Mice – A Rough Guide to Owning Mice

Mice can make very friendly pets, but do not attempt to keep wild mice! Domesticated mice come in a wide variety of colours. Males have a stronger smell and tend to be more aggressive towards each other, so for that reason females tend to make better pets.

They tend to live between 1 – 2½ years and a healthy adult should weigh 20 – 60g depending on sex and age.

Companionship

Mice love company of other mice, so it’s best to keep them in same sex pairs or groups. A breeding pair of mice can produce a litter every 3 -4 weeks, with an average of eight to ten babies per litter, and can become pregnant within 24 hours of giving birth. Therefore, we strongly advise keeping males and females in separate cages!

Housing

A wire cage with a plastic tray floor are the best cages for mice.Two mice will need a cage that is at least 60cm x 50cm in floor space, by 30cm high. They can squeeze through tiny gaps, so ensure the gaps between the bars are no wider than your little finger.

Provide your mice with lots of wooden toys to gnaw on, and lots of other play things to bite, hide in, and generally run around with! Another fun game is to hide treats around the cage for them to forage and find. Mice love to climb, so provide branches to climb, or suspend rope from the roof of their cage for them to climb. They also love going through tunnels, so provide plastic or cardboard tubes for them to run through (and chew!).

You will need to have a deep layer of wood shavings for burrowing and using one area of the cage for a toilet. Have a nest box with nesting material inside. Mice tend to use one area of the care for urinating, so this area will need to be cleaned frequently (perhaps daily) and the whole cage will need to be cleaned once a week. Keep the cage away from direct sunlight and draughts, and away from loud noises (e.g. TV, stereo).

Handling

Although mice are friendly once tamed, they can be timid to start with, and will quite often bite when scared, so you will need to earn their trust before handling them. When you approach them, crouch down and speak very softly. Let them come to you – perhaps hold a treat in your hand for them to have, and be patient. They may not come to you the first time you try this. Once they are happy for you to have your hands near them, gently hold the mouse by the base (not the tip!) of the tail gently but firmly and slowly lift the back end and gently slide your hand under the mouse’s body.

NEVER wake your mouse up abruptly and pick it up as this could frighten them and they may react by biting you.

Grooming

Mice are relatively clean animals so not need to be groomed regularly.

Neutering

Neutering is not routinely performed in mice as any anaesthetic can prove risky for them. If you do not want your mice to have litters, then keep males and females in separate cages.

Feeding

You should be feeding your mouse a good quality pelleted food. Ensure you choose a ‘nugget’ food, rather than muesli-style. With the muesli-style diets, they pick out the parts that they like and leave the parts that they don’t, which means that they may not get all of their required nutrients. Nugget-style pellets prevent this selective feeding, as each pellet has an equal amount of nutrients. Finally, you can also give your mouse some fresh greens, but not too many! Try to choose foods that are low in fat, such as carrot, apple and broccoli. They also love sunflower seeds, but these are quite high in fat so be careful not to give them too often. Take care if you are thinking of changing their diet, and always ensure you change foods over gradually, over a period of 10 days.

Common Health Problems

Tumours: Mice are particularly susceptible to tumours, especially mammary tumours in females. 90% of mammary tumours in mice are malignant, and they can grow very quickly. Surgical removal can be performed when the mass is very small, but if left too long then surgery is no longer an option.

Respiratory Problems: Breathing difficulties in mice are quite common and usually caused by poor living conditions. Always ensure you clean toilet areas every day or two, and the entire cage every week (at least).

If your pet is in any way unwell, contact your vet immediately to book an appointment.

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