Welcome to my world of the Multimammate Rat, or Natal rat. I don’t want to put anybody off from owning these amazing little animals, but this has been my experience so far. I know it will get better. They were first discovered in 1834. Depending on what site you are on will depend on whether they are called rats or mice. They are found in the Province of Natal in South Africa. Their other not so well known name is African Soft Furred rat, due to its long soft fur. They come in quite a few colours and varieties, but I only have two at the moment. My males are Cinnamon and my females are Normal/Agouti Brokens. Their average lifespan is around 2 to 3 years. They are extremely gregarious, and need company. They do better in colonies, but pairs are acceptable. Its been noted by some breeders that a lone Multimammate can become severley depressed if left on their own.
Multi’s are extremely good at jumping, and can reach heights of 1.5 feet easily. They are also very fast and once they have escaped it really isn’t easy to catch them. They also really like climbing, so their ideal cage environment would be a large glass or plastic tank, mimimum size 2 feet by 1 foot. Its advisable to have a wheel, or cyber ball for them to run on, as they love the excercise, They also like little houses, and tubes to run through. I usually use the poster holders cut to around 8 inches in length. These are also used as chews, and can be ripped to shreds within days.
I got all mine as juveniles, that weren’t really handled enough as babies. This is something that I’ve found extremely difficult. Some sites will tell you that they are not really afraid of humans, and have a really gentle nature. With the ones I have, I have found totally the oposite.
The ones I have have been very nervous. The males have taken an extremely long time to relax with me, to the extent where I can pick them up without them bouncing around. The females cannot tollerate any interaction whatsoever, and will ‘ping’ around the cage even if I just aproach them. I have had my two males for almost 4 months now and can just about pick them up without them biting me, but they will only tolerate this for a short period of time. It is vitally important that “you do not pick them up by their tail”. Unlike rats that may loose some of the skin around the tail if handled in an agressive way, these little animals will loose the whole tail. It snaps of at the base.
They will however tolerate stroking. Once they do settle, they can be stroked, and will just sit there and allow you to do it. They are the type of pet that will nip first and relax later. I have found that they can bite just hard enough to hurt, without breaking the skin.
As I mentioned above, they need company, and if left on their own, they can become severely depressed. Keeping them in pairs or more is the ideal. Personaly, with that in mind, I would say they really should be housed in trios, just in case one of the group dies.
I have read on some sites that they tollerate newcomers really easilly. I found this to be the case with the males, which accepted two females with no problems whatsoever, but I didn’t find this with my females. I tried to introduce a young male to them, and it was disastrous. They almost killed it. I would err on the side of caution whenever you decided to introduce new members to the exsisting group.
Introductions should be made as you would any rodent. Introducing females to females, males to males in a totally neutral clean environment, and females to males in the males cage. You need to watch for any signs of continued agression, and remove the newcomers if the introduction doesn’t go too well.
I give mine a diet of normal rat mix, mixed with a hamster mix together with some bird seed and sprigs of Millet. These are there almost continuously, as they really do well with them. I have found that they pack away almost as much food as a normal rat, and I have to make sure there’s always enough food in the cage for them. On a few occassions I thought there was enough food in the cage, woke the following morning to find the food had totally dissppeared, so I always put more than enough food in the cage.
They also eat some fruits and vegatables such as apple, banana, pears, mango, cauliflower, broccoli, carrots. They seem to be picky with the fruit and veg, one day they’ll eat it straight away, another they’ll ignore it.
They also really like mealworms, well some of them do, and will scrap to get at one.