Multimammate mice, also known as African Soft Rats or Natal rats, are small, rat-like rodents from SA (South Africa).
As their name suggests, these cute rodents have extra-soft fur as compared to most other rodent species.
Today, we share with you, the African soft fur rats’ care sheet! But let’s learn a bit about their background and history.
In their native habitat, these are labeled as pests. People and snake breeders imported Natals to US soil to be used as feeder animals for Boas, ball pythons, and other snakes, believing they were the natural food source for their snakes.
However, a lot of mice and rat fanciers, thought these creatures were amazingly cute and potentially intelligent.
African Soft Fur Rats as Pets
With the right owner, these critters make amazing pets. They deserve respect, kindness, and patience. They are pack or colony rodents and should ALWAYS be housed in trios or more.
The larger the number, the happier they’d be! Being social means they depend on each other for playing, grooming, moral support, and all-around companionship and love.
Providing your Natal with more friends will not make it less friendly to you. Instead, if Natals feel they have strength in each other, they’d be more open to approaching you to become your friend too.
African Soft Fur Rats Care
Since the Multimammate mice originated from the warmer climatic environment, they prefer their pens or cages to maintain similar temperatures too.
So, avoid allowing the temperature of your Natal rat’s enclosure gets below 60 degrees Fahrenheit for extended periods of time. Their ideal temperatures range from 72 to 86 degrees Fahrenheit.
The African soft fur rats cage or enclosure you pick for your pet rat will be one of the most crucial decisions you make. This is where your adorable pet will spend most of its time, so the bigger, the better.
Generally, each Natal rat should have at least 12” x 12” x 12” of living space. Natal should only live in groups of three or more, so keep this in mind when picking a habitat.
There are different variations of housing Multimammate mice. There are homemade cages, wire cages, and glass aquariums.
The glass aquarium
The glass tank, or aquarium, can make a nice enclosure for Natal rats. A 20-gallon length should have enough space for a trio of same-gender African soft fur mice.
ALSO SEE: Why Do Rats Play Dead?
Now, a 10 gallon will not be sufficient for more than a year. Tanks do have their advantages and disadvantages, as with any cage.
The pros are made up of unobstructed viewing of your pets you can pick the safest and best bedding for burrowing, and they are cheap if bought used.
Ensure you have a well-ventilated top (screen tops are best, or you can create your own out of wire mesh.)
Unlike domestic rats, Natals have almost no problems with their respiratory tracks, and a glass aquarium can, when kept clean with proper ventilation, be adequate.
The cons of tanks are a lack of creativity in giving them an enriched environment, and they can be bulky and hard to clean.
Wire cages would be my most preferred choice. Hamster and mouse-sized cages are typically too small for a trio. I recommend using all-metal (powder-coated), multi-level small pet cages. The problem with these is the bar spacing on the cage walls.
It must be at a maximum size of ½” to prevent escapes. Baby African soft fur rats can squeeze through ½” without breaking a sweat and I recommend keeping them in glass tanks until they’re big enough for wire cages.
Wire cages allow unobstructed ventilation, many climbing room spaces (they love to climb!), and large opportunities to provide hammocks and several hanging toys. Most of these cages are simple to clean.
To clean wire cages for your pet rats, simply take the cage and shower it off in your tub with water and soap.
We recommend Petco Rat Manor – It can comfortably house up to 10 Naturals.
Homemade cages are as limited as your creativity. You can make it as big, with lot of stairs, built-in burrows and dens, etc., as your wallet and imagination allows.
The most commonly created homemade Natal rat cages are your general Sterilite cages or storage bin. These are affordable, simple to clean, and effective too.
To get started, purchase the biggest storage tub you can afford/find at almost any retail store. Plus, purchase a small roll of ½” x ½” wire mesh at your local feed store or hardware store.
Use a box cutter, and cut out the inside of the lid. Hot glue the properly sized wire mesh cut out over the hole and voila! Instant cage.
The benefits include ease of cleaning, super cheap, and effectiveness. The cons are the low visibility of your pets and the lack of choices in size.
Other homemade options include using said tubs as a “base” to build your own cage using wire mesh. Try avoiding wood, as this will get peed on and chewed up quicker than you say “Ah!”.
I feed myself high-quality mealworms as treats.
A natal rat’s diet is primary to their care and health. They are still said to be wild animals, and so must be fed with great care. Commercial rodent diets (even lab blocks) and seed mixes are not professionally recommended.
While a formulated lab block for rodents (such as Harlan Teklad,) may cover the majority of a Natal’s vitamins and minerals, they are mostly comprised of corn and soy, which are fillers.
The African soft fur rats prefer higher protein content than domestic rats (14% to 18%) or mice (10% to 14%) Natals generally like a 22% protein up to 33% in their food.
For feeding, I recommend a high-quality, grain-free, dog kibble as a staple (such as Taste of the Wild, Holistic Select, or Before Grain,) supplemented with millet spray and parakeet seeds (without sunflower seeds,). Like most rodents, fresh foods in moderation can be fun, healthy treats.
The African soft fur mice treats, however, are wax worms, millet spray, and mealworms. Avoid feeding your Multimammate mice high fat, high sugar foods.
Avoid anything that is carbonated, caffeinated, and alcoholic. Never give your pets candy (including chocolate,) avocados or fruit peels!
Bedding and Litter
DO NOT USE CEDAR or PINE! This is not healthy for ALL small pets! It often triggers a range of health issues, and is just not worth the risk and headache! There are better alternative litters available.
We recommend Aspen shavings; these are effective and safe, as well as relatively cheap. Alternatively, you can use recycled paper product litters such as CareFresh or Yesterday’s News.
CareFresh is pillow-soft, but can get dusty quick, causing your pet (and sometimes you,) to sneeze. Yesterday’s
News is made up of hard pellets of compacted recycled paper, which can become uncomfortable for your Natals to walk on all the time.
All three of these litters can be purchased at any pet store or feed store.
Another bedding option used by many rodent owners is fleece material, either shredded into strips or cut to fit the enclosure. These can be washed at the end of every week and reused.
It has also proven to be the most comfortable bedding for African soft fur rats, and you can be very creative with colors and patterns! Fleece can be purchased at all fabric stores and some other retail stores.
Cage Toys and Accessories
You will need a water bottle, food dish, some form of litter or bedding, and a “hide” house for your pets as a bare minimum.
The hide house could either be: plastic houses bought from pet stores, cardboard boxes (replaced weekly), or wooden houses bought at feed or pet stores.
These materials are all essential in making your pet safe and most comfortable when they play, cuddle and sleep with each other.
Being very active animals, exercise wheels are a requirement with Natal rats. It serves as a place where they can vent most of their energy.
Females need an absolute minimum of a 7-inch wheel, and males need a 10-inch wheel. I advise using a 10-inch for both genders, just to give them that additional room.
DO NOT use a wheel with bars/spokes to run on (even the plastic kind!) because these are super easy for any rodent to break afoot, a leg, or tail in. Ensure you use solid surface wheels or wire mesh wheels, such as Silent Wheels, Comfort Wheels, Super pet wire mesh wheels, or Wodent Wheels.
Other toys including but are not limited to multiple cardboard boxes, paper towel tubes, toilet paper, hammocks (can be stocked at pet stores made for ferrets/hamsters/ferrets, or bought from people who make them order,) and anything else you can imagine that is clean, safe, and creative!
Health and Illness
Sadly, there is not much known about the typical health ailments and their connection to genes in Multimammate mice.
Some owners claim to have seen stomach tumors in males and mammary tumors in females.
Like any pet animal, as the first signs of illness seek veterinary care. Only a trained, reputable vet can diagnose and properly treat animals.
Plus, purchasing/adopting your pets from a reputable source with records of great critters may improve the quality of health in your Natal rats.
African Soft Fur Rats Vs Mice
The African Soft Fur Rat is a soft-furred little rodent that gets to about the size of an adult gerbil, bigger than a mouse but much smaller than a regular rat. Odorless to keep but move a lot faster than “usual” rats and they startle easily.
Can African Soft Furred Rats Live With Fancy Rats
Multimammate mice can cohabit with other rodent species with no issues. In fact, they can live with normal Fancy Mice.
African Soft Fur Rat Size
The Natal multimammate mouse Length: was 12 cm (Adult) and Mass: 42 g (Adult)
African Soft Fur Rats Vs Rats
About the size of an adult gerbil, the African Soft Fur Rat is a beautiful little rodent that is much smaller than a regular rat and is odorless to keep but more energetic than regular rats. They get startled easily.