Care sheet – fancy rat

Fancy Rat

(Rattus Norvegicus)

Download and print the pdf version here.

Adult Size – Males weigh from 300 – 550 grams. Females weigh from 250 – 450 grams. Their body length is around 7 inches.

Life span – 2-4 years

Male/female differences – Males are usually larger than females and they can be sexed by eyeing the distance between the urethra and the anus; the distance is further apart in males.

Compatibility – Rats are social animals that live in wherever in the wild. Interaction and socialization are important in developing a rat so that it will learn to trust you. If possible consider getting a pair so that you are not the only source of interaction the rat receives.

Origin – Northern Europe.

Climate – Average temperatures in cities, farms, wherever humans maintain surplus of goods.

Day Cycle – Nocturnal, but are happy being woken during the day.

Temperature – Avoid extremes; an average home temperature of 75 F will suffice. Make sure they are not in a drafty room as this could lead to complications.

Lighting – No special requirement besides a room’s lighting.

Humidity – Low or none.

Habitat/Territory – Rats live wherever humans live; in the wild they live in burrows.

Substrate/Bedding – Aspen bedding is a good option given their cage is properly ventilated, since a drawback to aspen is its dustiness. Wood pulp substrates are better options because of the low amounts of dust and they provide more comfort to the rat. Newspaper pellets can also be used as substrate since they are dust free.

Hiding Place/Den – Chew safe toys and non-toxic hiding places will increase their level of interaction when they are left alone. Hiding places will give them a comfort zone and an escape during the day.

Cage Type – Aquarium cages of 30” or longer are good as long as it is well ventilated. You can go with a wire cage if it is escape proof. Exercise is key here, with toys, wheels, ramps and platforms, so bigger is better.

Diet – A decent diet will consist of pet blocks, nuts, grains, oats, and seeds. For more variety throw in some fresh veggies and fruits, bland human foods like dry pasta, scrambled eggs, yogurt, and cooked white meat. They will gladly accept the change.

Supplements – Vitamins in water help supply missing nutrients from captive diets. Depending on what you feed, supplements such as enzymes and vitamin tablets can aid in their digestion and a healthier looking coat.

Diet Precautions – Avoid high-calorie diets that contain sunflower seeds and fatty foods that could lead to obesity. Dry fruits and treats should be given sparingly. Signs of a poor diet could be hair loss, chronic infections, and staining around the eyes and nose.

Feeding – A rat’s stomach is about half the size of their head so try not to overfeed. Give about that size twice a day and throw away the leftovers.

Water Source – Most store rats are used to water bottles, but they will also drink from a bowl. Rinse and wash both and supply fresh water each day. Consider bottled or purified water. The water bottle may require a metal guard as the rat will gnaw and render the bottle useless.

Grooming – Pet safe wipes are the best option for cleaning your rat. Occasionally you could bathe your rat, but do it very carefully with pet safe shampoo and then dry them quickly with a towel. Afterwards brush them with a nylon bristle brush.

 Oral and Foot Care – Rats need chew toys or else their teeth will grow continuously. Supply them with chew treats, or pumice blocks.

Proper Handling – Rats are one of the most sociable creatures next to dogs, cats and ferrets. They are not known to bite. As with any new pet give them time to get to know you and eventually you will be able to put them in your pocket with no problem. Proper handling is holding them with both hands and securing them so they won’t fall down. Never grab them by the tail.

Habitat Maintenance – Rats tend to go to the bathroom in the corners. Spot clean their cage daily and at least once a week clean out the whole thing.

Health Concerns – Diarrhea due to poor diet, congenital cancers, tumors respiratory problems, mites and obesity. A proper nutrition can help prevent the cancer and eliminate the threat of obesity. Proper ventilation and dust-free bedding will help prevent respiratory problems and mites.

Rabbit Care

Rabbit

Rabbit, Oryctolagus cuniculus

Download the care sheet (pdf)

Adult Size
3 – 5 pounds, depending on breed

Life Span
7 – 12 years, depending on breed

Male/Female Differences
After about 6 weeks of age, the sex organ, when pressed out with the thumb and forefinger, will appear more rounded in a male and more V shaped in a female.

Compatibility
In general, rabbits should be of the same sex and size if they are to be housed together. Ideally the rabbits should have been kept together from a young age. Keeping two or more rabbits is greatly advantageous, but rabbits introduced at older ages can be aggressive.

Origin
All domestic rabbits were bred from the wild European cotton tail.

Climate
Local climate is ideal. Rabbits will be happy with standard household temperatures. A rabbit kept in an outdoor hutch should be shielded from cold winds in the winter and hot sun in the summer.

Day Cycle
Diurnal (awake during the day.)

Temperature
Ideal 60-75 degrees Fahrenheit.

Lighting
No special lighting is required, but rabbits, like all creatures, will benefit greatly from natural sunlight, and a normal day/night cycle.

Humidity
Ambient humidity is ideal. Arid climates can be harsh on rabbits, as well as excessive humidity – over 70% can be dangerous, as rabbits are highly susceptible, to heat stroke.

Habitat/Territory
Deciduous forest, woodland, and grassland, but there are species of rabbit and hare living all over the world! Pet rabbits have a long history of domestication and household environs suit them well.

Substrate/Bedding
Aspen shavings, compressed hardwood pellets, or recycled paper products are ideal. Cedar and pine shavings can emit gasses that may lead to liver problems.

Hiding Place/Den
Rabbits will greatly enjoy a hiding place that is snug, but gives them enough room to stand, turn around, and lie down.

Cage Type
Bigger is better! Minimally four times the size of your rabbit is fine, but if the rabbit is to be kept in the cage the majority of the time, the cage should be at least half again as large. Rabbits kept outside in a hutch should have a great deal of space – four feet by two is great.

Diet
A pelleted rabbit food should be fed to insure that your rabbit is meeting all of his/her nutritional needs. On top of that, rabbits over six weeks of age should fed supplemental fresh vegetables (dark leafy greens are best.) Hay should always be available to your rabbit as a high amount of fiber is necessary for the rabbits slow digestive system.

Supplements
Yucca extracts and digestive enzymes can be very helpful in controlling impaction from ingested hair, as well as maintaining an attractive coat.

Diet Precautions
Always have fresh hay available as a source of fiber. Rabbits under six weeks of age should not be fed fresh vegetables. You may witness your rabbit ingesting his/her feces directly from his/her anus. This is normal and helps the rabbit maintain gut florae and is necessary for intestinal health.

Feeding
Rabbits fed exclusively pellets may become obese. Hay should always be available at all times. Feed a variety of fresh vegetables – one cup to several cups daily on top of about a quarter to half cup of fresh pellets. Anything other than vegetables, hay, or pellets is a treat and should be fed sparingly.

Water Source
Water should always be available, mostly from a water bottle, and should be changed daily.

Grooming
Rabbits can be brushed to reduce the risk of impacted hair. Nails should be cut once a month – this can be done at home with proper instruction, or your vet or Wilmette pet can provide this service.

Oral and Foot Care
Rabbit’s teeth grow constantly, and they need sufficient wood chews to wear them down. A problem exists known as malocclusion, where if your pet’s teeth are not worn down, they may need to be cut – again, your vet or Wilmette Pet can do this for you – it is not recommended that you attempt to cut teeth yourself. Nails should be cut once a month.

Proper Handling
Pick rabbits up from above, as approaching them from the front can make nervous rabbits more defensive. Hold them by the chest and rump, or support the feet to make them feel safe and secure. Rabbits should be handled carefully to avoid damaging delicate spines. Keep close to the ground in case they try to hop out of your arms.

Habitat Maintenance
Litter box/soiled area of the cage should be changed daily. A full substrate change should be performed once a week.

Health Concerns
Malocclusion (the misalignment of teeth, as previously mentioned), the intestinal impaction of hair, and bacterial infection resulting in diarrhea and resulting dehydration are some of the most common concerns with rabbits.

Opossum Care

Adult Size
4 to 6 inches plus tail

Life Span
3 to 4 Years

Male/Female Differences
Males have obvious testicles from an early age. Females have a smooth opening near her tail.

Compatibility
Opossums are solitary animals and each one needs a separate cage. This is an animal that does not need a “friend”.

Origin
Brazil, Paraguay, and Bolivia

Climate
Tropical climate: warm and relatively humid. The adapt to most home temperatures. An under tank heater or non-UV heat lamp can ensure they have the right temperature if the home gets cooler than 70 degrees.

Day Cycle
Nocturnal (works the night shift, sleeps during the day.) May be awake and more playful in the evening hours.

Temperature
70 to 80 degrees. They like it warmer while sleeping, conditions met in their sleeping box.

Lighting
Being nocturnal, bright lights should be avoided.

Humidity
40% to 60% ideal. Low humidity risks dehydration and excessively high humidity can speed the development of bacteria.

Habitat/Territory
Tropical jungle, everything from terrestrial to arboreal. They sleep in small holes in the ground or in trees.

Substrate/Bedding Provide a safe and soft bedding, the less dusty the better. Cedar bedding can be toxic and pine too dusty. Good litters are shredded or pelleted aspen or recycled paper products. Supply nesting materials and dry hays.

Hiding Place/Den
A bird nesting box makes an ideal retreat and sleeping den.

Cage Type
At least a 30 inch aquarium with a locking lid with numerous branches and climbing places. Bird cages work well, with plenty of places to hang toys and perches – just make sure all the doors are locked. The cage must be large enough for a safe running wheel, a litter pan, a nest box, a food bowl and a water bottle with plenty of room for jumping and climbing.

Diet
Opossums are omnivorous in the wild. Offer them variety! Start with a basic ferret, cat, or hedgehog dry diet. Superworms and crickets are a favorite treat and by offering them by hand you speed the bonding process. Offer fresh or thawed fruits and vegetables – they love grapes! Give small bites of scrambled or boiled egg, baby food (both fruits and vegetables), and cooked lean meats. Dairy, like yoghurt and cottage cheese, need to be offered sparingly.

Supplements
Variety in the diet will prevent any nutritional deficiencies. Calcium powder can be added to crickets and other insects before feeding. Vitamins, such as bird or hamster vitamins, can be added to food or water.

Diet Precautions
Overfeeding of fatty foods can lead to obesity. Do not offer too much dairy as it can cause diarrhea. Avoid foods with high fat, sugar, and salt content.

Feeding
Feed at night. Remove the food in the morning to prevent spoilage. Offer insects by hand to bond with your opossum.

Water Source
Water bottles work because they are not as easily soiled as water bowls. Some opossums, however, have difficulty operating the bottle, so offer a small bowl of water. Make sure the opossum can drink from the bottle (training might be necessary) and check water bowls frequently so they stay clean.

Grooming
Opossums groom themselves and are quite clean. Occasional dust baths, using chinchilla dust, or bathing using gentle pet shampoo can remove excess oils from their fur.

Oral and Foot Care
Opossums have little problems with oral problems, and nails tend to stay short from the exercise. Use manicure bird perches to naturally trim their nails. Running wheels must be safe to prevent foot injuries.

Proper Handling
New opossums are nervous; ply with treats like crickets and superworms. Pick up familiar opossums around the waist. Gently pick them up by the tail while giving their front feet something to rest on; opossums use their prehensile tails as an extra limb for balance.

Habitat Maintenance
Empty and change litter box daily. Opossums sometimes use the bathroom when running in their exercise wheel; choose a wheel that is easy to clean. Some owners place litter boxes under the wheel. Regardless of your solution, clean this area daily. Replace the bedding and wipe down cage once a week.

Health Concerns
Opossums are at risk of hair loss due to protein deficiency or an allergy to the bedding. Diarrhea is possible due to new foods and dehydration can be a real danger. Older opossums are at risk of respiratory illness, digestive problems and tumors. Opossums are the only other mammal that can develop skin cancer from too much sunlight!

Mouse Care

Download care sheet (pdf)

Adult Size
2”, about 2 ounces

Life Span
2 – 3 years

Male/Female Differences
Young mice are difficult to sex. Sexing mice is done by eyeing the distance between the urethra and the anus; the distance is greater in males than in females.

Compatibility
Male mice will fight to defend their territory against other males. Females get along better, especially raised together.

Origin
Mice are native world wide.

Climate
Very diverse habitats including forests, savannahs, grasslands and rocky habitats

Day Cycle
Nocturnal, although will be awake occasionally during the day.

Temperature
Household temperature is fine. Avoid extreme heat as mice will pile up together and can get too hot.

Lighting
Being nocturnal, lighting is unimportant.

Humidity
Mice do well in most indoor humidity. Keep their bedding dry at all times.

Habitat/Territory
Mice are burrowing animals, preferring the safety of cover for their nests.

Substrate/Bedding
Provide a safe and soft bedding, the less dusty the better. Cedar bedding can be toxic and pine too dusty. Good litters are shredded or pelleted aspen or recycled paper products. Supply nesting materials and dry hays.

Hiding Place/Den
Mice need a hiding place to feel secure. Wooden huts and coconut shells make great hideouts, as they also offer opportunities to chew. Plastic mouse huts can be used but will be destroyed.

Cage Type
Hamster or gerbil cages can be used for housing mice. Aquariums can also be used with a metal screen top to prevent escape. The cage should be large enough to allow the mouse room to exercise, preferably in a safe exercise wheel.

Diet
Seed mixes are good basic diets for mice. Pelleted pet blocks are better, as they combine complete nutrition in a form designed to wear away teeth. Offer variety with other foods such as cooked lean meats, leafy vegetables, and pastas.

Supplements
A proper diet, including variety, will preclude the need for supplements. Hamster or bird supplements can be added to water or cuttle bones.

Diet Precautions
Avoid foods like chocolate, excessive fats and sugars. Giving sunflower seeds in excess can cause obesity.

Feeding
Feed small amounts and remove old food to prevent spoilage. Mice will scatter their food around the cage and bury it in the nest, so be sure to not over feed.

Water Source
Water bowls will quickly get dirty, so use a water bottle. The bottle should either be round or hung outside the cage to prevent the mouse form chewing and destroying it. Use a metal chew guard for water bottles in the cage.

Grooming
Mice are very clean animals that spend a lot of time grooming themselves.

Oral and Foot Care
A mouse’s teeth are always growing, so offer plenty of wooden sticks, hard pet blocks, pumice stones, and foods that will wear away their teeth. Avoid running wheels with bars to prevent injury to their feet or tails. Offer chances to climb to help keep nails shortened.

Proper Handling
Avoid picking a mouse up by the tail if you want to stay friendly with it. Scoop the mouse up gently from below. Mice can be nervous at first, so cup a hand over them to make them feel more secure.

Habitat Maintenance
Spot clean soiled areas daily. Clean the cage weekly with mild soap and water and replace all bedding.

Health Concerns
Mice kept in conditions with poor ventilation are prone to respiratory infections. Diarrhea is possible due to unsanitary conditions and poor diet.

Guinea Pig Care

Guinea Pig

Guinea Pig

Download the Guinea Pig Care Sheet (pdf)

Adult Size
1 – 2.5 lbs, 8 – 10 inches

Life Span
4 – 5 Years

Male/Female Differences
Sexing can be difficult when young. Invert the urethra to check for a penis. There is no difference in external appearance. Genitals can be obvious on males.

Compatibility
Females get along with each other, and a male can even be added. Males usually get along, after some settling of hierarchy, but will fight over a single female. 2 males together are not recommended.

Origin
Native to the Andes mountains of South America.

Climate
Local climate is ideal. Avoid extremes of heat and cold.

Day Cycle
No cycle, wake and sleep 27/7

Temperature
Room temperature works best.

Lighting
No special lighting required except a natural day and night schedule.

Humidity
Ambient humidity is fine.

Habitat/Territory
They make their homes in the cool and dry areas of the Andes. This terrain is void of large vegetation and so they exist on grass.

Substrate/Bedding
Provide a safe and soft bedding, the less dusty the better. Cedar bedding can be toxic and pine too dusty, and corn cob can harbor mold spores. Good litters are shredded or pelleted aspen or recycled paper products. Supply nesting materials and dry hays.

Hiding Place/Den
Wooden huts provide a safe sleeping place. Edible home can provide a treat in addition to a hiding place.

Cage Type
Wire cages are proof against nibbling. The larger the cage the better, although a guinea pig still needs daily exercise outside of his home.
Diet Pelleted guinea pig food provides the basic diet, 2 tbls pelleted with ¼ cup chopped vegetables, such as dark leafy greens and carrots. Timothy hay is an important addition as it provides fiber to keep their digestive system working properly. Small amounts of yoghurt help maintain intestinal florae.

Supplements
Vitamin C should be added to the food of guinea pigs to help prevent vitamin deficiency. Digestive enzymes help guinea pigs get more nutrition from their food.

Diet Precautions
Excessive alfalfa hay has been known to cause obesity. Always have timothy hay available as a source of fiber. Nuts and seeds should never be given.

Feeding
Feed fresh pellets daily, as vitamin C content can deteriorate. Treats can include fruits such as apples and small amounts of yoghurt.

Water Source
A water bottle, cleaned and filled daily, is preferable to a water dish. Guinea pigs can kick substrate into and foul water dishes.

Grooming
Guinea pigs groom themselves to keep clean. Occasional cleanings with pet safe wipes and once monthly baths with mild pet shampoo can help keep their coat smelling fresh and free of debris. Long-haired, or Angora, breeds should be brushed frequently.

Oral and Foot Care
A guinea pig’s nails grow continuously, and need to be clipped monthly. Long nails can cause a condition called “bumblefoot.” This can be done at home with proper instruction. Your vet or Wilmette Pet can also perform this service. A wooden chewing block or pumice stone, or hard, crunchy treats will help keep their teeth trimmed.

Proper Handling
Scoop a guinea pig from underneath, rather than grabbing from above. Keeping them next to your chest at first calms them and makes them feel safe. Avoid grabbing around middle as it can damage internal organs.

Habitat Maintenance
Guinea pigs have a natural urge to keep their homes clean and often can be trained to potty boxes in their cages. These and other wet areas should be cleaned daily, and the entire substrate replaced once a week.

Health Concerns
Common ailments in domestic guinea pigs include the above mentioned bumblefoot, respiratory infections, diarrhea, scurvy (vitamin C deficiency, typically characterized by sluggishness), and abscesses due to infection.