Understand routine care for rodents
This is a description of the basic cleaning and feeding regimes for each species: hamster, gerbil, mouse, rat.
Hamster: A hamster mix which contains seeds, gains, cracked corn and pellets would be a good food for the hamster, supplemented with fresh foods such as spinach, lettuce and apples. All leftovers should be cleared away before they go mouldy to ensure the continuing health of the hamster. Foods such as rhubarb, chocolate, raw potato should never be given to hamsters.
Fresh water should be available each day, preferably in an inverted bottle. Water should be refreshed daily.
Droppings, soiled bedding and uneaten food should be removed from the hamster’s cage on a daily basis. Each week the cage should be cleaned with hot soapy water and the bedding replaced. As a hamster’s teeth continually grow, there should always be a piece of wood or something for the hamster to gnaw on to maintain dental health.
Regular handling is important to ensure the hamster stays tame. Daily exercise is also important but should be supervised to ensure the hamster doesn’t come into contact with anything it shouldn’t gnaw on.
Gerbil: A gerbil mix contains pellets, grains, seeds and dried vegetables – usually these mixes have a protein content of 12% and a fat content of 6-8%. Small amounts of fresh vegetables should be given every day such as carrots, leaf lettuces, broccoli. Small amounts of fruit such as apples, bananas should be offered every other day, but new foods should be introduced gradually.
Any leftover fresh foods should be removed daily and fresh clean water should be available at all times, cleaned each day and offered in an inverted bottle. Foods such as cabbage, potatoes, onions etc should not be offered to the gerbils.
Soiled bedding, droppings and uneaten food should be removed from the gerbil’s cage each day. The cage should be cleaned once a week by replacing the bedding and cleaning the cage with hot soapy water. As with a hamster, a twig or sterilized bone should be in the cage for the gerbil to gnaw on in order to maintain the health of the teeth.
Mouse: Commercial mouse food is available – it should contain 16% protein, 18% fibre and no more than 4% fat. Fresh food and vegetables can be given to the mouse everyday as a treat eg peas, broccoli, carrots, apples etc. Foods like cabbage, chocolate, corn or peanuts should not be given to the mouse as these are damaging to their health.
As with the other rodents, soiled bedding, uneaten fresh food and droppings should be removed from the cage each day and the cage cleaned at least weekly using hot soapy water. Male mice produce more odour than females and therefore their cages may need more frequent cleaning.
Rat: Rats should be fed mainly on rat blocks which are a high-quality pellet chow formulated for rodents. In the ingredients it should contain soy meal as the main ingredient. This should be available for the rat at all times. As well as this, fresh fruits and vegetables can also be given on a daily basis in common with the other rodents listed above. Peas, broccoli, carrots, apples etc may all be given but various fruit and vegetables can be tried without any fear of harming the rat’s health. Further, rats can enjoy the occasional table scrap eg cooked pasta, egg, chicken or even pizza crust, but care should be taken to control the rat’s weight. As with all animals, fresh water should be available at all times and should be changed daily and offered from a clean bottle.
Rats should not be given peanut butter, chocolate, junk food etc – these can all be very damaging to the rat’s health.
In terms of cleanliness, as with the rodents listed, on a daily basis soiled bedding, droppings and uneaten food items should be removed from the rat’s cage but the whole cage should be cleaned in hot soapy water on a weekly basis with all bedding etc replaced. Also in common with the other rodents, wood, dog biscuits or rawhide chew toys should be in the cage to help maintain the condition and health of the teeth which are continuously growing.