Pet mice are entertaining to watch, are easy to care for, and make very few demands on their owners. They are a bit skittish and harder to handle than some larger rodents, such as rats, but they can learn to be comfortable with handling, especially if tamed from a young age. Pet mice come in a wide array of colors with fairly short fur. Their rounded ears and long tail have minimal fur. As nocturnal animals, mice will generally be most active at night and sleep through the day. In terms of their care, they require a quality rodent food and regular habitat cleanings.
Common Names: Mouse, house mouse
Scientific Name: Mus musculus
Adult Size: 5 to 7 inches long (including tail), weighing around 1 ounce
Lifespan: 1 to 3 years
Mouse Behavior and Temperament
Mice are social animals and like living with members of their species. A pair of females is the easiest arrangement, though a small group of females is fine too if you provide the cage space. Do not let pairs of males live together unless they were littermates, never separated, and have a large enough cage that they can have their own space. Unfamiliar males are likely to fight. Also, avoid keeping males and females together unless you want lots of baby mice in a short amount of time.
Keep mice away from other household pets to avoid any stress and injury. But they can learn to be comfortable around humans, and many can become hand-tame. However, mice that are not accustomed to handling—or mice that are not handled gently—might bite. Inappropriate handling also can injure a mouse. For instance, a fall from even just a few feet can cause serious damage, as can holding a mouse by its tail. It is best to hold the mouse just above your lap or some other soft surface in case it escapes your hands.
Mice are quiet pets, though their nocturnal activities might keep you up if their enclosure is near your bed. Plan to spend a few hours per week on feedings and keeping the habitat clean.
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Mice stretch around 5 to 7 inches long from nose to tail. Their bodies alone are roughly 3 inches long. And they weigh around an ounce. Mice reach maturity at about 2 months old.
The size of the cage you will need depends on how many mice you keep together. A 10-gallon aquarium with a secure mesh top or a similarly sized wire cage should be suitable for one to four mice. Wire cages offer better ventilation, though you must make sure the bar spacing is narrow enough that your mouse can't squeeze through. Horizontal bars, as well as cages with multiple levels, are ideal to provide climbing opportunities. Avoid cages with wire floors; solid flooring is a lot easier on the mice's feet.
Modular plastic cages meant for hamsters also can be suitable for mice. However, they often are challenging to clean and are sometimes poorly ventilated. A determined mouse might even chew through the plastic.
Furthermore, mice universally love running on exercise wheels (with a solid surface, as wires can be harmful), tunnels, and toys, including:
- Wood chew blocks
- Small cardboard boxes
- Cotton ropes
- Paper towel or toilet paper tubes
- Small willow balls
Besides various toys, the habitat also should have a nest box or other type of shelter where the mice can go to feel secure. Keep the cage out of drafts and away from direct sunlight.
Specific Substrate Needs
On the floor of the habitat, add several inches of aspen shavings or undyed paper bedding. Avoid cedar and pine bedding due to their oils that can be harmful to mice. Also, offer nesting material, such as strips of facial tissue, paper towels, or hay. Clean out nesting material every month or two (frequent changes can be disruptive) unless it becomes soiled. Change the bedding and scrub the enclosure with mild soap and water weekly.
Watch Now: Tips for Taking Care of a Pet Mouse
What Do Mice Eat & Drink?
Mice should be fed a formulated rodent pellet that's around 16% protein, 18% fiber, and 4% fat. Follow the bag label for how much to feed, and verify that with your vet. Mice tend to graze during their waking hours (and might even wake up during their sleeping hours for a snack). So always keep a small ceramic bowl filled with a day's worth of food in their habitat. Throw away uneaten food after 24 hours, and replenish the bowl.
You can supplement your mouse's diet with seeds and grains, as well as fresh fruits and vegetables. Some options include broccoli, peas, apples, carrots, and cucumber. Consult your vet regarding the quantity and frequency of these supplemental foods, as this can vary based on a mouse's size and activity level. Place fresh foods in a separate dish from the pellets, and discard them after a few hours to prevent spoilage. The best time to feed is in the evening as the mouse is waking up and looking for food.
Also, always have fresh water available for your mouse. Using a water bottle attached to the enclosure is ideal, as it's easy to keep sanitary. But also keep a water dish in the enclosure until you're sure the mouse is using the bottle. Refresh the water daily.
Common Health Problems
Tumors are common in mice; usually, they are malignant and deadly. Signs include a visible lump or swelling accompanied by lethargy and/or weight loss. Some tumors can be surgically removed but are likely to recur.
Another severe and common health condition in mice and other pet rodents is wet tail, a gastrointestinal ailment caused by an overpopulation of bacteria in the digestive tract. It can progress quickly and be fatal if left untreated. Symptoms include diarrhea, lethargy, lack of appetite, and difficulty walking. An exotic animal veterinarian can treat the condition with antibiotics.
To begin taming your mice, spend time around their enclosure, so they become used to your presence. Offer some favorite treats (try millet or sunflower seeds) by hand. This often leads to the mice walking on your hands, and from there you can slowly pick them up. When picking up a mouse, try scooping it up by cupping your hand under the mouse, but do not squeeze or tightly grasp the mouse's body.
Mice need physical activity to help prevent obesity and other health issues. As long as you provide a large enough enclosure with an exercise wheel, they should be able to meet their activity needs. You also can give them out-of-cage time in a secure spot, such as a kiddie pool with sides too high for your mice to climb. Always monitor your mice when they're out of the enclosure.
Mice are quite clean animals that frequently groom themselves. They don't require baths. But occasionally they might need some help with their dental grooming. Mouse teeth grow continuously throughout their life, and they naturally wear them down by gnawing on their food and other objects. Sometimes, though, the teeth become overgrown and require trimming by a vet.
Your primary ongoing costs for pet mice will be their food and bedding. On a monthly basis, plan to spend around $20 to $30. You'll also periodically have to replace chew toys and other worn items in the habitat, costing around $20 on average. Plus, be sure to budget for routine checkups and emergency veterinary care.
Pros & Cons of Keeping a Mouse as a Pet
Mice are quiet pets, and they don't take up a lot of space. They're also social creatures who can learn to be comfortable with you handling them. However, they are fragile and require a gentle hand. Plus, they aren't very long-lived pets.
Similar Exotic Pets to the Mouse
If you're interested in pet mice, also check out:
Otherwise, check out other small rodents that can be your new pet.
Purchasing or Adopting Your Mouse
Mice commonly can be found at pet shops. However, it's often ideal to go to a reputable breeder or rescue organization. They typically can provide better information regarding their animals' health and history, and they might even handle their animals to tame them. Expect to pay between $5 and $10 on average, though this can vary based on factors such as the animal's age.
Mice are one of the most affordable pets, costing $5 to $10. Most pet stores carry them. Look for a pet store or breeder that separates males and females at a young age. Mice can reproduce by about 6 to 8 weeks of age, although this is very stressful on the female and not recommended.
Local exotic animal veterinarians often can recommend a good breeder or rescue. The main benefit of going to a breeder is you'll likely have a wider selection of younger animals. But rescue groups often have a decent selection as well. Visit with the mice before selecting one, and verify that they are kept in a clean habitat.
When picking out your mouse, look for an alert animal with a smooth, clean coat and pink, clean skin. The eyes and nose should be free of discharge, and the mouth and anal area should be clean and dry. Its droppings should be well-formed and not watery. Also, the mouse's breathing will be relatively fast but should not be labored or noisy.
Make sure the seller keeps its male and female mice apart, as mice can start to reproduce at around 6 to 8 weeks old. To avoid becoming an accidental breeder yourself, only keep mice with members of the same sex.
Does a mouse make a good pet for kids?
Mice can be good pets for older children who are able to handle them gently and carefully.
Are mice hard to take care of?
Mice are relatively easy to care for, requiring daily feedings and weekly cleanings.
Does a mouse like to be held?
Certain mice can learn to be comfortable with gentle handling, especially when they're handled from a young age.