American Fancy Rat & Mouse Association

This article is from the Summer 2000 AFRMA Rat & Mouse Tales news-magazine.

Beginners’ Corner

Big Mice; Baby Play

By Nichole Royer

Big Mice

Lynn Lehman, Racine, WI
QI have two very large female mice that are at least twice the size of other mice. Could they be English mice? Are there any places nearby where I could purchase a few English mice? I never knew of them until I received my AFRMA newsletter.

English and American Mouse
An English female mouse on the left and an “American” female mouse of the same age on the right.

AYour female mice that are very large could be English mice, or they could be just very large mice. I do not know of anyone breeding pure English mice and selling them to the pet shops. They also could be English cross mice. The way to tell the difference is to look at their ears in proportion to their heads. If the ears look proportionally larger, your mice may well be English crosses.

Baby Play

Cindy Stratton, Ventura, CA
QI’ve had Sparkle, my Blue Satin female rat, out to play every night since I’ve gotten her. The first two nights there was no problem. However, last night she exhibited a behavior I’m not thrilled with and wanted your input on. I opened the cage door and out came Sparkle, Ellie, and Mabel. I held Sparkle—no problem there. Then she started running up to me and grabbing/biting at my fingers, hands, and even clothes. She didn’t draw blood, but she was definitely biting down on me—not nibbling. When she did this I bonked her on the nose, but it didn’t seem to phase her. She repeatedly chomped on me and I repeatedly bonked her (at least 12 times), and I finally put her away. What’s going on? Any suggestions?

Answer from Nichole Royer
I wish I were there to see exactly what she is doing. At a guess, I think she is playing. Have you ever seen a couple (or a group) of baby rats wrestling and playing? They bite at each other, squeak, jump around, and many people will actually mistake it for fighting. They mouth, grab, run around, and more or less act like a crazy puppy does. Without being able to see her, I’m having to guess here, but I think she is rough housing with you.

I have to admit, at one time I had a whole cage full of male rats that would do this. I got a kick out of it, so I ended up encouraging them to do it. They did do it throughout their entire lives, and I always had a blast playing with them. Nothing like four adult males that would all run, pounce, and bite at my hand. They were very careful to never bite down hard, and they never went so far as to break the skin. It was under very controlled conditions though, and the rule was they were only allowed to play when I initiated things. Having the advantage that I’m the only one who handles my rats, I can get by with things like this.

I can well understand you don’t want Sparkle doing this. The fact that she is willing to play would mean that she is truly settling in and she likes you. That play fighting is also part of what determines their dominance structure, so she may be testing you. Best thing to do would be to treat her just like a puppy who plays too hard. Since a nose bop is going to just egg her on (she thinks you are playing back), I would pop a few pennies in a soda can and keep it close by when she is out. If she tries to play, slam that can down next to her. The noise should stop her in her tracks. Then return her to her cage (or a carrier) and ignore her. She should get the idea very quickly. If rough play equals loud noise and no attention, she should learn to not rough house with humans.

Answer from Karen Robbins
Sounds like playing to me. I’ve played with my rats like another rat would, grabbing at them, poking them, and they would run around, come back, grab me, I’d grab them, they’d run around, etc., and yes they would put their teeth on me, but not drawing blood. If babies chomp too hard, you tell them NO and refuse to play with them. Another thing that sometimes works is when she chomps down on you, to let out a squeak as if you were another rat. Personally, I think it’s great to play with your babies like another rat does. Mine were only allowed to do this when I initiated it. *

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Updated March 27, 2015