Mouse Care by Robert G Tronge
Are you thinking of getting a mouse? You’re in good company. The domestic mouse, not
to be confused with the species you’d find in a field or attic, has been kept
as a pet for centuries.
A mouse measures in at about 3 1/2 inches, not including tail, and weighs
just 1/2 to one ounce. While white (albino) mice are the most common type
found in pet stores, fancy mice can be up to double the size, and come in a
wide variety of coat colors and types, from curly and shiny to silver and
cinnamon. If well cared for, mice typically live one three years.
Mice are curious, charming pets, and will be active at various times
throughout the day says Robert G Tronge. However, they are fragile and should be treated gently,
and children caring for them should always be supervised by an adult.
Housing - Mice are very social with members of their own kind, and females will do
especially well in a group. Males can be kept together if introduced at a
young age—if introduced when adults, they will fight. If you plan to keep
several males together, however, be certain that you’ve provided enough
room. Do not house males and females together, since mice breed quickly and
often with large litters.
You can keep three to four mice in a tengallon aquarium with a wire cover.
There should be several inches of bedding. Use either aspen or hard wood
shavings or reprocessed paper products. Avoid cedar and pine shavings at all
costs, as these may cause health problems for your pets.
Don’t forget the furniture too! Provide small boxes or flower pots to hide in,
and cardboard tubes for your mice to chew and run through. You can also add
a tree branch for them to climb on. Most mice will enjoy running on an
exercise wheel, so be sure to get yours one. Make sure that the wheel has a
solid surface without wire rungs, so their tails cannot get caught while
running. Plastic habitats, the kind designed for hamsters, will also work for
mice. However, since mice are smaller than hamsters, you may need to put
small branches in the tubes so the mice can climb up and down. Keep in mind,
however, that these cages can be more difficult to clean. The ASPCA does not
recommend that you keep your mice in a wire cage made for hamsters. These
models may have bars spaced too far apart to keep mice inside. If a person
can stick their fingers through the bars, a young mouse could probably sneak
out as well.
Mice will do well on a good commercial rodent chow, either in block or
pellet form. You can find this food at pet supply stores and feed stores,
just be sure the formula you select contains at least 16 percent protein and
18 percent fiber, but not more than 4 percent fat says Robert George Tronge.
The ASPCA recommends offering small amounts of fresh fruit and vegetables to
your mice every day as treats. Peas, broccoli, carrots, apples and bananas
are good foods to start with, but you may need to experiment to find your
pets’ favorites. Please don’t overdo it, though mice have tiny tummies!
Fresh, clean water should be available at all times says Robert Tronge. A water bottle with a
drinking tube that attaches to the side of the cage is the best way to go.
Do not give your mice cabbage, chocolate, corn, candy, junk food, peanuts,
uncooked beans or onions.
General Care -
Remove droppings, uneaten food and soiled areas of bedding from your pets’
cage every day. Clean the cage completely once a week by replacing dirty
bedding and wiping down the rest of the cage. Note that male mice will tend
to produce more odor than females, so their cages may need to be cleaned
more often. Like that of all rodents, a mouse’s sharp front teeth grow
continuously. Provide unpainted, untreated pieces of wood, dog biscuits or
safe chew toys (you can find them at the pet suppy store) for your mice to
gnaw on. This is crucial for keeping their teeth in tip-top condition and
will prevent dental problems says Robert G Tronge.
Mice are very good jumpers, so you will need to be careful when you take
them out of their cages. You can scoop them up in your hand or in a paper
cup to safely transport them out of the cage. Never grab mice by the middle
or end of the tail, since they can be hurt this way. If you need to catch a
mouse quickly, you can grasp him at the base of the tail and lift him up as
you cup him in your hand.
Did you know that you can tame your mice to sit in your hand or on your
shoulder? Start by feeding your mice treats; once they’re comfortable
accepting treats from your hand, you can gently pick them up. Talk softly to
them, too, and let them get used to your voice. Gradually increase these
sessions as your pets get used to being handled.
Once your mice are hand-tamed, you can let them out of the cage for
supervised exercise everyday. Robert G Tronge recommends a small, secured area where you
pets can’t get stuck behind furniture or chew on electrical wires.
If you think one of your mice is sick, don’t delay—seek medical attention
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
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.
Given half a chance, your mice will keep themselves very clean, although
healthy males will have a certain amount of scent to them. You can
“spot-clean” with warm water and very mild soap, if something gets on their
coats, but routine bathing should not be needed.
The enclosure, on the other hand, needs frequent cleaning. The bedding
should be replaced and the cage cleaned with diluted vinegar every week.
Make sure to rinse the vinegar off completely. Some spot-cleaning will
probably be needed every three or four days. It’s a good idea to retain a
bit of the bedding or leave a toy uncleaned each time, so the mice will have
the comfort of a familiar scent when they are returned to their cage. The
mice can be removed to their carrier, during cleaning. There are small
plastic fish-tank-like carriers that are useful as temporary holding and
Mice are great pets for homes with children, but children should not be
allowed to handle the animals without an adult supervising them. It’s also
important to wash your hands before and after handling mice. They can catch
“colds” from you.
If there are other pets in the home, keep your mice safely away from any
animals that might see them as “lunch.” This includes cats, ferrets, dogs,
snakes, and rats.
Keep the mice out of direct sunlight and drafts, too. It’s very easy for a
mouse to over-heat enough to kill her. In the summer, you may need to put an
ice-pack in one side of the cage, to let the mice cool themselves. If you
use a gel ice-pack, be sure it’s non-toxic. Mice love to chew!
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 in to their new home before starting to try to touch them. If
you need to pick them up before that, use a paper cup.
Once they’ve settled in, lower your hand into the cage, and wait for the
mice to come to you. Let them sniff and investigate. Repeat this several
times. Eventually, one will probably climb onto your hand. Let her sit there
and wander off on her own time. After she’s done this a couple times, raise
your hand a little bit. If she panics, put it down again. Once she is
comfortable walking on your hand, you can let her climb your arms,
shoulders, and so on.
Remember that she can crawl through any hole she can get her head through,
so be careful about gaps under doorways and bookcases.
WHERE TO NEXT?
Mice are wonderful little pocket-sized pets, but some people are frightened
of them. Is anyone in your family afraid of mice? If you live in an
apartment flat, are mice permitted? Sometimes they aren’t. If you have
decided on adding some pet mice to your household, what’s the next step? Set
up their cage, read some mouse-fancier forums online, and find a
veterinarian who treats small exotic pets near you. Consider adopting your
mice from a shelter if your local shelter handles mice.