Latin name: Mastomys natalensis
Natal rat, African soft furred rat, natal multimammate mouse, and soft furred mouse.
Multimammate Rats are so-called because the females possess a superfluity of teats, more than any other rodent. (Multimammate = Latin, meaning literally "many-breasted". They can have up to 18 nipples and often have odd numbers. It possesses long, soft, silky fur, hence its alternative name of Soft-furred Rat. There are about seven species (authorities disagree on the exact number), but Praomys coucha and Praomys natalensis are almost identical and, where the two ranges overlap in southern Africa, are impossible to tell apart, and usually the only way to be certain is to count the chromosomes.
It is a common misconception that multimammate mice are rats but these rodents in my opinion have far more in common with mice.
They are roughly two to three times the size of an average fancy mouse (weighing between 65 and 75grams compared to the 40 to 50grams of a fancy mouse). Nowhere near rat sized! More the size of a Spiny Mouse, but resemble the look of a Pygmy mouse.. A giant Pygmy mouse?? LOL!
The wild colour is an agouti brown with a paler belly. It is fairly crepuscular in its waking habits and is generally active at random intervals throughout the day and night.
This species has been used as an object of study in labs for many, many years but has only relatively recently been introduced to the pet trade. They are mostly kept by herptiles breeders who use them as a feeder species since they grow fast and produce large numbers of babies in each litter. The species seen most often today is mastomys natalensis and is one of the most common rodents out in its native Africa where it is considered a pest species. A similar and closely related species (mastomys coucha) was kept extensively in labs to study the effects of the Lassa fever virus but is now almost never seen in captivity. In captivity the multimammate mouse can live to be more than three years old although its average life expectancy is around two years. As with all animals, breeding females tend to have a slightly shortened life span. A real attraction of this species is that unlike fancy mice (mus musculus) even the males have no obvious odour.
Spiny Mouse Next to a Multi
This species is very omnivorous and should be fed quite a broad diet.
I feed them the same as I'm feeding my mice and gerbils. Charger horse pellet followed by sunshine plus and like the mice more puppy kibble and biscuit treats for hard chewing. I also use lab blocks, micronized peas, flaked maize, millets, safflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, corn flakes, dried and cooked pasta, vegetables and some fruit, they seem to particularly like carrot and pear. Sunflower seeds "Like gerbils" should only be fed sparingly as in my opinion the can exacerbate the growth of tumours and lead to obesity which has complications of its own including infertility and heart problems.
Every now and then some live foods can be given e.g. crickets, mealworms. Wax worms are a great way to put weight on youngsters that have just weaned, females that have recently littered and sick animals but shouldn’t be fed to healthy adults more than very occasionally, as they are very high in fat.
This is a species that will eventually chew out of anything that isn’t made of metal or glass and for this reason I keep mine in glass aquariums with tightly fitting lids. Keep the tank filled with different sized branches and twigs to give them something to climb on and to keep their teeth occupied. Like gerbils, 5 gallons per Multi, but I think maybe more like 10 gallons per Multi as like the Pygmy Mice they do like houses and decorations to climb , play, and hide in. They also LOVE wheels.
I always use carefresh litter and never use wood shavings. Aspen shavings would be another suitable option as would peat but I just don't go for the wood shavings with all the dust and mice combo on top of that it just makes them itch too much. If using peat make sure that it is dry before putting it into the tank otherwise it will condensate and cause respiratory problems.
I always pick up an unknown multi by the base if its tail and then quickly place it on the palm of my hand. There seems to be little that these creatures fear and they have a not entirely unjustified reputation for being vicious towards the handler. I've read that multi bites are some of the worst you can receive from a rodent.
I have found that unless used to being handled
multimammate mice hate being picked up round the middle as you would a Syrian
hamster. Cupping your hands around the mouse to lift it up seems less likely to
cause it to bite. I hope that I can work with these guys as there has been many reports from other breeders that the Multi can be a sweet animal. Just many fear them bitting.
Multimammate mice are now seen in quite a variety of
colours including the natural agouti brown (AA). Note: genetic symbols
are for demonstration purposes only as there is not to my knowledge any
clear-cut genetic information available on the multimammate mouse.
Cinnamon: (aa) similar to agouti but lacking
the black ticking to each hair and so has a much paler look to the fur which I think would be recessive.
Red-eyed cinnamon (rr): sometimes referred to as champagne or argente, it is a very pale cream with a slate grey under coat and bright pink eyes. As it is a recessive gene all red-eyed animals are homozygous and cannot carry any other genes. Red-eyed carriers (heterozygous agoutis) have a colouration similar to that of a cinnamon but are still agouti.
~More will come as I work with them~