Mice are curious, yet delicate little rodents that make good pets. Although small, these little creatures do need space, company and things to do to keep them busy. Here are some tips on how to care for your mice;
Mice need company
Mice are sociable animals who thrive with company of their own kind. Usually, females will live happily together and will have their own hierarchy system within their group. I find mice are happier in small groups to give them lots of opportunities to interact with each other. Mice use body language and high pitched sounds to communicate with each other and will establish complex social structures, and males can fall out if kept together and not given enough space. If you have boys, give them lots of room and hides so they can have their own space if they wish. If the males fall out, you can have them neutered and introduce them to females so they don’t have to live on their own. As well as this, entire male mice do have a very strong smell, and neutering will help with this!
They don’t live very long
Unfortunately, mice have very short lifespans ranging from 1-2 years, and like most rodents, they can look old very suddenly. They are prone to tumours which can grow very quickly as well as respiratory issues. Signs of illness are;
- Laboured breathing
- Hunched up
- Off their food
If you notice that your mouse is behaving differently or appears unwell, it’s best to get your vet to have a look. Make sure the vet you see is experienced with rodents, as not all are.
Mice love to play
These curious little animals love to investigate and play. I love cleaning my mice out as it means I can rearrange their cage, and it’s fun to watch them check out the new items. You don’t have to spend lots of money on enrichment, as we save all cardboard boxes. paper bags and tubes for them to chew and hide in. I also rotate their store brought toys to give them a change. Mice love to gnaw, so cardboard and wooden toys offer a great opportunity for this. It is important to allow your mice time out of their cage, however unlike rats, you can’t free range them as they are so small and could get lost or hurt. The best idea is to make a small play pen for them so they can exercise safely.
Mice enjoy running in wheels, but choosing the correct wheel is very important. Traditional circular wheels that are used for hamsters can be unsuitable for mice as their tail will curl round. Instead, go for a flat wheel, like a flying saucer.
They need a suitable cage
I prefer wire topped cages with a plastic base for mice, as they allow better ventilation than tanks. Wooden cages will get chewed, so it’s best to avoid these. You do need to be careful with wire cages, as some have large bar spacing and mice can squeeze through and escape. Another option are plastic cages, just be careful when cleaning and moving the cage as the plastic can crack easily. Position the cage away from direct sunlight and draughts, and keep them away from other pets, such as cats and dogs.
Mice love to climb, and I have added ropes and shelves in their cage to allow them to do this. Bird toys, such as ropes, swings and bridges can all be used for mice. Dog toys are another option, just make sure your mice aren’t chewing any plastic items, as this can cause internal blockages.
They are clean
Mice love to groom themselves, and each other. Routine bathing is not recommended at all, but if your mouse is dirty, you can gently wipe them over. If your mouse if regularly getting dirty, it’s best to take them to the vet to see if there is an underlying cause. Most mice will prefer to toilet in one area of the cage too, which makes daily cleaning easier. You can even litter tray train them, simply by putting a litter tray in the corner they favour to toilet. Mice will need frequent cage cleans, especially if you keep a group of mice.
They need a varied diet
I prefer to make my mice a mix of food, as they do find the store brought diets boring. Like rats, mice eat a varied diet and because these little rodents are so busy all the time, I like to scatter feed and hide their food so they have to forage for their food. Mice need a varied diet to keep them healthy. I use rabbit food as a staple, and to include seeds, grains and protein to name but a few. They also enjoy fruits and vegetables (only a tiny amount!) and baby food as a treat. If you want to make your own mouse diet, make sure you research what is safe for them and that you give the correct quantities of each ingredient to give them a complete diet.
They are very delicate
Mice are very small and fragile, so it’s important to handle them correctly. You can scoop your mice up gently in your hands, however, with a bit of time, they will get used to you and most will hop on your hand when you put it in the cage. Try not to carry your mice around in your arms, as a fall could seriously injure them or even kill them. The best way to interact with them is to have them in their playpen, and allow them to climb on your hands.
Avoid dusty bedding
Sawdust is very dusty and can cause respiratory issues and allergies. Unfortunately, most pet shops recommend this for rodents and it is what people automatically buy. Mice are prone to getting respiratory issues because they carry micro-organisms in their respiratory tracts called Mycoplasma pulmonis (Myco for short). Sawdust is mainly dust, and these fine particles are disturbed as the mouse moves around and will enter the nose, mouth and ears which causes irritation. These wood based litters are also available as dust extracted, however this can also harm mice as they release phenol’s which can affect liver function and aggravate the lungs. It really isn’t worth risking.
There are lots of other cheap alternatives which are much safer for mice, and are cheap too. Paper or card based litter is much better for the mice, and not only that, it is also environmentally friendly. Shredded paper, and cardboard bedding are a few examples of bedding that are absorbent and allow the mice to burrow in. Avoid cotton wool type bedding for them to sleep in, as this can tangle around their tails and toes. Kitchen towels or shredded paper are much safer.
Mice are usually asleep in the day
Mice are more active at night, but luckily as they are curious little animals, you can get them used to waking up earlier so you can spend time with them. Try not to wake them suddenly or with noise, as this will upset them. Gently talking to them and offering them food should get them to come out, and if you get them into a routine you will probably find them waiting for you at play time! Provide them with a cosy hide with soft bedding to sleep in. Beds that can be taken apart will make cleaning easier.
There are lots of mice in rescue
Like many animals, mice end up in rescue centres for a variety of reasons, such as house move, allergies or unexpected litters. Adopting from a rescue will mean your new pets should have been assessed, so you will know what their temperament is like, and it also gives the rescue more space to take in unwanted animals. Contact your local rescue to find out more. If you would prefer to go to a breeder, make sure you find a good, reputable breeder who breeds for good temprament and health.
Always research pets before you bring them home. Getting them on impulse is a bad idea and here’s why.