Mouse Care Guide
Mice are inquisitive and friendly pocket sized pets. With proper care, they will keep your family entertained for hours on end.
Mice have been bred as pets for more than fifteen hundred years. There are mouse shows and pet mouse societies, just as there are shows and societies for dog, horse, and cat breeds.
These friendly and delicate little animals are great companions. Generally speaking, you should start with two or three female mice. The females like the companionship of their own kind, as well as their human keeper. Males should be kept by themselves or they will probably fight (often to the death), and they are often a poor choice as a first mouse.
Buying your mice directly from a pet-mouse breeder is your best bet. Many pet stores buy their pet mice from rodent mills, and some of these mice have hereditary health problems. Also, pet-store living may result in its own health problems, not to mention a timid, stressed-out mouse. Pet mice should not be timid, unlike wild mice. Also, their eyes should be bright and their fur should look clean. Bald patches on the coat are a warning sign, unless the critter belongs to a hairless breed, of course.
To keep healthy pet mice, you’ll need an enclosure, a secure mouse-carrier, food dishes, water dish or drip-bottle, toys, bedding, an exercise wheel, and a hidey-hole for resting in.
If you live in a warm area, and most of Australia counts as warm, the enclosure needs to be well-ventilated. A mouse-cage with a strong plastic base and wire walls is ideal. The plastic base should come up the sides for at least four or five centimetres, to keep the bedding inside, and the wires should be no further apart than one centimetre, to keep the mice inside. Buy as large a mouse cage as you can, making sure it is at least 30cm tall, 30 cm wide, and 45cm long. Bigger is better.
In cooler climates, some people prefer to use a fish tank with a mesh cover. There are several problems with this, especially here in New South Wales:
- The lack of ventilation can make the mouse sick, because ammonia builds up.
- The lack of ventilation also makes the enclosure warmer. That’s not a good thing in the summer!
- It is more difficult to keep the bottom of the tank clean.
- The only approach for removing the mouse is from above, which is scary for the rodent. Predators come from above.
For the hidey-hole, you can buy attractive little dome houses or wooden huts for your mice, or you can give the little mice a small corrugated-cardboard box without ink on it. They need a dark, dry place to hide and sleep.
Shredded paper (without inks) is ideal bedding for a mouse cage. Fill the bottom of the cage with shredded paper a few centimetres thick. Provide a few pieces of paper towel or facial tissue, for the mice to make their little nests with, and they will be happy.
Almost all mice like exercise wheels. You’d think that a small one would be good for mice, because mice are so tiny, but a bigger wheel is better. The animal needs to be able to run without bending her back. Choose a solid plastic wheel. They are much safer than the wire ones. Mice should never be given a wire exercise wheel, because they catch their feet and tails between the wires.
Your mice would also enjoy some toys in their home. These don’t need to be expensive. The cardboard rolls from paper towels and bathroom tissue will keep mice amused for hours. A piece of fruit wood from the parrot section of the pet store is good for chewing, as are plain craft sticks from a craft store. The mice will enjoy a length of hemp rope strung across the cage, or hanging from the top of the cage, because they love to climb.
Make sure your mouse has clean water available all day, every day. Mice are tiny, and they dehydrate quickly. A drip-bottle or two on the side of the cage will work well. Ceramic bowls (such as the ones sold for lizards) are also good, although they can be harder to keep clean.
It is easier and safer to buy good quality hamster food for a mouse than it is to figure out which of the commercial mouse foods have the appropriate nutrition. Mice eat more than you’d expect for critters their size, so make sure fresh pellets are always available for them. A piece of dog biscuit is a nice treat a couple times a week, and it doubles as a chew toy to wear down their teeth. Tiny pieces of apple or carrot, a few pieces of unsweetened breakfast cereal, and some pieces of dry catfood are all tasty and nutritious items to round out the diet. Most mice dislike cheese, by the way, and it isn’t particularly good for them. If you discover that yours have a taste for cheddar or brie, a tiny piece once or twice a week is okay for a treat.