American Fancy Rat & Mouse Association

This article is from the Fall 1997 AFRMA Rat & Mouse Tales news-magazine.

Beginners’ Corner

Chatter Mouse; Strange Rat Behavior; Mouse Houses & Toys
Chatter Mouse

Gloria Salavarria
QI have a chatter mouse. “Little Brown Job” makes an audible racket that can last as long as a half hour. At first I took it personally. Is she upset with me around or what? Then I noticed that she’ll rattle away when I’m not around, so it can’t be me that’s setting her off.

The noise doesn’t come from her mouth or throat. Her nostrils move in time with this peculiar noise—a rapid, staccato snuffle loud enough to be heard across the room. This has been going on (off and on) since I got her 6 months ago. Her companion doesn’t make this sound. With all the racket she makes, I should have called her “Castanets.” She hasn’t missed a meal and shows every sign of being a healthy animal. Is she upset when she makes this noise?

ANo, your mouse is not upset at having you around. Chances are she has a respiratory infection, most likely caused by mycoplasma. This is one of the most common health problems in domestic rats and mice. All rats and mice available through the commercial pet industry are infected with this disease.

Symptoms can range from occasional sneezing, wheezing, and chattering, to dramatic weight loss, and even the inability to breath properly and eventually death. While all rats and mice have this disease, many exhibit dramatic differences in severity. Despite showing active symptoms of this disease, many mice and rats can continue to lead relatively normal lives.

The best treatment for mycoplasma is to take the mouse to a veterinarian experienced in treating small rodents. Most veterinarians treat this disease with various antibiotics. Unfortunately, mycoplasma is not a disease that can be cured; however, treatment often greatly decreases the symptoms. Unfortunately, mice (and rats) usually show more symptoms of this disease as they get older, and many eventually die from it.

For more information, please see the “Medical” section.

Strange Rat Behavior

Jessica Sims
QI am very worried about my pet rat. She is about six months old, and for a long time now she has been exhibiting some very odd behavior. She doesn’t do it all the time, but we notice it every four or five days. First she seems really hyper, running all over the cage and not wanting to be picked up. Once we do pick Rat in season her up she is fine, but if we put her on the bed and pet her she has some kind of seizure. Her whole body stiffens up, her back arches, and she shakes all over. Even her ears vibrate. This only lasts for a second or two, then she seems fine. If we continue petting her she has more of these episodes. We don’t know what to do, and our vet is at a loss. Do you have any suggestions?

AI have some very good news! Your rat is not having seizures. In fact, this behavior is perfectly normal for female rats.

Simply put, your rat is in heat (oestrus). Most normal female rats will come into heat about every four to five days. Not all females display this behavior to the same extent. Some females act a little jumpy, but otherwise display no other signs. Others will stiffen a little when the base of their tail or head is touched. A few, like yours, take this behavior to its fullest extent.

Rats breeding

When a female rat is in heat, and a male mounts her to breed, she assumes what is called the lordosis posture. She freezes in place and arches her back. Both her head and her abdomen are raised high in the air, and her whole body vibrates. This is especially noticeable if you watch her ears. In a moment or two it is all over, and the female acts normal.

Naturally, none of this hurts your female. The act of you touching her head or back is simply producing the same reaction in her that another rat would.

Mouse Houses & Toys

QI have been breeding mice for 4 years, and I love mice!! I have noticed many toys on the market made specifically for hamsters, but very few for mice. What houses and toys can be recommended for mice?

AMice love boxes, tubes, upside down cottage cheese containers, store bought hamster houses, finch nests, etc., for their houses. Toys can range from wheels, ladders, ropes, tunnels, etc. A favorite is a small kleenex box with kleenex intact. Thrift stores are wonderful places to look for mouse toys. Many small plastic doll houses, cars, and other toys are enjoyed by mice.

Mice in tube

Use common sense and don’t ever give mice anything you think might harm them. Anything that will not hurt the animals if they chew on them, or trap them if they get inside will work. Have fun and use your imagination! Nancy Ferris *

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Updated March 26, 2015