Taming Pet Mice

White mouse in hand
Albino mouse in man's hands. Getty Images/Mark Bowler

Taming pet mice is very possible, though it may take some patience. With time and consistency (and perhaps a little bribery) you should be able to win the trust of your pet mouse. Handling pet mice can be a bit tricky as they are small and quick, but once they are tamed they can be picked up and handled, and can make great pets, even for kids).

Tips for Housing and Caring for Pet Mice

It's easiest to tame a mouse that's relaxed and comfortable in its surroundings. With that in mind, consider following these tips for selecting, housing, and caring for your pet.

  • Starting with young mice will make the taming process much easier.
  • Use lots of treats and work slowly. Make sure your mouse is comfortable with each step before proceeding to the next.
  • It is best not to allow pet mice to run around outside their cage unless they are tame. The stress of chasing, catching, and returning them to their cage may scare them and make them fear their owners. If you allow your pet mouse time outside of the cage make sure the area is very well mouse-proofed as mice can get through very small cracks.
  • Mice can usually be kept in small groups of females (since you will get baby mice from housing males and females together) but males usually do best alone (or they will fight). Female mice usually bond well with each other and this should not affect the taming process. In fact, a single mouse is more likely to be stressed and nervous and therefore may be more difficult to tame than a female mouse that has other female mouse roommates.

Gaining Your Mouse's Trust

Taming a mouse is really the same thing as gaining its trust. Your mouse must believe that it is safe with you, despite your enormous size. Throughout the training process, try to avoid doing anything that will stress your pet mouse. You'll need to do routine things like cleaning the cage of course but keep in mind that moving slowly and gently throughout these necessary chores will help in the process of gaining your mouse's trust.

Until your mouse is tamed, there is a chance that it will bite. Mice can bite hard, but remember if they bite it is because they are scared. If your mouse does nip you, don't shake your hand to get him or her off, or get angry, as this will just make matters worse. If your mouse bites, it means you should back off and do more to gain its trust.

Picking up Pet Mice

Mouse owners, and young children in particular, are eager to pick up and hold their pet mouse. While holding a mouse isn't a problem in itself, there are some things to remember as you begin to tame and handle your pet mouse.

  • It is best to never pick up a mouse by their tail as this could startle or hurt them and impede your progress in gaining your mouse's trust.
  • If your pet mouse is not yet comfortable being held and carried, an easy way to pick them up is by gently directing them into a cup turned on its side. Once they walk into the cup, simply tip the cup upright to move or carry the mouse. Since mice are good jumpers, cover the cup's opening with your other hand to prevent escapes and injuries.
  • The best way to carry a tame mouse is simply cupped in the palm of your hand. You can gently hold the scruff of the neck (the loose skin on the back of the neck) to prevent the mouse from getting away if necessary.
  • You can use protective gloves to pick up an untamed mouse in the same manner as a tamed mouse.

Taming Pet Mice

It takes patience to gain a mouse's trust, but gaining this trust will make handling them much easier and more rewarding. Follow these steps to hand tame your pet mouse:

  1. Give a new mouse a few days to adjust to their new home (keep maintenance and interaction to a minimum).
  2. Move slowly and speak softly around your mouse.
  3. Limit interactions to times when your mouse is awake. Waking sleeping mice isn't a good way to gain their trust!
  4. Start by just sitting next to the mouse's cage to acclimate them to your presence.
  5. Offer a treat (i.e. sunflower seeds, small pieces of nuts or raisins) when your mouse approaches the cage bars. Keep doing this until they readily come to the cage bars when they see you.
  6. Once your mouse is comfortable taking treats from your hand through the bars of the cage, offer treats through an open cage door.
  7. Once your mouse happily takes treats from your hand place a treat on your open hand to entice them to step up onto your hand to retrieve the treat.
  8. Once it voluntarily touches your hand, place the treat on your forearm and allow your mouse to climb onto your hand to get to the treat.
  9. When your mouse is comfortable climbing onto your hand, try gently scratching the sides and back of their heads (imitating natural grooming behavior).
  1. Keep practicing these steps. Eventually, you should be able to gain the trust of your mice to the point where they will gladly sit on your hand.