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The Correct Way

to Handling for

Pet Rodents

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Exercise Caution - Safe Handling of your Pet Rodent

If you want a rodent of any type for a pet, it will be
important that you train it to allow you to handle it, so
that it will be tame enough to allow you to care for it,
inspect its health, and safely move it when needed.

Larger rodents can be handled the same way you might handle
a rabbit or a cat, but mice, gerbils, hamsters and the like
can be easily injured and need extra care. Another
consideration is that nearly all rodents may bite, so
wearing protective hand gear when handling your pet may be
in order.

Mice, rats and Multimammate Rats (or Mice) can be picked up
by their tails. Grab the tail as close to where it attaches
to the body as you possibly can, and quickly place the palm
of your other hand under its body for support and to make it
feel more secure.

If your rodent is tame, you may not need to hold it tightly,
but you probably should keep at least a light grip on its
tail, as rodents are easily startled (They are prey animals
in the wild, after all.) and could jump suddenly from your
hands and be injured by a fall to the floor. Never grab a
rodent of any size around the body or you will frighten and
possibly injure it.

If you are taming your pet rodent or it is already tame,
when picking it up, first hold your hand in front of its
nose so that it can recognize your smell and be less
frightened. With care you can probably tame your pet so that
it will walk all over you or even ride in your pocket,
inside your shirt, or on your shoulder.

If something goes wrong and your rodent pet bites you and
draws blood, you should probably see your doctor and update
your tetanus shots. If the animal is wild-caught and you
haven't had it long, you may need a rabies treatment also,
just in case. Always wear gloves when handling rodents that
are not tamed or used to you yet, and when you pick an
unfamiliar rodent up by the tail, make sure it can't grab
your arms or climb up its own tail to bite you.

Other issues of safety and health for people who keep
captive rodents to consider are the dangers of Hantaviruses
if they handle wild or recently wild rodents from the
Americas. Hanta viruses can cause fever, fatigue,
gastrointestinal complaints, respiratory failure, and shock,
and about forty percent of people who become ill actually
die from the infection. Rodents that are carrying
Hantaviruses won't appear sick, but the virus can be spread
by contact with the feces, urine or saliva of the infected
rodent, either by breathing in the Hantavirus or by contact
with open wounds or mucus membranes. The primary carriers of
Hantavirus that are known are the Cotton Rat, Rice Rat, Deer
Mouse, and the White-Footed Mouse. If you do have to handle
such rodents or clean their offal or nesting material out of
some location, you should wear a respirator and gloves, and
clean everything with a ten percent chlorine bleach

Rodents can also carry other diseases such as Salmonellosis
and Leptospirosis, and in sensitized people, contribute to
asthma symptoms. The United States government CDC also
recommends that pregnant women and people with compromised
immune systems avoid handling rodents or cleaning their
cages, and that all rodent pet owners avoid facial contact
with their pets due to the slight but real risk of an
infection by Lymphocytic Choriomeningitis Virus (LCMV).

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