Mice are very intelligent and inquisitive little pets to have in your life. People have been keeping mice as pets for over 1,500 years now. Just like societies and shows for cats, dogs, and horse breeds, there are also mouse shows and societies for pet mouse owners. With the proper care and environment, they can entertain your family for hours.
The Ultimate Mouse Care Guide
Mice are delicate and friendly little critters that make great companions. A general rule of thumb is to start off with 2 to 3 female mice because they tend to like the companionship of their own sex, as well as their human carers. Male mice need to be kept on their own because they have a tendency to fight, often to the death, and are not the best option to have as your first mouse pet.
You can buy a pet mouse directly from a breeder who specializes in pet mice. While you can also get mice from pet stores, many of these will buy their mice from rodent mills and can often have health problems that are hereditary.
Adding to that is the fact that a pet store living environment can add to a mouse’s own health issues, with mice often being timid and a bit stressed out. You really don’t want to have a timid mouse as your first pet.
Other things to look for when choosing a pet mouse are eyes that look alert and bright and fur that is clean and healthy-looking. If you see bald patches on a mouse’s coat it is an indication that they could have health issues, unless it’s part of a hairless mouse breed.
Mouse Care: Equipment You Will Need
To keep your pet mouse happy and healthy there are certain things you will need, such as an enclosure, water, and food dish, bedding, toys, hidey-holes to sleep in, and an exercise wheel.
If you are living in a warm area your enclosure will need to be well ventilated, such as a cage that has wire walls and a strong plastic base. You’ll want the walls of the base to be at least 4 or 5 centimeters tall so the bedding stays within the cage and not all over your floor.
The wires need to be no further than 1 centimeter apart so the mouse can’t escape. You’ll want the mouse cage to be as large as possible, at least 30 centimeters tall, 30 centimeters wide, and 45 centimeters long, but bigger is better.
If you are living in a cooler climate you may opt to use a fish tank that has a mesh cover over it. However, there can be some issues with this:
- A lack of proper ventilation can make your mouse ill due to a build-up of ammonia from mouse urine. It can also make the enclosure too warm, which is not good during the summer months.
- Tanks can make it a bit more difficult to clean out the bottom of the enclosure, whereas cages with plastic bases tend to be detachable from the wire walls, making cleaning much easier.
- You are only able to remove the mouse from above and this can be a bit frightening for your pet mouse as predators tend to come at them from above.
Places to Hide
Your pet mouse needs some hidey holes, dark and dry places to sleep and hide in. You can buy cute little wooden huts or dome houses for your pet. Another option is to give them a small corrugated cardboard box (make sure there is no ink on it).
For your mouse bedding, the best option is shredded paper that has no ink on it. You’ll want to fill the bottom of the enclosure a few centimeters thick with shredded paper, as well as add a few pieces of facial tissue or paper towel so that the mice can make a nice little nest.
Pretty much all rodents love to have an exercise wheel to run on. With mice, the bigger the wheel the better! When looking for the right size wheel keep in mind that the mouse needs to be able to run on the wheel without having to bend their back. Pick a wheel that is a solid plastic, as these are much safer than a wire wheel that they can catch their tails and feet between.
Mice like to play and adding some toys to their home will make them very happy. They don’t have to be fancy or expensive toys! Cardboard paper towel rolls can keep your furry friend amused for hours.
You can also add things like fruitwood (found in the parrot section of the pet store) for chewing. Plain craft sticks can work just as well too. A piece of hemp rope is also an addition you can add. Just string it across the cage or hang it from the top of the cage so they can climb, something they love to do.
Feeding Your Mouse
You’ll need to make sure you provide clean water that is available all day, every day. Mice can dehydrate very quickly, so having a drip bottle or two on the sides of the cage, as well as a ceramic bowl will work well for them. Just bear in mind that the ceramic bowls can be a bit harder to clean.
There are a number of mouse food options out there, but a good choice is to get a good quality hamster food. It will save you having to determine which mouse food has the best nutritional value. They also can eat a lot more than you would expect from such a small creature, so always make sure you have fresh pellets at the ready for them.
As a nice little treat for your mouse, you can give them a piece of a dog biscuit a couple of times per week, which can also work as a chew toy for them to wear down their teeth. Another option they love is tiny pieces of carrots or apple, a few bits of unsweetened breakfast cereal, or some pieces of dry cat food to round out their diet.
Contrary to popular belief, most mice don’t really like cheese, and it’s not exactly nutritional for them either. However, should you find that your mouse does like a bit of cheese, it’s OK to give them a tiny piece a couple of times a week.
Mice tend to keep themselves very clean, but you may find that the healthy male of the species has a certain degree of scent to them. Should they get something stuck to their fur, you can give your little friend a spot cleaning with a bit of mild soap and warm water. However, there is no need for routine bathing.
On the other hand, the mouse enclosure will need to be cleaned frequently. You should replace bedding every week, as well as clean the cage weekly with some diluted vinegar. Just be sure you rinse the vinegar completely off. During weekly cleanings, you may find you need to do some spot cleaning every few days. It’s also to retain some unclean bedding or an unclean toy to put back in the cage so your pet has a comforting and familiar smell when you return them to their clean cage.
During cleaning, you can move your mouse to a carrier, such as a small plastic carrier that looks like a fish tank.
The Home Environment
There are some things you will want to check in your own home environment to make sure it’s safe for your mouse. While mice can make great pets in homes with children, it is not advisable that they be allowed to handle them without adult supervision. It’s also very important that you wash your hands both before and after you handle your pet because mice can actually catch a “cold” from you.
If you have other pets in your home, such as ferrets, cats, snakes, dogs, and rats, you will need to make sure your pet mouse is kept safely away from them, so they don’t become a meal.
Always keep your mouse and the enclosure out of direct sunlight and drafts. Mice can easily become overheated to the point that it kills them. During the summer, it may be a good idea to place an ice pack in one side of the cage, so they have a way to cool themselves. You can also use a gel ice pack but make sure it’s non-toxic because mice love to chew!
Training Mice as Pets
Mice can be very trainable pets. The most important thing is to allow your pet mouse to get accustomed to sitting in your hand. Before you begin touching or training you must first make sure you give your new pet a few days or a week to settle into their new home and environment.
The most important part of training for a pet mouse is getting the pet accustomed to sitting on your hand. Give your new mice several days or a week to settle into their new home before starting to try to touch them. If you should need to pick them up before this, use a paper cup.
Once your pet has settled into its new home you can start off by gently lowering your hand into the cage and let the mouse come to you. Let them investigate and sniff around so they become familiar with your scent and presence. Do this several times and eventually, the mouse will venture forth and climb into your hand on its own.
Allow the mouse to sit there and leave in their own time. Once they have done this a couple of times you can try raising your hand a little bit. If your mouse panics, then put it down again. Once your mouse has become comfortable walking on your hand you can let them climb up your arms or onto your shoulders.
Keep in mind that mice can crawl through any holes that they can fit their heads through, so be careful about having any gaps under furniture or doorways.
Mouse Care: Mice as Pets, Should You Keep Them?
While many people love to keep mice as pets, you need to take into consideration anyone in the home who is frightened of them. You also need to make sure you are allowed to keep them where you live. You may also want to go through some pet mouse forums as well to learn a bit more about keeping mice as pets.
Check around to find a veterinarian who treats small exotic pets and where you can get advice. Once you have everything sorted out and ready, you can go find yourself a new whiskered companion or two to come live with you. You may want to consider adopting your new pet from a shelter that handles mice.