American Fancy Rat & Mouse Association

This article is from the WSSF 2008 AFRMA Rat & Mouse Tales news-magazine.

Beginners’ Corner

Mice Survive in Heat?; Rat Hiccups vs. Sneezing Fit
Mice Survive in Heat?

Lori Winchell, FL, e-mail
Q I have a question that I thought you might be able to answer. I have recently moved to Florida (I lived in Maine about 9 months ago). Just recently we had a storm warning, that could have been a hurricane. With a hurricane, or even with a bad storm I have heard that it is possible to lose power here. It is possible to lose it for several days. I have read in books that mice can get very stressed in temperatures above 90 degrees. Is it possible for them to die in temperatures over 90 degrees? Has anyone experienced having their mice or rats in hot, humid weather and had them survive? Any information you could give me would be greatly appreciated.

AMice will die if the temperature is 98.6°F/37°C. Humidity tolerances are 30–70 percent. Ideal room temperature is 64–79°F. You can get your mice acclimated to warmer temperatures—mine are acclimated to about 82 degrees with a fan on constant along with the a/c, although I prefer them no more than 79°.

If you can give your mice frozen water bottles or ice cups they can lay on and against, that will help. We have done displays in very hot weather, and with ice cups and frozen bottles, the animals have been fine. At the L.A. Fair displays that were the hottest, we also used the Canine Cooler pads under the cages along with the ice cups. We put the pads in the ice chest overnight so they would be nice and cold for the next day. Also, make sure the water in their drinking bottles is always cool. Our Hot Weather Tips page on the web site has other tips.

If the power goes out for several days, I would suggest taking your mice to an area that has power so you don’t lose them, especially if the temperature is in the high 90s. Plus, with high humidity it could only be 85° but with 70% humidity feel like 93°. With just 10% more humidity your 85° suddenly becomes 97°. Ninety degree weather plus 80% humidity and you are looking at 113° “feels like” temperature!

You could try stocking an ice chest with ice and frozen bottles and hope they last the required days or get dry ice to put in the ice chest to keep the bottles cold—just remember the dry ice won’t last more than a day and cannot be put into a locked container. Or get a generator to run part of the house (refrigerator, essentials) while the power is out.

Most everyone that I have talked to that lives in hot areas has their mice in a/c. The ones that don’t have a/c always lose them during the hot weather months. Karen Robbins

Rat Hiccups vs. Sneezing Fit

Dawn Burke, e-mail
Q I have a rat (Patsy) that is doing something that the veterinarian said she has never heard of. It looks like his skin is jumping—as if he has the hiccups or is nervous. If I put my fingers on his ribs I can feel his ribs moving jerkily.

My first rat (Druscilla) died of pneumonia. She had it when I bought her and I didn’t know it. She was just sneezing, and I didn’t know that was a bad thing in rats. We bought Patsy as a companion for her. Patsy seemed healthy, but after a couple of weeks, developed sneezing. When Drusilla looked like she was having trouble catching a breath or breathing very heavily, I took her to an emergency vet who put her on oxygen and said she probably had pneumonia. They gave her and Patsy antibiotics. Drusilla died a few days later—she seemed to be doing okay, then gave a big jerk as if she had had a heart attack or stroke.

I took Patsy and the three new rats I bought to a vet, and she said the three new rats were fine. But Patsy was wheezing (and she had been sneezing). So she told me to quarantine her and give her more antibiotics for another 10 days. I did that and she no longer sneezes, but every once in a while she does this jerking thing. I described it to the vet and she said she has never heard of it. Have you ever seen a rat do this? I am really nervous about it because of the way Druscilla died.

Answer by Karen Robbins
A If the rat is quiet (usually lying still) and you see this movement repeatedly coming from the middle of her body for several seconds and there is no noise (or a very faint chirp sound) and the rat is not wiping/rubbing its nose, I would say it is hiccups. If the rat is up and making audible sneezing noises and they are happening in rapid succession with the rat wiping/rubbing its nose, that is what I call a sneezing fit.

Answer by Carmen Jane Booth, D.V.M., Ph.D.
A Any of the disease agents (bacterial or viral) that cause upper respiratory signs can have the clinical presentation of repeated sneezing in severe infection. SDAV or Sendai virus and Mycoplasma pulmonis or mixed infections from any number of agents can have a similar presentation if the disease is severe. Mycoplasma is probably associated more with this clinical sign since it is ubiquitous in pet rats and becomes clinically apparent with stress, other disease processes, and with advanced age.

As for “Rat Hiccups” as the term for this or an association with Mycoplasmosis, I could not find any reference in the published scientific literature on rats. *

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Updated March 7, 2014