Mice are quite nervous little creatures and harder to handle than some of the larger small pet species such as rats, but they can become quite tame and will take food from the hand and allow themselves to be handled if started at a young age.
Mice are entertaining to watch, easy to care for and make very few demands on their owners.
Which Mouse will you choose?
Ideally you’ll choose two or more Mice as they are sociable creatures and can get lonely. Female mice are often preferred because their urine is less pungent.
There are more than 40 varieties of pet Mice, usually called Fancy Mice to differentiate them from the wild variety.
Exhibition quality Mice, which are the thoroughbreds of the mouse world, can be found in exotic colours such as Sable or Pearl, Cinnamon or Himalayan, Blue or Silver.
Pet shop Mice are somewhere in the middle – often they are white, or piebald, or “brown”.
Which ones you choose will probably be decided when you go to see them, you’ll fall for them on the spot!
Bringing your Mice home
Make sure that you have everything ready before you collect your Mice, so that you can put them into their new home as soon as you arrive and they can spend the first 24 hours getting used to the new environment.
Don’t forget to talk to your Mice and keep them company because they may be missing their brothers and sisters and it’s also a good way to start getting them used to you for when you want to handle them.
We suggest you don’t handle your Mice too much for the first day or two, just give them plenty of clean water and feed only a little hamster food for the first 24 hours to avoid digestive upset.
You’ll soon know when your Mice have settled in – they will begin to eat, drink and groom themselves.
What to feed your Mice
Mice should be fed a complete and balanced mouse food. You can also feed bread as a treat, preferably wholemeal, soaked in water and squeezed out.
A good quality, heavy, earthenware bowl keeps food dry and clean and prevents the Mice from tipping the food. Bowls must be cleaned after every use. To find out more about high quality, nutritionally complete Mouse food click here.
If you’re changing the diet of your Mice, its vital that you introduce the new food gradually. Mix about one quarter of the new food with three quarters of the old food on the first day and then gradually increase the new food and decrease the old food over a 10-day period. This should make sure that your Mice have no tummy upsets.
In the summer they love treats such as Dandelion heads, and also seeding grass, but don’t overdo this. They also like to nibble a little carrot.
Mice are omnivorous, but it is a myth that they love cheese. It doesn’t do them any good and is only used in mousetraps because it smells strongly and has a good texture for putting on the little spike.
It is vital that you ensure there is fresh drinking water available at all times. The best way to provide fresh drinking water is to use a gravity-fed water bottle, attached to the front of the enclosure. Use one of the large ballpoint bottles to prevent dripping and ensure a constant supply is available. Water bowls are not really suitable as they are easily tipped over and can get contaminated.
Mice can be housed in a wire cage with a solid base, a plastic Mouse home or a large vivarium with a well-ventilated cover.
The important thing to remember is that a home for Mice needs to give them room to enjoy life, as they love to explore and exercise. Multi-level cages are a good idea as they add interest.
They love to hide and climb, so sisal rope and a place for them to rest above the ground are ideal. They also need a run where they can play and exercise.
Mice are best kept indoors and careful thought should be given to where the home is situated. The temperature in the room should be constant, away from direct sunlight and draughts, and out of the reach of any other pets. Mice have very sensitive hearing so they should be situated away from loud noises.
Cages should be cleaned out on a regular basis. This is especially important in warmer weather in order to prevent flies being attracted to the cage.
Every day: Remove any soiled bedding
Once a week: Remove all bedding. Thoroughly sweep out all the soiled bedding. Rinse with warm water and mild detergent and wait until dry. Spray inside of cage with a safe cleaning product and wait until dry. Replace with clean bedding (check for signs of mould etc. on bedding and discard if necessary).
Mice should be fed a complete and balanced mouse food
Keeping your Mouse warm and cosy is very important. You also need bedding that is absorbent, which makes cleaning easier for you.
Sawdust is suitable for the cage bottom with hay or paper to nest in. Shredded paper isn’t very warm – newspapers are thick and cosy.
Untreated, un-threshed straw should not be used as it can scratch your pet. Do not use bedding that is synthetic as this could harm your Mice if they eat it.
It is also recommended that all bedding should have been dust-extracted as this reduces irritation to the eyes, nose and respiratory system. To find out more about suitable bedding products, click here.
It is extremely important that your Mice have the opportunity to exercise every day. An idea is to use a large cardboard box and put bedding on the bottom. Put in some toilet roll tubes and, as Mice also love climbing, you can hang up a piece of sisal rope.
If you put a wheel in the cage so your Mice can exercise, make sure that it is big enough. Your Mice must not have to bend their backs while inside. Also ensure that it has a solid floor and not rungs as rungs can cause injuries to the feet and tail.
By hiding food and the occasional treat in different areas of the animal’s cage, your mouse will be forced to hunt for its food – this will keep it occupied for many happy hours and help prevent boredom.
Handling Your Mouse
To ensure that your Mice become tame and affectionate it is important that you handle them frequently and correctly. Picking up a Mouse incorrectly could lead it being permanently frightened and may lead to it becoming aggressive.
Remember that most small animals are prey in the wild. So, if approached from above they’ll see a large shadow and become scared. They might run and hide or try to attack you.
A frightened Mouse can be very difficult to pick up. They will run zigzags all over their cage in an attempt to elude the unknown giant hand coming to scoop them up.
The best way to pick up your Mouse is to talk to it as you approach – on the same level. Crouch and let it come to you, presenting the back of your hand for it to sniff
If your Mouse is confident and appears interested, slowly unclench your fist and offer your palm. It may well crawl on to your hand or you can gently scoop it up.
If you have to pick up a frightened mouse, the safest way to do so is by very gently pinching the base of the tail (the part closest to the body), and lifting up the mouse just enough to slide your hand under his or her body. Gently keep hold of the tail even when the mouse is in your palm to prevent it from jumping out of your hand.
Mice typically will not jump on to anything if the fall is more than a foot or so, but frightened animals are unpredictable and may jump from heights sufficient to hurt themselves.
You should not squeeze the body of a Mouse from the sides or try to scoop it up from its cage as you could easily hurt it (remember, mice are tiny and it doesn’t take much to hurt them). Picking them up like this also frightens them.
You may have seen people pick up Mice by their tails. While this doesn’t really hurt the Mouse it is an uncomfortable position for them and you run a much higher risk of damaging their tails. How would you like it if a giant carried you around upside-down by your leg?
Barbering – Mice housed in groups can show “barbering” behaviour, meaning the dominant mouse nibbles off the whiskers and hair around the muzzle and eyes of group members. No other lesions can be seen and often the dominant mouse will be the only one without hair-loss. Removing the dominant mouse may resolve the problem. However, another mouse may assume the dominant role.
Mites – There are three common mites that can affect your mice. These cause itching and scratching, which can lead to injuries on the head and neck area. Widespread thinning of the hair on the head and body can result and the coat often appears greasy. Your vet can identify the cause and recommend proper treatment.
Respiratory disease – Mice can suffer from both upper and lower respiratory disease. Typical signs include sniffling, sneezing, chattering and difficulties with breathing (‘dyspnoea’). If the disease progresses, weight loss, ‘red tears’ and a ruffled coat can occur. An acute infection in newly born and weaned mice is often fatal. Respiratory disease in mice can be very hard to treat so visit your vet at the first signs of disease.
Overgrown teeth – Like rats, gerbils and hamsters, mice have orange-coloured incisors (front teeth) that grow continuously throughout their life in contrast to their molars (back teeth). Gnawing is important to keep their teeth in shape. The upper incisors should be approximately 3 times as long as the lower ones, so don’t confuse this with overgrown teeth! When overgrowth does occur, take your mouse to the vet to have its teeth trimmed.
Mammary tumours – Older mice can suffer from mammary tumours, which are often malignant. Although surgical removal is recommended in rats, the chance of recurrence in mice is high and the outcome is likely to be poor.
Tyzzer’s disease – This is a very serious condition caused by a bacterial infection and leads to diarrhoea, generalized signs of illness, dehydration and loss of appetite. Take your mouse to the vet immediately if you see these symptoms, as the disease is often fatal. Overcrowding, poor hygiene, or a high temperature plus another disease at the same time may trigger this. Good hygiene and using absorbent bedding will help prevent it.
Always consult a vet if you have ANY reason for concern.
If you need to know more
For more detailed information about Mice, you can contact us and we will get back to you with our experts’ advice. However if you have any concerns about the health and wellbeing of your rabbit, you should seek veterinary advice immediately.
For grooming and health care and lots more detailed information on Mice, visit www.smallanimaladvice.com
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