bonding process. After a while of letting her come out of the cage to you, you should be able to reach in and carefully pick her up around the mid-section when you need to get her out of the cage. Also, be sure to have a cage large enough and with enough toys and goodies in it to stimulate her mind, as rats are very intelligent critters.

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I have observed that foreign mice (English) are being favored at the RMCA shows I have attended, and placed over American mice. Can you tell me why this is happening?


The standards all mouse shows are judged by originated in England, thereby making the shows tailor-made to the English mouse which is larger and much more typey. Also, the majority of the so-called ďAmerican miceĒ (this is not an accurate term) are not being bred for size and type - only for color and markings, which isnít up to the level the English mice have achieved. There is no such thing as an ďAmerican mouseĒ. What you are referring to as the American mouse is simply the fancy mouse before being bred for size and type. They are the same all over the world.

Until these mice are bred for ALL of the traits which make up a typey mouse, be it English or not, the English mouse will always have the advantage on the show table. You have to remember that the English have been breeding all of these wonderful traits into their show mice for over 100 years. You cannot possibly expect us in the U.S. to be able to achieve what they have achieved in such a short period of time.

Rat and mouse clubs in the U.S. only began in the 70s. Give yourself time and concentrate on only a very few kinds to really create some show quality mice. Remember, too, that you need to do this in a humane manner breeding in small quantities to ensure that all of the lives you are responsible for bringing into this world are placed into loving homes.

Of course, everyone would like to go home from a show with a ribbon, but that really isnít what itís all about. The fun of participating and the friendships made at the shows is what it should be about.

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