This article is from the Spring 2001 AFRMA Rat & Mouse Tales news-magazine.
By Nichole Royer
Teresa Pickney, Mt. Juliet, TN
Q My children, ages 7, 9, and 1½ , all have animal allergies, therefore, they cannot have fur-bearing pets. I read “Just Squeaking By” in National Geographic World, October 1991 issue, and saw that you have information regarding a Hairless mouse.
If you know of any information regarding human allergies to this or other particular mice (with many animals, one is not only allergic to that animal’s dander, but also to its saliva), could you please send that to me.
I would appreciate any information you have, as my children anxiously await the day they can hold and pet an animal of their own!
A Rats and mice are one option for those folks who are allergic to other animals. In some cases, those that are allergic to cats and dogs have no reaction to the rats and mice.
Unfortunately, rats and mice are not non-allergenic. Quite a number of people are allergic to them. Not only do they produce dander, but since they groom themselves like cats, often, people have reactions to their saliva.
It is possible for folks with allergies to own rats and mice. Because of their small size, often they do not produce enough of a reaction to be a problem. Due to the fact that they are confined and only have access to those areas you allow them in, it is very simple to limit the amount of exposure you have to them.
Often, the amount of reaction a particular person has to rats and mice depends greatly on what type of coat they have. Some people react much more strongly to Standard-coated rats and mice than they do to Rexes and Frizzies. (I don’t know of anyone who has experimented with the other varieties, but it would be worth a try.) The best way to test for this is to go to a show and expose yourself to just one variety, then see what reaction you have.
Naturally, Hairless rats and mice will not produce the dander that haired rats do. Though it helps, this does not eliminate the reaction to saliva caused from the rat cleaning itself. This, however, isn’t a big problem (with Hairless at least). Simply wash them off with a damp washcloth before handling them.
Scratches from rat toenails also frequently cause skin reactions. In order to prevent this, simply keep the rat’s nails trimmed.
Bedding can further complicate this matter. Often, the bedding causes as much or more reaction than the rat or mouse does. Most of us who used to use cedar or pine bedding and have since switched to a non-toxic alternative, know if a rat we handle is being kept on cedar or pine. We have an almost instantaneous skin reaction.
One last note—don’t be fooled when you get no allergic reaction when handling a baby rat or mouse. Rats do not get their adult coats until they are 6–8 weeks old, mice 4–6 weeks. Before this time, they have a soft, danderless, relatively non-allergenic coat. Many people get baby rats or mice, have them just long enough to get really attached, and then have to find them new homes when they moult their baby coat.
Kenneth Barry, e-mail
Q I hope you can help us. My wife and I want to get companions for our two male mice. They became very aggressive towards each other right after bringing them home from the pet store, so they each have their own cage. We’d like to get infertile does for each of them (we don’t want to breed them) but don’t know where to go. If you could point us in the right direction, we’d really appreciate it. We live in the Kansas City area.
A You have run into a problem that many people face. Almost all male mice will fight with another male once they reach maturity (and sometimes well before). I applaud you for thinking ahead to the ultimate outcome of acquiring female companions for your boys. Many people do so without thinking, then write to us thinking we will be able to place the many youngsters produced (8–12 babies every 3 weeks).
Unfortunately, your options are extremely limited. Some female mice become infertile as they age, but this is no guarantee. There have been quite a number of cases where elderly girls have had litters. Spaying female mice is not practical since it is an extremely major operation to do on such a small animal.
Your ultimate solution would be to have both your boys neutered. This would make it possible for them not only to live with females without adding to the pet overpopulation problem, but it’s entirely likely that they would live happily together as well. This is a much simpler operation than spaying a female; however, finding a vet with the necessary experience can be difficult. It is not without risk, however, and can often be rather expensive. It should cut way down on that oh so pungent mouse odor that always comes along with owning the boys.
To be honest, most people simply end up housing their males in solitary cages for the rest of their lives with lots of toys and a wheel. This may be lonely for the males, but it’s often the simplest solution.
It is because of this dilemma that I urge new mouse owners to purchase a group of females. They happily live together and don’t produce that mousy smell. I wish pet shops would warn folks of the eventual outcome when they buy male mice.