- Rats and mice do best in a "REPTILE" cage - which looks a lot like an aquarium with a sliding mesh top. This kind of cage is easy to fill with shavings, easy look through and see the mouse/rat playing inside (all glass), easy to reach inside and catch your rodent, and easy to put toys inside such as wheels for them to play with. There are no sharp edges for mice and rats to get hurt on, and plenty of room for them to build big "forts" made from shavings.
- Get a 10 gal to 15 gal REPTILE cage for one mouse. (Two mice can be caged together but for new owners I recommend starting with just one - mice do fight and it's heartbreaking to hear them scream and squeak). Make sure the cage comes with a top.
- A rat needs a 15 to 20 gal (or bigger) reptile cage with a top. The cage is easy to set up with the shavings on the bottom and the wheel, the toys, the food dish all set on top, wherever it's most convenient for you to get to them.
- Get a water bottle that is made for small rodents and hangs on the side of the cage, but will still let the top of the cage close. Make sure you check the water every day and tap the ball at the end to be sure it is still dispensing water. Sometimes the tip of the water bottle gets gummed up with food and it will stop letting water flow. Fill it when it gets to be half empty or so - do not wait until it's completely empty. Water bottles work on a gravity feed - the more water that's pushing down on it then the easier it is for the rodent to drink.
- A small food dish is nice but not necessary.
- Food (exactly what to feed them I have discussed in another article on this site). Feed your mouse only as much food as it will eat in one or two days. Otherwise it gets spoiled and trampled on by your rodent and who would want to eat that? If you don't have a food dish it's ok to put the food directly on the shavings - but put it in the corner where the mouse or rat is less likely to defecate on it.
I do not recommend feeding rats (or mice) from your hands - they will get to expect something every time and may bite in their search for the food. Food should be in their food bowl and your hands are their trip out of the cage for exploration.
- Get your mouse or rat a wheel to exercise in. Toys such as the cardboard middle of a toilet paper roll, or a small box with holes for "doors", for them to crawl through can also entertain your rodent. Take your rat out every day to play with it, if possible. The more you handle it the tamer it will be. Mice do not need to come out every day to get exercise and play.
When picking up your pet, try to scoop it up under its belly into your hand.
- You'll need shavings for the bottom of the cage. Pine or cedar shavings that are compacted into a heavy cube are the nicest and the cheapest.
- Clean your mouse or rat's cage as often as it needs. Some rodents are messier than others - you'll have to follow your nose to determine when this needs to be done. Simply have someone hold your rodent, remove all the accessories from the cage and pour the shavings into a garbage bag. You can wash the inside of the reptile cage with soap and water. DO NOT USE WINDEX ON THE INSIDE. If you want to give your rodent a bath when you clean its cage you can fill the kitchen sink with warm water and let them have a swim. Pick them up and dry them gently with a towel before putting them back into their clean cage.
Enjoy your little furry friends!