American Fancy Rat & Mouse Association

This article is from the May/June 1987 AFRMA Rat & Mouse Tales news-magazine.

Beginners’ Corner

Upset With Clean Cage

By Karen Hauser

From Rose Healy, Hollidaysburg, PA
Benson was our first mouse ever, a few days old, no hair!, shivering - my daughter rescued her from being snake food. We had no idea what to do with a mouse and that young. The Vet said to keep her warm, and give a formula of diluted canned milk with a bit of honey and a bit of baby rice cereal. Benson turned out GREAT, an all brown female. She hated raisins and threw them! I don’t know why my husband always thought she should have a raisin.

What my mice like better than a salad or vegetable is me bringing them fresh weeds in, or taking them out and making a pile of weeds on a bench or table and letting them play in it and chew all they want. They love dandelions, the flowers, seeds, stems and leaves; buttercups; grass and grass seeds; even catnip. They also go nuts for any roots. I am never sure how much they eat and how much of it is simply chewing. In any case they are so very happy in a pile of weeds.

Ed. Note: When giving weeds or other things, always make sure they haven’t been sprayed with anything. Also, don’t pick them from a roadside as the fumes from the passing cars gets on them and can cause serious effects.

Q After cleaning out the aquariums and giving my mice new boxes and shavings and having everything in order, Pumpkin gets what appears to me as very upset. He rushes around and rearranges everything; rips and tears until the place is a mess again. Even my husband feels that cleaning them out upsets them. Are they finding the cleaning of their home stressful? Frosty no longer is as much bothered by being cleaned out as Pumpkin is.

Benson would work to get things back her way until she was exhausted. Sure it gives them something to do and keeps them active, but is it good for them? Yet you cannot let them live in the mess they so adore once it starts smelling.

Some mice we had did not get too hyper over it. The wild mouse we had kept her house in such perfect order. But in 3 months we got to clean her only 2 times, the second time she escaped regardless of all our caution. Faster than lightning did she jump and disappear, though we kept a lid and hands over her while transferring her from the old place to the clean one. I felt sure she was happier being on her own again somewhere in the structure of our house. It had to be a female as there was no odor to her.

A You are right when you say one cannot let them live in a dirty cage but being caged animals means it is our responsibility to keep the cages clean, and the animals fed and cared for. Cleaning does disturb them, but I think they would be under more stress in a dirty cage plus the health reasons. The running around is to mark the cage with their own personal smell to claim their territory. You will notice that they do this even if you only change the shavings and don’t wash everything out. Rats and mice produce smells called pheromones, which is important to them and is part of communication. If a cage has not been thoroughly cleaned before placing different animals within, the odor left by the former animals will upset the new tenants to where they try and cover up the old smell by increasing their production of odiferous material. The result is more smell in the room than normal. Even if you only have the animals in a cage for a couple of hours, you should completely wash the cage before putting in new animals. A very important note is—never switch water bottles between cages—always clean them out before using on another cage (this can cause the same reaction as with cage cleaning and for health reasons).

See the article Pheromones and mouse behavior in the March/April 1986 issue. *

Updated January 4, 2019