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Thread: ASF Caresheet

  1. #1
    BPnet Veteran frankykeno's Avatar
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    ASF Caresheet


    Common Name: African Soft Furred Rat

    Scientific Name: Praomys (Mastomys) natalensis

    Other Names: ASF, Multimammate Rat, Natal Rat, Common African Rat, Devil Dogs

    Average Weights:
    3 days old - 4 grams
    1 week old - 7 grams
    1 month old (weanling) - 18 grams
    4 months old (adult) - 60 grams (female), 73 grams (male)
    1 year old (retired breeder) - 133 grams (female), 140 grams (male)


    Quick Reference:

    Diet: rodent lab block, mixed vegetables, wild bird seed, cat kibble

    Temps: 70 to 90 degrees

    Lifespan: about 2 years for females, about 3 years for males

    Productive Breeding Life: litter sizes drop off dramatically between 9 and 12 months of age in the females

    Average litter size: 10

    Age when first breeding normally occurs: 3 to 4 months (approx.)


    1. Description
    Known as "multimammate" for their extraordinary number of teats (most females have 8 to 12 pair instead of the usual 5 or 6 pair found in most female rodents), these are prolific breeders who live best in a permanent community colony. They are extremely easy to raise, have little to no natural odor and are very rarely refused as a prey item for snakes, especially "picky" eaters. They are thought to be the evolutionary link between the true mice and the true rat having characteristics of both. They are found in most parts of Africa other than the mountains and the desert and are one of the many animals preyed on by wild ball pythons.

    ASF's come in a variety of patterns and colors, some of them being: Self Agouti (common wild type), Pied Medium Agouti, Pied Dark Agouti, Pied Pink Eyed Dilute Agouti (usually referred to as "albino").

    2. Temperment
    Will bite in defense of their young or a perceived threat to the colony. Over time some may become used to being handled but many will not. They have an impressive jumping ability both in height and length and can move very quickly. They generally do not make good pets.

    3. Social Structure
    These are highly social animals and cannot be kept singly. They have a strong colony structure, normally consisting of 1 male and a number of breeding females and their various offspring. The male is an active participant in parenting the young. The females will communally raise and nurse all the young without regard to difference in litter ages or who the "true" mother is.

    Many colonies seem to revolve around a dominant female rat, often the largest female of the colony. Due to this strong social structure it is often impossible to add in new adults to a stable breeding colony. Usually it's safest to introduce ASF's to each other, in order to establish new colonies, only when very young or just weaned.

    4. Housing
    Tubs in a rack or glass tanks are appropriate housing. Care must be given that any mesh lid is made from chew proof material (metal) and no bigger than 1/4" spacing. Lid clamps should be used on glass tanks to avoid escape. Tubs must be smooth in the interior to avoid chewing and fit very snugly into the rack.

    5. Bedding
    Aspen, pine pellets, etc. make good ASF bedding. Avoid cedar due to it's toxicity for rodents. Bedding should be deep as these rodents like to burrow in it and create nesting areas. Shredded paper for nest building should be added when using pine pellets for bedding. Old telephone book pages or newspaper are of great use here.

    6. Hides, Wheels, Chew "Toys"
    Hides and wheels are not necessary but often will keep the ASF's content and busy enough that they do not try to chew the enclosure. This is particularily important when housing them in plastic tubs in a rack situation. 2x4's cut into 4 inch pieces, empty toilet or paper towel tubes, etc. make excellent and cost effective chew "toys". PVC pipe can be a good addition and allows the rats a place to bolt into in case of a fight breaking out in the colony.

    7. Cleaning
    Although ASF's have very little natural odor you still need to clean their enclosures regularly. Usually every couple of weeks is fine but depends on the number of rats and the size of the enclosure. Many colonies will establish a toileting corner and deposit most of their urine there.

    8. Food & Water
    If left without food or water for any length of time they can turn on each other. They do not require any additives to their water. If they have direct access to their water bottle it should either be glass or have a metal chew guard on it. Mazuri 6F or other quality rat lab block is recommended as their primary food (a wire mesh food hopper often works best for this). They will also eat a variety of fresh vegetables, in moderation, as well as wild bird seed mix and cat kibble. It is very common to observe nursing females eating feces.

    9. Handling
    Lift them by the base of tail either using your fingers or padded feeding tongs. Be careful not to damage their fragile tails. Note of caution: Even young ASF's can flip around, climb their own tails and inflict a strong nip. You can sometimes get a good hold on them by grasping the loose skin in between their shoulders but the tail grab tends to be the easiest. Do not transport them freely in your hands as they can very suddenly jump and will fall to the floor. A small kritter keeper is handy to transport ASF's in.


    10. Breeding
    Establish your breeding group at the weanling stage so the rats can become accustomed to each other as they mature. This will tend to lessen any fighting. Breeding groups can be as small as 1.1 or as large as 1.6 or more, depending on the enclosure size. Most breeders tend to use a 1.3 or a 1.4 ratio. Gestation is approximately 21 to 26 days with an average litter size of 10 or more. The male will re-breed the female very shortly after she delivers a litter. This does not seem to affect the health of the breeding female and in fact, most females grow substantially after birthing their first few litters.

    All females in the colony will nurse all of the young regardless of litter age. It is quite common to see young of various mothers and developmental stages all nesting together and being fed communally. Older offspring and the male of the colony are often seen assisting in the care of the youngest colony members. Breeding groups stay together their entire productive breeding life.

    ASF young should be weaned by one month of age. They can be weaned younger however, as long as their eyes are fully open and they are eating and drinking independently. When first weaned they tend to eat more of the small bird seed than the larger and harder lab block.

    It is rare for a stable breeding colony to accept a new adult member without serious fighting which can lead to the death of the newcomer. Removing a breeding male, even for just a day, then reintroducing him to the colony can cause this level of fighting.

    While some in-breeding will do your colony no great harm, at some point it makes good sense to bring in fresh blood through the introduction of new and unrelated rats to avoid any possible genetics issues arising.

    11. Use as Feeders
    As with any live prey animal, monitor the feeding until the snake has full control and constriction of it's ASF. Alternately they can be fed pre-killed or frozen/thawed. Co2 is commonly accepted as the most humane and safe manner of euthanizing rats for later use as food for snakes. ASF's have been found by many snakekeepers to be very useful in getting picky eaters or fasting snakes to start eating again. Some snakes will feed on ASF's as well as other rodents, some will take only ASF's. This tends to be a specific feeding situation and decision for the owner and their snake.

    Authored by: Joanna Franchino (aka frankykeno) & Mike Cavanaugh (aka mcavana)

    Our thanks to Christopher Zarknick (aka panthercz) for providing the ASF photos and to Deborah Stewart (aka Deborah) for making Christopher's photos work so well on the caresheet.
    Last edited by frankykeno; 07-13-2008 at 09:03 PM.
    ~~Joanna~~


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