Pet Care Guides Small Pet

Rats and Mice



Approximate Size

Pet Rat: 8- 20 oz. | 7-10 inches
Pet Mouse: 1-1.5 oz. | 3-4 inches

Approximate Lifespan

Pet Rat: 2-4 years
Pet Mouse: 2-3years

Rats, Mice & Children

Good pets for older children when cared for properly.


Having a pet rat or mouse can be a very rewarding experience! Before purchasing, do plenty of research to understand their behaviors, proper handling, and care requirements. Help them live a long and healthy life in your care.

Pet rats and pet mice are selectively bred versions of wild species (Norway rats, house mouse). While rats and mice are often considered pests, those bred in captivity make for intelligent, entertaining, and friendly pets. Have been kept as pets since the 1700s.

Most pet rats and mice will have a friendly personality, but every rat and mouse is different just like us. Rats are social creatures that prefer to live with other members of their own species. Rats can be kept in same-sex groups, provided they are introduced at a young age, or are from the same litter There are occasions, especially during the first year of growth, when rats become territorial and may fight for dominance among their cage mates. However, once the social structure is sorted out, they should get along. If one pet shows aggression towards another, the aggressor should be separated to avoid injuries. That Pet Place cannot guarantee that any animal will get along with any other animal, even if they are purchased from the same cage. Mice are also social animals, but you should avoid housing males together. Females can live together without many problems. We recommend keeping two or more female mice or a single male. That Pet Place cannot guarantee the sex of any animal of any age, especially young rodents, since they are very difficult to sex.

Housing Your Pet Rat or Mouse

Wire cages suit rats best. It is best to choose a cage with a solid bottom and small mesh wire shelves. The shelves should be made of mesh with spaces no larger than 1/2 inch to avoid toe injuries. Rats grow rather large when compared with other mice, gerbils, and hamsters. A cage for one small or juvenile rat should be at least 24"L x 12"W x 16"H. As your rat matures, you should move them to a larger cage with levels, such as one built for a ferret or chinchilla. Bar spacing in your rat's wire cage should be 1/2" or less to prevent escape.

Mice can be housed in wire cages with 1/4” or less wire spacing to prevent escape. They can also be housed in aquariums (outfitted with a cage topper or a metal screen) or plastic habitats. We recommend a 10 gallon aquarium with a metal screen lid and clips for a pair of mice.

Ideal indoor conditions for your rat or mouse are 65-75 degrees, normal household humidity of 30 to 50%, and away from drafts. Temperatures above 8o degrees are too high. If it is too hot, provide your rat or mouse with a frozen water bottle, fan or “chinchiller” to lie next to and cool off.

We recommend lining the entire bottom of your habitat with small pet paper bedding to absorb waste and odors. Do not use cedar chips or pine bedding, as they can be harmful to your pet. Change the bedding every several days or at least weekly. Soiled wet bedding can lead to health issues with breathing and sore feet. Also, the cage itself must be cleaned with pet friendly disinfectant.

Provide unlimited spring water in both a bottle and a shallow bowl. A ceramic food dish is recommended, as plastic dishes will be chewed and possibly ingested.

Rats are extremely intelligent and the more room they have in their cage for ladders, toys, and hiding places, the better. Enrichment items are highly recommended.

Rats and mice need places to climb and explore. Exercise wheels, tubes and other furniture should be provided for activity. Rats may be more likely to enjoy climbing fixtures, like shelves and ladders, while mice may use a wheel more. Choose an enclosed wheel. Rats and mice also prefer an enclosed area to sleep. A hide-away den will give them a place to feel safe and secure.

Rodent teeth grow constantly. It is very important to provide plenty chewable items in the cage, such as wooden chew toys, cardboard tubes and other similar products to satisfy their natural chewing instinct and keep their teeth worn to a manageable length. Remember to change out enrichment items frequently.

Feeding Your Pet Rat or Mouse

Your rat or mouse's diet should be:
• 75% Pellets
• 20% Greens
• 2-5% Treats

Your pet rat or mouse is an omnivore, which means they eat both plant and animal material. They do their best on a varied diet. Pet rat and mice pelleted food or blocks should be used as the staple of the diet, but other things can be added to make sure the animals are receiving the optimal nutrition. Feed a basic diet of pelleted food or blocks for the first 2-3 weeks, until your rat or mouse has adjusted to their new home.

After the first 2-3 weeks, you can offer small amounts of vegetables like romaine, kale, parsley, and peas. Introduce greens gradually and in small amounts to avoid upsetting their stomachs. After several more weeks, greens can make up to 20% of their diet. Wash their veggies, and remove seeds, pits and stones.

Treats can be offered occasionally a few times a week. If a vegetable or treat causes digestive issues, discontinue its use.

Pet rats are often eager to share anything their human companions are eating, but it is best to feed them their balanced rodent block food, veggies, and very limited fruits instead of human foods.

Some supplements that can be provided to your rat or mouse, if an issue should arise and as they age, include joint support, urinary tract support and skin and coat supplements

Habitat Maintenance & Care for Your Pet Rat or Mouse

Pet rats and mice require attention and care every day. You will need to:
• Provide fresh food, and water daily.
• Spot clean their bedding daily.
• Replace bedding once a week.
• Wash dishes and bottles once a week or more if necessary.
• Clean the cage itself weekly or as necessary with pet friendly disinfectant.
• Replace toys and chews as needed.

Grooming Your Pet Rat or Mouse:
Pet rats and mice are generally clean and spend a good part of their day grooming themselves. Do not bathe them unless medically necessary. Small pet wipes are best as a stress-free, dry bath if need be. Healthy pet rats and mice will also take care of their own nails. They’ll wear them down naturally by running around and will also clip off the ends with their teeth if they think it’s necessary.

Pet rats and mice teeth never stop growing. Provide required wooden and other chews to keep their teeth worn down and healthy.  Overgrown or damaged teeth are painful and can cause loss of appetite, drooling & weight loss.

Enrichment for Your Pet Rat or Mouse:
Enrichment, exercise, and fun are required! Provide toys, chews, tunnels, and mats to encourage natural behaviors essential to your rat or mouse’s health and happiness. Create different levels for them in their habitat to enjoy climbing on and provide tunnels for them to run through or hide in. 

Bringing Your Pet Rat or Mouse Home

In a new environment, your new pet may be rather nervous. Allow your rat or mouse time to get used to their new surroundings. Put their cage in a quiet area for the first few weeks and limit handling for the first 2-3 days.

Check on them often for signs of illness. Their eyes, ears, and nose should be free and clear of any discharge. The most common ailments in rats and mice are respiratory infections (sneezing, runny nose, wheezing), skin problems (excessive itching or bald patches) and tumors. If you observe any symptoms or signs that your pet may be ill, see a exoctics vet as soon as possible. Treat any sign of illness immediately.

Handling Your Pet Rat or Mouse

Wash your hands with warm, soapy water before and after handling any pet animal. Help prevent the spread of germs and prevent accidental bites by washing away smells that may entice them (like if you recently handled food or treats).

Wash your hands with warm, soapy water before and after handling any pet animal. Help prevent the spread of germs and prevent accidental bites by washing away smells that may entice them (like if you recently handled food or treats).

Handle your rat or mouse with easy, calm movements; loud noises and quick movements can startle any animal. Any animal, even a friendly one, will bite or scratch if it feels threatened. To pick up your rat, grasp it firmly between its front legs with one hand and slide the other hand under its back feet, bringing the animal to your chest quickly.

Rats and mice have very fragile tails. The tail is an important appendage, aiding in balance and helping to regulate body temperature. If you do pick up a rat by its tail, do it by grasping the very base of their tail, never the tip. Mice can be picked up by their tail but again only by the base. The tail may break off if injured and will not grow back.

Use caution when holding or handling your pet as they may try to jump out of your hands. Handle your pet in a seated position to minimize the chance of a fall. If your pet rat or mouse falls or is dropped, they can become seriously injured. They should be seen by a vet, as not all injuries are visible to the naked eye.

If you are selecting a pet rat or mouse for a young child, they may prefer not to be handled like some other pets. Young children should always be supervised by parents when interacting with their pet. Not only are these animals fragile, but they can, if frightened, bite or scratch. Parents are encouraged to handle their pets first to get them used to contact and to teach children the proper way to hold or carry their pet.


1. Provide a cage with 1/2” or less bar spacing for rats and 1/4" for mice.
2. Provide unlimited spring water.
3. Provide balanced pet rat/mouse food. (75% of diet)
4. Provide fresh greens daily. (20% of diet)
5. Provide chews for good teeth health.
6. Spot clean bedding daily.
7. Replace paper bedding every week or as necessary.
8. Provide chews, tunnels, and mats for enrichment.
9. Handle carefully on your lap or near the floor.
10. Provide love, care, and company! Rats and mice are social. They like having a friend.

Thank you for taking the time to learn about your new family member. We recommend scheduling a check up with an exotics veterinarian soon after you bring your new pet home. It is helpful to keep a medical record about your pet should an emergency ever occur.

Pet care is always evolving & changing.  Please continue to research and monitor your pet’s behavior to assure they are thriving.  If you have any questions or concerns, please feel free to contact our small animal department at 717-299-5691 ext. 1274 or