Pet mice live between two and three years if given the right environment, diet, enrichment and genetic health. Often wild mice live a comparatively even shorter time, around a year at most if they are lucky. But what this tells us is that there is plenty we can do as owners to help our captive rodents to stay with us for as long as possible.
Pocket pets like mice, gerbils, and hamsters are often the first pet for young children. Since they have much shorter lifespans than other animals like dogs and cats, that can be a factor in a parent’s decision to get a pet mouse for a child.
How Long Do Wild Mice Live?
Mice in the wild generally have shorter lifespans than mice kept as pets. The life expectancy of wild mice is often less than one year.
Mice living in the wild face many more dangers than mice in captivity. Besides being a prey animal for numerous predators, they can also be affected by things like harsh weather, poisoning, or lack of food supply.
And of course, wild mice can’t go to the veterinarian, so illnesses and injuries can often be fatal.
How Long Do Pet Mice Live?
How long do fancy mice live? Pet mice (also called fancy mice) have a much longer lifespan than wild mice.
With proper care and nutrition, a pet mouse can live between 2-3 years.
There are many factors that go into a pet mouse’s longevity. We’ll talk about some health issues common to mice, and how good care can increase lifespan.
But first, did you know that choosing the right kind of mouse can also be an important factor in your mouse’s longevity?
Here’s what you need to know when choosing a mouse from the pet store or a breeder.
Fancy Mice vs Feeder Mice
Many people get fancy mice from pet stores. Pet stores also sell feeder mice to customers who own animals like snakes.
Sometimes it’s hard to tell the difference when you’re looking at a group of mice in the store.
Commercial feeder mouse breeders do not put much emphasis on appearance, health, and temperament.
The American Fancy Rat & Mouse Association advises against buying feeder mice as pets.
In fact, they also note that fancy mice sold in big chain pet stores often come from the same large-scale breeding operations as feeder mice.
What’s the best place to buy a healthy pet mouse that has the greatest chance at a long lifespan?
Look for a local breeder or small pet store that stocks fancy mice from hobbyist breeders. These mice are bred with care for appearance, conformation, personality, and health.
Of course, even the finest show-quality mouse can have some health problems.
What are some common health issues in mice, and how long do mice live for if they do have health issues?
Pet Mouse Health Conditions
Mice can be prone to parasites, especially if they live in groups. Common mouse parasites are mites, which cause itchy, sore skin; and pinworms, which cause diarrhea.
Like all rodents, mice have incisor teeth that grow continuously and need to be worn down through gnawing. Sometimes a mouse’s incisors will become overgrown and require trimming.
Mice with overgrown incisors can suffer from weight loss, malnutrition, dehydration, and oral trauma.
Chronic murine pneumonia is a disease of the mouse’s respiratory system. Look for sneezing, difficulty breathing, and nasal discharge.
Veterinary care and treatment with antibiotics is needed for pneumonia. Chronic pneumonia is a serious and contagious illness that can significantly shorten a pet mouse’s lifespan.
Mouse Care and Longevity
How can you ensure that your pet mice are as healthy as possible?
How long pet mice live for often depends on very basic care, like keeping their cages clean and at a comfortable temperature.
Cleaning your mouse’s cage is an important part of keeping your mouse healthy.
A basic cleaning schedule is to remove droppings and clean food bowls daily, and to change the bedding and clean and disinfect the cage once a week.
Mice are very sensitive to both temperature and humidity. Mice can become sick in cold temperatures, damp conditions, or with extreme temperature changes.
The ideal temperature for the room where your mouse is kept should be between 68-78.8 degrees Fahrenheit (20-26 degrees Celsius).
Relative humidity for adult mice should be between 40-70%. For baby mice, it should be between 50-70%.
Good nutrition and an opportunity to exercise also play a role in fancy mouse health and longevity.
Feed your mouse quality rodent food supplemented with fresh fruits and vegetables. Mouse obesity can be caused by too much fat in the diet from seeds, grains, and people food like bread and cereal.
Provide your mouse with blocks to gnaw on, an exercise wheel, pipes and tubes to crawl through, and play/exercise sessions outside of the cage.
Make sure other pets like dogs and cats are kept out of the room.
How Long Do Mice Live?
While mice in the wild seldom live for more than one year, a pet mouse can live for up to 3 years.
Choose quality baby or adult mice from a local small breeder for optimum health.
A clean cage, healthy food, and regular exercise will help pet mice live long and healthy lives.
Seek out a veterinarian who specializes in exotic/small pet care for advice on dental care and if your mouse becomes sick or injured.
Enjoy your new little friend!
References and Further Reading
- Humane Society of the United States, Mice: The right pet for you?
- Pembrook, H. (1999). Fancy mice vs. pet store mice. The American Fancy Rat & Mouse Association.
- Quesenberry, K. E. Routine health care of mice. Merck Veterinary Manual.
- Legacy Animal Medical Center, Common health problems in pet mice.
- The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, Mouse care.
- Fawcett, A. (2012). Guidelines for the housing of mice in scientific institutions. Animal Research Review Panel.