Domestic mice can make truly wonderful pocket pets. They are intelligent, easily tamed and fun to interact with. If you're thinking about getting one, this article should help you understand their personality and needs better so you can decide if a pet mouse is the right pet for you.
Photo by Adam Dawson
What mice can be kept as pets?
Fancy mice are most common. They are naturally inquisitive, very active, easy to care for and fascinating to watch. They love exploring their surroundings and human companions. Fancy mice come in many coat colours. There are also longhair and hairless fancy mice. A few other species can be kept as pets, for example the African Pygmy Mouse and Egyptian Spiny Mouse. Any pet mouse requires careful handling because it is a sensitive and vulnerable creature that can be easily startled by loud noises.
Important: Never try to tame a wild mouse and keep it as a pet!
What gender should your pet mouse be?
The common recommendation is a female because males tend to be aggressive towards one another (unless they are littermates), and they can be rather smelly.
Can I keep a pet mouse and other rodents in the same cage?
No, do not keep mice with other rodents such as rats because the latter can seriously injure or even eat mice!
What are the main needs of a pet mouse?
First of all, you should remember that mice naturally live in social groups. Therefore, it may be unkind to keep a pet mouse without at least one mate of the same sex.
A pet mouse needs a constant supply of clean, fresh water. A drip feed bottle with a metal spout can be great for this purpose.
Mice need a balanced diet of mixed grains with washed fruit and vegetables. It will also require a salt or mineral stick to keep it healthy.
A mouse's cage should be placed in a warm place away from direct sunlight. It should either be a wire cage with a plastic tray floor, or a tank (glass or plastic) with a secure wire lid. It should have a nest box and contain several places for your mouse to hide in. A solid exercise wheel should be fixed to a side wall. Make sure the wheel has no open rungs that can injure the mouse. Do not forget about other toys such as suspended lengths of rope and tubes: mice love to climb and tunnel! The bedding should consist of soft hay and kitchen paper. The cage needs to be tidied every day and cleaned twice a week (or more often if need be).
To keep your mouse's teeth healthy and to avoid their overgrowth, make sure the rodent has an access to a gnawing block to wear the teeth down.
It may be surprising, but mice do not need cheese or dairy food. Some individuals may react badly to peanuts.
How do I know if my pet mouse is sick?
A healthy mouse is active; it has a good appetite and clear eyes. If you notice a loss of fur, skin sores, a loss of appetite, nasal discharge, uneven breathing, any signs of growths behind the legs and on the neck, and other worrying signs, have your mouse checked by a vet as soon as possible.
How long will my pet mouse live?
The common lifespan of a domestic mouse is 2 to 3 years.
Are mice low maintenance pets?
Pet mice require neither regular walks not grooming. However, they still need your attention and care. You'll have to spare enough time for the following routine procedures:
- clean the food bowl and give fresh food every day
- clean the water bottle and give fresh water every day
- clean the cage twice a week or more often if necessary
- play with your mouse and socialize it every day
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