A lot of prejudice and misunderstanding has been directed toward rats and mice. Domestic rats and mice are not the same at their wild counterparts. They have been domesticated for over 100 years and have about as much in common with their wild cousins as your pet dog has with a wolf. Pet rats and mice are easy to keep and require minimal space and care requirements. They are inexpensive to obtain along with a required cage and accessories. They require no vaccinations, nor do they make a lot of noise and do not need to be walked. Rats make excellent companions for children, as well as adults for they are intelligent clean, and very social. Watching mice play an be a lot of fun. They are great stress relievers – in the same way an aquarium of fish can be.
With rats there is no preference between males and females. Males tend to be larger than females and as they grow older become “couch potatoes”. Females tend to retain their playfulness. Rats will have no odor other than a pleasant smell often described to resemble sandalwood incense. Female mice are preferred by many as they do not have the “musky” odor that is natural for male mice. When choosing your pet, the two most important things to look for are health and personality. A healthy rat or mouse will be active, curious, and have a nice glossy coat. Pick out an animal that is friendly and curious when you put your hand in the cage, when you pick them up, they should be calm. Be aware that baby rats nibble on your fingers. Do not confuse this with biting. Purchase them only from a reputable breeder or a quality pet shop. They will know their animals, have healthy stock, and socialize their babies from birth. The best age to get one is the age of 4-6 weeks so they can grow up with you. But keep in mind that an older animal that has a nice personality and temperament can make just as nice a pet.
Rats and mice come in a great variety of colors and coat types. Some of the rainbow of colors that you see are recent developments of fanciers around the world. A few of the more exotic colors and markings in rats are Siamese, Blue, Silvered Black, Cinnamon Pearl, Lynx, Blue Point Siamese, Capped, Variegated, and Blaze. Rex rats have a curly coat, Tail-less rats are born with no tail, and Hairless have no fur! In mice, some of the fancier colors, markings, and coat types are Orange, Beige, Coffee, Cream, Brindle Roan, and Dutch in Satin, Long Haired, Frizzy, and Hairless or any combination of the above. Fancy mice, as well as fancy rats are bred to conform to a written standard where its coat, color, conformation, size, and personality are all taken into account. In other words, the term “fancy” is the equivalent of saying “pure-bred”. Fanciers and breeders come together to promote and encourage the breeding and exhibitions of fancy rats and mice, to educate the public on the positive qualities as companion animals and provide information on their proper care.