Of all my pets, multis are my most complicated in terms of nomenclature. To me they are multis, which is short for multimammates; a Eurocentric reference to the fact that they have a much greater number of nipples than other rat- and mouse-like rodents previously known to western science. They are also known as Natal mice (or rats), African mice (or rats), soft-furred mice (or rats), and various combinations thereof.
So wouldn’t it be easier to refer to them solely by their Latin name? In a word, no. When they were originally classified in the early 20th century, multiple geographically distinct species were given a single name, which has lead to hybridisation and just generally not really being sure. It is thought that in captivity that one has either one or other (or hybrids) of Mastomys natalensis and Mastomys coucha, with the former being the species name given when people want a more concise description. However they have also previously been classified as Praomy natalensis, Mus natalensis and Rattus natalensis.
Due to the scientific confusion and the adaptability of all of the Muridae genus, it’s also fairly tricky to pin down where the relevant species of multis are naturally found. Broadly speaking, the Mastomys genus as a whole are Sub-Saharan rodents, excluding the southwestern area [map of their wild range], In Central Africa they’re most commonly found in cultivated areas, however it’s easiest just to state that they’re not found in desert and semi-desert areas, than where they are.
I currently (Nov ’15) have a fantastic group of 6 multis who I homed from Primrose Mouse Rescue in August ’15. The majority of them were born mid-March ’15, while Aoife is from the previous generation (mother/ aunt, unsure of exact relationship) and 5-9 months older than the rest. As with many rodents agouti is their natural colouring, while mine are splodgy in three different shades, which is great as it allows me to just about tell them all apart.
- Powder Monkey (Pow) – Cinnamon. More-or-less non-existant eyebrows. Pink ears (getting a grey edge). Clean rump. Mostly white. Bravest when new.
- Nessa – Mid brown. Both eyebrows + left nose spot. Ears light with pale grey edge. Splodgy line of spots behind saddle + brown at base of tail. Brown around chest. Splodge in front of left back leg.
- Orin – Dark agouti. Both eyebrows + spots by ears + right nose spot + nose smudge and noseline. Very dark ears. Line of two spots behind saddle with brown at base of tail + spots on flanks. Splodge in front of right back leg.
- Liffey – Cinnamon. Both eyebrows + both nose spots. Pink ears (getting a grey edge). Neat spotty line down spine with overflow on the right. Brown at base of tail + around to back legs.
- Aoife – Mid brown. Left eyebrow + right ear spot + right nose spot + noseline. Dark ears. Couple of spots on flanks and one above tail. Older one. Likely to freeze.
- Petra – Dark agouti. Both eyebrows + right nosespot + noseline (surprised). Dark ears. Long saddle with irregular spots behind. Brown base of tail + spots around to back legs. Splodge in front of left back leg.