Mouse Care & FAQs

We have provided information that we will hope answer your commonly asked questions on mice. We know this will help build the bond between you and your animal, and we hope it will continue to be a resource for your mouse’s happiness and health for years to come. Please click on the category you are interested in learning more about:

Before Getting a Mouse

Is a Mouse Right For You?

By: ASPCA Ani-Med

They may be little, but mice pack a lot of charm into their 3 1/2 or so inches. If you’re interested in bringing one or more of these fun loving, friendly critters into your home, read on to find out what you can expect.

First off, you should understand that the mice you might see in a field or in an attic do not belong to the same species as mice kept as companion animals. Pet mice have been bred for centuries, in a variety of colors from white and black to silver and sable. Mice bred for show are larger and have more prominent eyes and ears than mice you’d find at a pet store. If much loved and well cared for, the average mouse has a lifespan of one to three years.

Mice generally won’t bite unless scared or hurt, and your domestic pet can readily be hand-tamed. All it takes is a little patience and persistence–and a bit of bribing with favorite treats–and you’ll have a trusting, loving companion in no time. It’s important to be able to comfortably handle your pet. Not only will it strengthen the bond between you, it will be easier for you when cleaning the cage and giving your pet a weekly health check. Read our HANDLING section for tips.

Mice are social animals, and will get lonely without friends of their own kind or interaction with their human caretakers. It’s smart to get at least a pair, so they can keep each other company if you will be away most of the day. Same-sex siblings are preferred, especially if you get them when they are young. Adult males tend to fight with each other, so first-time mousekeepers are advised to start out with female pairs. It’s not recommended that you keep males and females together, as they will mate…and mate!

No matter how many mice you keep, you’ll need to provide them with entertainment. Mice are bright and need to be mentally stimulated with a variety of toys. Ladders for climbing, boxes for hiding, PVC pipes for tunneling and an exercise wheel for running are much appreciated. Simple cardboard toilet paper tubes and egg cartons make great (and cheap!) playthings, too.

You may have heard that mice are dirty, but did you know that your pet will groom himself from head to tail several times a day? Of course, he can’t clean his own home, though–and that’s where you come in. Living in an unclean environment can make a mouse susceptible to a variety of illnesses, from respiratory problems to skin conditions. As a responsible caretaker, you’ll need to remove soiled bedding, uneaten food and droppings every day, change the bedding at least twice weekly and wash the cage with hot, soapy water once a week. And mice tend to urinate in their food dishes, which will need to be disinfected daily.

Has this furry guy met your criteria so far? A mouse may be right for you, but not for your family. It’s especially great if everyone is involved in the decision-making and caretaking. Small children may love a mouse, but may want to show their love by squeezing or otherwise mishandling him. Only individuals who have mastered the proper mouse handling techniques should be allowed to do so.

If you’re all set to bring a mouse home, we recommend getting yours from a reputable breeder or, best of all, adopting one from a shelter or small-animal rescue group. Search on sites like www.petfinder.com for mice looking for a second chance at a good life.

Bringing Your Mouse Home

Handling

By: ASCPA Ani-Med

So, there’s a mouse in your house? Bet you can’t wait to get to know all about your pet–and your furry friend is curious about you, too. Once your pet’s settled in, you can begin to earn his trust and affection by getting him used to being handled.

Food treats are a great way to jump-start the hand-taming process. Start by slowly putting your hand in the cage and offering small bits of something your pet finds particularly delicious. (FYI, sunflower seeds and millet are notoriously effective bribe foods.) Now’s a good time to talk calmly and softly, getting your pet used to your voice. Don’t be surprised if your mouse decides to investigate your hand after his snack. If this happens, take care not to make any sudden movements that could frighten your pet.

When your mouse is comfortable accepting treats from you, you’re ready to take the next step. To pick up your mouse, gently scoop him into the palm of your hand and grip tightly as you lift. You can also flank your mouse with both hands, cupping them together and securely lifting him up. That wasn’t so bad, right? Conduct several two-minute handling sessions every day for a couple of weeks, and you’re on your way to owning a hand-tamed mouse.

In the beginning stages of hand taming, however, it is best to hold your pet just above your lap or over a soft surface such as a pillow. An accidental fall, even from a seemingly insignificant height, can cause injuries.

Once your mouse is hand-tamed, you’ll be able to let him exercise out of the cage every day. These play sessions will keep him physically and mentally stimulated. You will absolutely need to supervise, however, and it’s best to limit his “play room” to a fairly small mouse-proof space. That means you’ll need to remove electrical cords and anything else your pet could, but shouldn’t, chew on.

In return for your mouse’s trust and cooperation during handling, you’ll need to ensure that he’s never picked up by someone who hasn’t mastered the proper technique. A mouse should ever picked up by the end or tip of the tail, for example. And always make slow, deliberate movements when handling your pet. Quick, jerky motions or loud noises can easily scare him.

Housing

By: ASPCA Ani-Med

Are you ready for your new job as a mouse housekeeper? Your first task is selecting a cage that’s spacious and sturdy, and as comfortable and clean as possible. Once you’ve done that, it’s time to add some safe cage furniture and provide enough spaces and places for your pets to climb and play.

Mice are social creatures, and a mouse by herself will be very lonely. Keep in mind, however, that adult males kept together have a tendency to fight. You’ll do well with a pair or group of females from the same litter. A cage that’s at least two feet long, one foot wide and one foot long will accommodate your pets. It’s always nice to buy the largest, most well-made cage you can afford.

Wire cages and glass aquariums are great choices for mice homes. Wire cages provide good ventilation and allow your pets to climb around the cage. The models with multi-levels and ramps are fun for mice and have plenty of floor space. If you do opt for a wire cage, please take care that the bars are close enough together to prevent injury or escape. Glass aquariums do not provide as much air circulation, but they’re escape-proof, more durable and usually smell less than wire cages.

Take care when deciding on a location for the cage. A place that’s not too noisy, not too hot and not too bright is just right. Avoid drafts, but be sure the room has adequate light and ventilation.

Once you’ve selected and set up the cage you’ll need to make your pets’ house feel like a home. Line the cage with an inch or so of aspen shavings or a pelleted bedding made from recycled paper. These materials are all clean, nontoxic and easy to clear away and replace. Stay away from cedar and pine shavings, as they can cause respiratory ailments. Your mice will also delight in making a cozy bed for sleeping and napping, so be sure to provide a safe nesting material such as fresh hay, straw or shredded paper towels. You’ll also need to designate an area in the cage where your mice can get some privacy. You can use a PVC pipe, empty tissue box or small flower pot for your mouse hideout.

For the finishing touch, provide proper toys for your pets. Most mice love to run, so be sure yours has a solid metal or plastic exercise wheel. No wire wheels, please, as tiny mice feet and tails can easily get caught in the openings. Ladders and branches from untreated, non-poisonous trees are perfect for climbing, and your mice will also enjoy tunneling through ordinary cardboard tubes from paper towels and through boxes with holes cut in them.

To be a good mouse housekeeper, you’ll need to remove soiled bedding, uneaten food and droppings every day. Change the bedding every couple of days, and clean the cage with hot, soapy water once weekly. Don’t forget to wash your pets’ toys and cage furniture, too.

Understanding Your Mouse

By: ASPA Ani-Med

You and your mice represent a long line of human-rodent friendships. Did you know that people have been keeping the charming Mus musculus as animal companions for centuries? As you get to know about your pets, you’ll understand why! Here’s a little background as you begin your journey.

As social animals, mice live in family groups in the wild. Although your pets are a different species than wild mice, they still need to be with their own kind. For first-timers, we recommend a pair of females, as adult males tend to fight.

Your mice will develop a bond with you, too, once you give them the chance. It’s essential that you hand-tame each of your pets, so they’ll be able to have supervised exercise out of the cage every day. Please check our HANDLING section for some suggestions on how to start the hand-taming process.

An important fact you should know about your mice is their front teeth continuously grow throughout their lives–and they’ll need to continuously chew to keep their choppers in good condition. Alas, if you don’t provide appropriate chew toys for your pets, they’ll take matters into their own paws–and gnaw on cage bars, food dishes, even their water bottles. Please make sure your pets always have a variety of safe, appropriate chew toys. If you can find them, nothing beats untreated twigs or branches from a nonpoisonous tree for your pets’ gnawing pleasure. Also keep in mind that your companions have a natural need for privacy, so be sure their cage contains a flowerpot, cardboard box, PVC pipe or other mousie hideout.

It may take a while for you to figure out what your mice are trying to tell you. Mice are pretty quiet, but may squeak loudly when they are in pain or angry. When two males are fighting, for example, there can be a lot of squeaking.

Your pets will speak loud and clear with their body language, too. If you bring a friend over to meet your mice and notice one of your pets slowly walking in your direction while sniffing the air, he’s simply being his curious (more like nosey!) self. Mice may also scope out a situation while standing on their hind legs, too.

We could go on–but half the fun is learning mousie language for yourself. We will tell you one thing to look out for, though. Keeping clean and looking good are very important to your pets–and they’ll groom themselves like a cat at least several times a day.

Taking Care of Your Mouse

Common Health Problems

By: ASPCA Ani-Med

A good diet, a clean environment and lots of exercise will help keep your mice in tip-top condition throughout their lives. But if any of these needs are not fully met, your sensitive little guys can become ill. Knowing what to look out for can help you to help your pets should a problem arise.

It’s not at all uncommon for mice to suffer from ALLERGIES. Symptoms include red, irritated eyes, sneezing, coughing and difficulty breathing. You may need to do a little sleuthing to determine the culprit. In some cases, the bedding in the cage may be the problem; try another brand and try to stay away from sawdust and hay. Ammonia from your pet’s urine can also set off allergic symptoms, so be sure to clean the cage more often.

Allergies can also manifest themselves in DRY, RASHY, SCALY SKIN. This condition is usually triggered by a food allergy, and is often accompanied by diarrhea. Again, you’ll need to figure out what food your pet is sensitive to. Some mice do not tolerate wheat, and many owners have found that fruits and green veggies such as lettuce, kale and broccoli are problematic. Your first move is to eliminate the suspected food. If you’ve correctly identified the troublemaking substance, you should notice improvement in a couple of days.

Skin conditions are also the most obvious symptoms of external parasites. These unwelcome visitors have bugged many a mouse. LICE tend to hang out on areas of the body where a mouse cannot reach–behind the ears or on the neck, for example. If you look closely at an animal infested with lice, you can see tiny dark spots moving on the skin. A trip to the veterinarian is in order to clear up the infestation, and you’ll have to treat not only the affected individuals, but the cage and surrounding area, too.

Mice can get internal parasites, which can be fatal if left untreated. Animals infested with WORMS will have a coarse, dull coat, and will lose weight despite eating an adequate amount of food. Prevention is the key here, so it’s smart to talk to your pets’ veterinarian about regular worming.

Like rats, mice are prone to RESPIRATORY PROBLEMS, ranging in severity from the common cold to the serious mycoplasma pneoumonia. Symptoms of the latter disease include sneezing, coughing, a red, runny nose, lethargy and labored breathing accompanied by rattling in the chest. Unless the disease is extremely advanced, yet can be controlled with antibiotics. Please note that respiratory illnesses are highly contagious, so you’ll need to quarantine the infected individual from the rest of the community until he or she is better.

As they get older, mice are particularly prone to developing TUMORS. It’s smart to regularly check your pets for lumps. If you find anything, have it checked by a veterinarian.

As a rule of thumb, don’t wait until a regularly scheduled check-up to consult the vet if your pets exhibit any unusual symptoms. If you think one of your mice is sick, seek medical attention immediately.

Nutritional Needs

By: ASPCA Ani-Med

What three-syllable word best describes a mouse’s appetite? VORACIOUS! With their extremely high metabolisms, mice need to eat a lot to stay in tip-top condition. Alas, they’re not too discriminating when it comes to grub–but that’s where you come in. Once you know what, and what not, to feed your animal companions, you’ll easily meet their nutritional needs.

Commercial rodent chow–in block or pellet form–should make up the bulk of your pets’ diet. Nutritionally complete, this food is available at pet supply shops and feed stores. Try to find a formula that doesn’t include seeds or nuts–too high in fats and oils!–but does contain at least 16 percent protein and 18 percent fiber, and no more than 4 percent fat. Your pets should be able to feed freely on this food, so be sure it is available at all times. A sturdy ceramic food dish will work well, but many mouse caretakers sing the praises of specially designed wire dispensers that attach to the side of the cage. These dispensers allow mice to eat as they please, cut down on waste and minimize the chances of the food becoming contaminated by feces.

To keep your pets’ digestive systems up and running, fresh grass hay or hay blocks should be available 24/7. You should also offer your furry friends small amounts of grains every day. Especially nice for mice are millet, barley and oats, and a nibble or two of whole grain bread. You may want to stay away from wheat, which has been known to cause trouble for some individuals.

Supplement your pets’ diet with fresh fruits and vegetables every day. You may have to experiment to find their favorites, but peas, broccoli, carrots, apples and bananas are good foods to start with. Be sure to wash everything first, and never give your animals anything that’s old or spoiled. And don’t overdo it, please! Your pets have tiny tummies, after all, and too many fruits and veggies can cause diarrhea.

Topping the absolute no-no list are chocolate, corn and wheat. We know that many mouse parents give their pets sunflower seeds, but take it easy on them, please! These seeds are high in fat, and too many can lead to obesity. Also, take care to avoid peanuts, which are thought to cause skin rashes in some mice.

Don’t forget that fresh, cool water should be available at all times. Get your pets set with a water bottle that attaches to the side of the cage. Rinse and refill it daily, and check that it does not become clogged.

Playtime/Toys

By: ASPCA Ani-Med

Guess who just wants to have fun? Your mice, that’s who! And as your pets’ entertainment director, it’s up to you to arrange playtime with safe, appropriate toys in and out of the cage every day.

Providing a variety of toys and diversions for your furry friends is serious business. Mice who are allowed to play to their little hearts’ content have been shown to be much happier than those who live in barren, toy-free environments. One of the most appreciated toys you can get your pet is the classic exercise wheel. Most mice love to run, and a solid metal or plastic wheel will allow your companions to do just that. By all means avoid wheels with rungs, as tiny tails and feet can easily get caught in them.

Mice are major tunnelers and climbers, and they’ll be very pleased with ladders, PVC pipes and plastic add-on tubes, which come in a variety of styles, from straight to spiral. You can even make your own mousie maze out of these tubes, with your pets’ favorite nibbles waiting at the end!

A toy needn’t be expensive to be effective. Some of the best mouse playthings can be found in your own home. Your pets will love tunneling through ordinary cardboard tubes from paper towels and finding their way through interconnected cardboard boxes with entrance holes cut into them. Egg cartons are great for chewing and climbing, and you’ll be surprised to find how much fun can be had with a simple paper bag, open on its side.

Once you’ve selected and set up the cage you’ll need to make your pets’ house feel like a home. Line the cage with an inch or so of aspen shavings or a pelleted bedding made from recycled paper. These materials are all clean, nontoxic and easy to clear away and replace. Stay away from cedar and pine shavings, as they can cause respiratory ailments. Your mice will also delight in making a cozy bed for sleeping and napping, so be sure to provide a safe nesting material such as fresh hay, straw or shredded paper towels. You’ll also need to designate an area in the cage where your mice can get some privacy. You can use a PVC pipe, empty tissue box or small flower pot for your mouse hideout.

Make sure there’s always something in the cage your mice can gnaw on. Like all rodents, your pets’ teeth grow continuously, so they’ll need something to chew–and chew!–to keep their choppers worn down and in tip-top condition. Twigs or branches that haven’t been treated with chemicals are excellent for this purpose, and you’ll also find a variety of safe chew toys at the pet supply store.

Once you’ve hand-tamed your mice, you can let them out of the cage for some playtime every day. Make sure these sessions take place in a secure, screened-off space. Remove electrical wires from the area, as well as anything else that your mouse could, but shouldn’t, chew on.

Treats

By: ASPCA Ani-Med

Who’s about three inches long–not including tail–and looks forward to snacktime every day? Your mouse, that’s who! While nutritionally complete rodent chow and grass hay should make up the basis of your pet’s diet, your little guy will always appreciate a special treat or two. To ensure that he enjoys it in the best of health, you’ll need to know what foods are good for him–and which ones aren’t.

Fruits and vegetables are excellent choices, and you should offer your mouse small amounts of these nutrient-packed fresh foods every day. You’ll have to experiment a little to find your pet’s favorites, but peas, zucchini, carrots, cucumbers and bananas are good foods to start with. Wash all fresh foods well, and never give your furry friend anything that’s old or spoiled. And remember, we said SMALL amounts! Your pet has a tiny tummy, and too many fruits and veggies can cause diarrhea.

ASPCA experts also recommend that you treat your mouse to a few healthy pinches of grains every day. His wild counterparts are mainly grain eaters, so pretty much anything goes in this department. Try cooked or raw rice, millet, barley and oats, or some flakes of non-sugared bran or oat cereal. A nibble of whole-grain bread’s great, too. You may want to avoid wheat, which has been known to cause problems for some individuals.

Topping the no-no list are chocolate, cabbage, corn, uncooked beans, onions, rhubarb, peanuts and wheat. We know that many mouse parents give their pets sunflower seeds, but take it easy on them, please! They’re very high in fat, and too many can lead to obesity.

Even though you will have to avoid a few foods, there’s quite a variety of treats for your pet. There are even some that do double duty as interactive playthings! Twigs and pieces of untreated tree branches will keep your pet’s teeth worn down AND give him something fun to do. Do not offer wood from cedar, apricot, cherry and peach trees, as they are toxic to rodents.