Live Rodents for Pets, Frozen Rodents for Food

   There is a problem in the pet industry.  Most rats and mice sold in pet shops come from large-scale mass-production facilities.  While it’s true that most of these rodents are sold for reptile food, many pet shops also sell them for pets.  This means that the rodents being sold as pets have been raised in tiny crowded cages and have been highly stressed.  Many of them get sick and die shortly after being purchased.  These mass-produced rodents also have not been properly socialized, and therefore tend to be timid and fearful with a tendency to bite and scratch.  When dogs are raised in conditions like this the facility is condemned as a puppy-mill.  Just because a facility is USDA-licensed does not mean conditions are any better, as rodents do not receive any protection under the Animal Welfare Act.

   Scientific studies have shown that crowding produces stress, which can affect the development and long-term health of animals.  Other studies show that animals raised in impoverished habitats have smaller brains and are less intelligent than those raised in stimulating habitats with toys.

  Rats and mice raised in small crowded cages also have no chance  
  to develop clean bathroom habits and will eliminate anywhere. 
  When raised in a cage large enough for a litter box, they can be
  litter box trained. 

  Usually the males and females are housed together, and since rats
  and mice can breed as early as 4-5 weeks of age, most of the
  females will be sold pregnant. 

  So, these mass-produced rodents are timid and fearful with a 
  tendency to bite and scratch.  They have low intelligence and
  poor bathroom habits.  Most of the females are pregnant.  When  
  these animals are sold as pets, this practice does a disservice to the pet owner, the retailer, and the pet industry as a whole.

Rats and mice sold as pets should be raised specifically to be pets in large cages with toys, and receive early human socialization.  We encourage retailers to sell frozen rodents as reptile food and live socialized rodents as pets.  As long as large numbers of live rodents are sold as reptile food, we fear the practice of selling poor quality rodents as pets will continue, and the poor treatment of these animals will also continue.

Six Days Old
The Importance of Socialization for Pets

Animals are socialized by being handled by humans and exposed to human activities.  Baby animals should be held, petted, cuddled, talked to, carried around and exposed to normal human activities and sounds.

Socialization before weaning—ideally from birth—is much more effective than socialization after weaning.  (It is a myth that a mother rat will kill her babies if they are handled.)  The more an animal is socialized before weaning, the more trusting, personable, and affectionate it will be.

Poorly socialized animals are timid, nervous, afraid of humans and tend to bite and scratch.  A feral kitten is one example of a poorly socialized animal.


Rats who are well-socialized are…

  1. Very personable, forming strong bonds with humans.
  2. Gentle (socialized rats rarely bite.)
  3. Affectionate; they love to be petted and give kisses.
  4. Smart enough to learn their names, to come when called, and can learn a variety of tricks.
  5. Playful, and smart enough to learn games.

Frozen Rodents

Almost all carnivorous reptiles can be trained to eat thawed frozen rodents.  It is dangerous to feed a reptile a live rodent as the rodents can severely injure or even kill the reptile.  For more information on this topic please click here.

      Beans Going for a Ride
Advantages for Reptiles and Their Owners of Feeding Warmed Frozen Rodents
  1. Can’t bite or scratch reptile
  2. Can’t bite or scratch owner
  3. Freezing kills parasites
  4. More economical
  5. Convenient
  6. Steady availability
  7. No chance of rodent escaping in the home
  8. Sanitary; no urine or feces
  9. Supplements can be inserted

Advantages for Retailers of Selling Frozen Rodents

  1. No chance of feeder rodents escaping in store
  2. No chance of employees being bitten or scratched by feeder rodents
  3. No costs for food and bedding
  4. No employee time for care
  5. Requires less space
  6. No losses from stock dying
  7. Less odor in store
  8. Steady availability
  9. Pet rodents exposed to less disease
  10. Reduced cruelty and better public relations (separating pinkies/fuzzies from mother is cruel)

Benefits of Tub Feeding

Tub feeding is one of the best ways to train a snake to eat.  The snake is removed from its habitat and placed in a large rubber tub for feeding.  The benefits are...

  1. The snake is conditioned to eat promptly
  2. There is no chance of the snake ingesting substrate (which can cause death)
  3. Less biting—snake does not see human hand in habitat as prey
  4. The decorations in the habitat are undisturbed

Reasons a Snake Might Refuse to Eat

  1. Incorrect environmental conditions
  2. Feeding too often
  3. Incorrect food item size
  4. Snake is about to shed
  5. Illness

You'll find a handout for reptile owners about using frozen rodents for food on the sublinks of the menu above.