This article is from the Summer II 1997 AFRMA Rat & Mouse Tales news-magazine.
By Nichole Royer
Written by Daniel R. Schwartz, D.V.M.
Published by T.F.H. Publications, Inc.
TRecently, while in a local PetCo, I came across n new publication about rats. It is published by T.F.H., and looks like a magazine. Over the last several years I have grown very dissatisfied with most of the literature commercially available about rats (and mice). Most of the currently available books contain information which is either out of date, written for enthusiasts in other countries, or is just plain wrong. It was with some trepidation that I purchased the Fuzzy Creatures Quarterly.
With that in mind, I would like to say how surprised I was by the contents of this wonderful book. The information in it is up to date, complete, and accurate. It is well written in language which can be easily understood by the average pet owner, and it covers all of the topics necessary for the care of pet rats. I can say without a doubt that this book will greatly improve the quality of life for many rats.
The author, Dr. Schwartz, is well qualified to write this book. He is a board qualified specialist in laboratory animal medicine and has worked for many years in this field. This means that he comes from a laboratory background, and thus has managed to bypass much of the pet industries’ “hype” for their version of how we should care for our pets. As the author points out in his introduction, “There are many books about rats as research animals and few books about rats as pets. The large data base of information on the care of research rats is placed in the field of laboratory animal science.” This makes a laboratory animal science professional like Dr. Schwartz uniquely suited to write a book on the subject of rats as pets.
In particular, I was very pleased to see that Dr. Schwartz specifically mentions that cedar and pine bedding are NOT recommended. This is a message that AFRMA has been trying to promote for many years. It is wonderful to finally see it in print. I was also very happy to see that lab blocks are mentioned in some detail, and grain mixes only in passing. I do wish the author had noted some of the problems with feeding a grain diet. I was also delighted to discover a few paragraphs on environmental enrichment for rats. This is one of my own favorite topics, and one which has been completely left out of most available literature.
There were a few minor changes I would have made to this book, but all are personal preferences of my own rather than problems with the book. The medical section was very informative; however, I would have liked to see mention of Ivermectin as a treatment for parasites, as many veterinarians are still unaware of it. I also would have liked to see it mentioned in the section discussing Mycoplasma that for the most part, all animals in the commercial pet industry have mycoplasma and the only way to get one that doesn’t is through a laboratory. There are a few sections where the author’s lack of knowledge about the pet industry is a disadvantage; for instance, the section about cages. However the author does a very good job of mentioning the needs of the rats without getting specific as to the products available. There are also a number of photographs throughout the book showing rats being handled with gloves. While the author does explain in detail that this is done for the protection of these laboratory rats and why, many people will see the pictures and never read why it is done. If the book was just glanced through, a person who was unaware might possibly think that you have to handle rats with gloves or you will get a disease.
This is an excellent book for the beginning rat owner, and I can honestly say that it is the one I will be recommending as “the one to buy” for new owners. It is unfortunate that it does not cover most of the topics in more detail, however, that is not the purpose of the book. It does not add much information that the average experienced fancier doesn’t already know, but it is a great one to have on hand to loan to novice owners who want more information. I would love to see Dr. Schwartz write another book on the topic, only for fanciers rather than beginning pet owners. I would particularly love to see the section on genetics presented in more detail. As a final note, I would like to say thank you to the author and publishers of this book for including AFRMA and our address in their section under clubs.