Make your own free website on
Exotic pets, rodents and birds

Gambian Pouched Rats!

Pouch rats come from Southern Africa. They have cheek pouches like a hamsters. And they are very good at stuffing them.

Average body length is anywhere from 13 to 17 inches long and then the tail is the same length or longer.

Bottleraised babies are super sweet. They are just as smart as the domestic rat but bigger and comical with their cheek pouches. So if you like rats you will love these guys!

The pair I have are slightly under a year, Gandolf and Galadrielle. They were born in Jan 1999 and Feb 1999, and will be ready to breed at the end of November. I have introduced them, they do get along well which is VERY important as they have been known to kill another conspecific. They are not easily bred in captivity, and fresh fruit and veggies daily is a must, as well as other greens and cooked foods. They seem to do very well upon a diet of Mazuri rodent blocks mixed with a small animal blend (custom blend of dry corn, oats and barley horse feed mixed with parrot seed mix TAKE OUT ANY CHILI PEPPERS!!! - and added dried fruits, nuts and greens) combined with fresh fruits, nuts, greens and veggies.

African Gambian Pouch Rat
Scientific name - Cricetomys gambianus
WHAT IS AN AFRICAN GAMBIAN POUCH RAT? African Gambian Pouch rats, also known as the African giant pouch rat, resembles a HUGE hamster, having a storage pouch inside of each cheek. When these pouches are full it gives the pouch rat an absolutely adorable, yet comical face.
If you like rodents, especially rats, they are sure to captivate your heart. The pouch rats are HUGE - they are among the largest of the Murid rodents (Mice/Rats) reaching an amazing 13 -17 inches from tip of nose to the base of the tail, their tail being about the same length or longer. These rats can reach six pounds or more in weight. Is this big enough for you? Their colours ranges from shades of grey and brown (some are even spotted with white or with a white stripe running across their shoulders but these are very rare) with the belly being considerably paler. They have large ears (which helps with the comical appearance) that have very fine hairs, giving them an almost hairless appearance.. The first two thirds of the tail are dark with the final third white to off white and covered with the same fine hairs.

Their homeland ranges from Senegal to Central Sudan and down to South Africa. These rats dwell in the forest and thickets. For shelter they often use natural crevices and holes, termite mounds, or hollow trees but when need be they can dig their own burrows.

They are nocturnal but do forage during the day at which time they act almost blind and rely heavily on their keen noses and hearing. In captivity they readily become use to their owners routine and get use to being active during the day.

Generally they are solitary and shy in the wild making them naturally non-aggressive. In captivity they are very intelligent and have the ability to bond/show deep affection to their human companions. However do take into considerations that they are not a domestic animal and are a captive bred exotic that has the ability to display some of its wild traits. If unfavorable behavior does arise - such as nipping a firm NO or OUCH should be enough. Also because of being solitary in the wild, care has to taken if two pouches are going to be kept together. It is possible to keep two together, this is only advisable if they are two females that are litter mates. Males will fight to the death. Sexual maturity is 5 to 6 months.

HOUSING: When it comes to housing for a single rat the largest ferret or cat cage will work only if they are able to get out on a daily basis. These guys love to run and jump. This size cage is not required right away, when they are first able to go to their new home a fifteen gallon aquarium will work fine for a short time just until they out grow it and are able to move up in cage size being at this time they are the size of a regular domestic rat. They also appreciate a house for sleeping in - a cockatiel nest box is a good size.

TOYS: One can also supply Pouches with a variety of toys to help keep them busy when you are not able play. Such as medium to large parrot toys, "Nylabone" dog toys, 100% cotton rope toys, a wheel (which would have to be custom made - at least 17 inches), pieces of arbutus or manzanita wood for chewing.

DIET: The Pouch rat is an omnivore, their diet in the wild consists of insects, snails, nuts, seeds, and fruit. In captivity they are relatively easy to feed. A good parrot mix (remove chili peppers), which then can be supplemented with mixed nuts (unsalted), dry dog food or Mazuri's Omnivore dry diet, rodent blocks, monkey biscuits, dried fruits, raisins. On a daily basis they require about half a cup of fresh fruit/vegetable matter. For treats one can offer cooked pasta, whole grain breads, cooked eggs, and even a little yogurt. Now remember because of their wonderful cheek pouches they can carry a large amount of food - so they do on the occasion empty out their food dishes only to store it someplace else. Fresh clean water daily is a must - one can also offer them a good rodent multi - vitamin to their water. With lots of love, daily handling, good diet/care Pouch rats can live a long happy/healthy life.

Lifespan in captivity
Average is 8 years but some have been known to live up to 10 years.

Author's note: My rats are very curious to what's going on around them. When removed from the cage, Gandolf immediately urinates upon whomever is holding him, a sign of territorial marking as well as a bit of a case of nerves. Galadrielle is much more territorial over her cage and will defend it rigorously. When you get these beautiful captivating animals, you must decide if you wish them to be pets or to bond with each other. The male I have is much more friendly than she is, I do not know if this is a gender thing or if it simply the case with him. By giving them a nest box, they do become more defensive of their cage.


Web sites to visit
Alt.Pets Gambians!

The above was written by Christine Ham, of Petite Paw Exotics in Vancouver, BC, Canada. She has been extremely instrumental in providing accurate information on a lot of species of exotic rodents.

To send me an e-mail, click here.

To go back HOME click here.