A little pet that is becoming more popular as a pet is the dormouse, most commonly the African dormouse (Graphiurus murinus). These little rodents are also called the African dwarf dormice, African pygmy dormice, and sometimes even micro squirrels.
Dormice are small squirrel-like animals. Their body length is a mere 3-4 inches or so, and they have a bushy tail that is almost as long as their body. They are nocturnal and get quite active at night. African dormice have a life expectancy of around 5-6 years in captivity.
Dormice are social animals and should be kept in groups of two or more. Same-sex groups usually get along well, as long as they are raised together from a young age.
Dormice can be hand tamed, although regular interaction from an early age is is the best way to ensure a pet that enjoys handling. While they may not want to be held, they will climb all over their humans. Using a favorite treat as bribery helps, too.
These little creatures are excellent escape artists and can sneak through a very small opening. The best type of housing is a glass tank with a tight-fitting, fine mesh top. During their active times they will get to the top of the cage, so make sure the top is secure! A 10-gallon tank will house 2 dormice adequately, although being active animals they will appreciate the additional room of a 20-gallon tank. If keeping more than two, a larger tank is a necessity.
Because they naturally spend a lot of time in trees, branches should be provided for climbing. Ropes (suspend from cage top) and other wooden toys make a nice variety of opportunities for climbing and play. Also, a small rodent wheel can be provided for exercise (mouse-sized). A solid surface wheel is a good choice to reduce the chance of their feet or tail getting caught.
Nest boxes are also necessary, to give the dormice a sense of security. Commercial small animal nest boxes can be purchased or can be improvised. Cardboard tubes can be provided for hiding and play time.
A couple of heavy ceramic dishes can be provided for feeding. Most dormice will readily eat from dishes on the ground, but if necessary, you can also hang a small dish or wicker basket from a branch for feeding. A small water bottle can be used, but the water should be changed regularly.
Dormice need to be kept at 70 F or above - at cooler temperatures (i.e. below around 65 F) they may begin to hibernate. In a captive animal that is not prepared, hibernation can be dangerous.
In the wild, dormice eat a variety of foods including nuts and seeds, fruit, birds' eggs, and insects. A good variety seems to be the key to keeping dormice in captivity, although specific feeding recommendations vary by reference.
The main groups of foods to be included in the diet are a seed mix (such as that made for hamsters or other small rodents, with sunflower seeds or raw peanuts added), fruits and vegetables, and protein sources such as hard-boiled egg, feeder insects (mealworms, crickets), cooked chicken, and yogurt. The seed mix can be fed daily, but make sure the dormice do not fill up on seeds and nuts and refuse other essential parts of the diet. Fruits and vegetables can be fresh, frozen or dried. Fresh foods can be offered in the evening and any uneaten bits removed the next morning to prevent spoilage.