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|How to Care for Mice and Rats |
Domestically raised mice (Murine Rodents) and rats are very popular pets in the United States. They are readily available, relatively inexpensive, easy to care for and usually enjoy human handling.
The mouse, bearing the scientific name, Mus Musculus, is thought to have originated in Asia. Its tremendous adaptability, its long-time association with man and his dwellings, and its unbelievably prolific breeding potential (one reference cites one million descendants from one breeding pair in one and one half years!) has allowed mice to enjoy a world-wide distribution.
Mice are timid, social and territorial animals that spend a disproportionate amount of their time in the wild pursuing an omnivorous (animal and plant material) diet. The latter activity is most often carried out at night in order to escape predation. Laboratory and pet mice are not strictly nocturnal (nigh-active) but tend to exhibit alternating periods of activity and rest throughout both the day and night.
The domestication and subsequent intensive breeding of mice has resulted in a tremendous genetic diversity of mouse populations. The Swiss Albino mouse has become one of the most popular strains for pets but many others are commonly used in this capacity.
The rat, bearing the scientific name Rattus Norveglicus, apparently also originated in central Asia. Rats were domesticated in 17th century and the process has continued to the present. Rats, like mice, have been used extensively in biomedical research and the majority of the tremendous number of breeds and strains currently in existence have resulted from intensive in-breeding efforts by research laboratories over the years.
Wild rats are found in all kinds of habitats and nearly all land masses of the world, an enduring tribute to the omnivorous (feed on plant and animal material) but exhibit tremendous opportunism in their feeding habits when living in and around man's dwellings. Wild rats tend to be nocturnal (night-active) animals but they will often use daylight hours to forage for food.
Mice and rats are both relatively short-lived animals which can be disconcerting to owners of these pets. Some, however, feel that having their children experience the relatively short period of companionship from and subsequent death of pet mice and rats is a desirable meaningful way to expose children to the "ups and downs" of life.
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