Lots of people like the idea of having pet mice, but don’t know much about them!
This article will give you some top pet mice facts to help you decide whether they’re the right pets for you.
To find out whether different types of pet mice are suitable for you or your family, you’ll need to know their lifespan, what they can eat, and how to care for them!
Let’s have a look at the different responsibilities you would have if you got pet mice, as well as some general information any new mouse owner would need to know!
Are mice good pets?
Mice are great pets for the right owners. They need gentle handling, cleaning out at least twice a week and a good diet. In return they will give you hours of entertainment and snuffly hugs.
This said, it’s difficult to determine what makes a good pet!
Different animals will make good pets for different people, depending on what you want from them.
Mice are certainly adorable pets, but are they well behaved? Are they easy to care for?
Fancy mice, the ones you see in pet stores, are originally domestic house mice, but have been selectively bred for certain desirable characteristics.
Fancy mice come in all shapes and sizes, and are often the mice entered in competitions.
You can get white mice pets, brown mice pets, or even silver and black! Mice do not really come in breeds, just different colors and coats.
Mice are very curious animals, that love spending their time exploring the surroundings or interacting with other mice.
Whether they’re in a pair, or a larger group, they need other mice to keep them company, especially when they’re younger, as this can benefit their social behavior and aggression levels later in life!
Individual housing can be very stressful for mice, and stresses early on in life have been associated with the development of psychiatric and neurodegenerative diseases in mice.
While this doesn’t necessarily affect whether or not mice make “good” pets, it can mean they require a little more work to care for, as you won’t be caring for just one!
Mice are curious, active pets that love to explore their cages and exercise lots.
They are relatively easy pets to look after, as long as you provide them with enough toys to keep them happy, and keep them clean and healthy.
We’ll go into detail about the best ways to look after pet mice further on in this article, to help you determine whether mice will be a good pet choice for you.
Do pet mice bite?
Pet mice do not tend to bite, although they are very capable of doing so if frightened. When handled regularly and gently, with flat palms rather than grabbing hands, most mice will keep their teeth to themselves.
Most people want pets that are going to be relatively gentle.
This makes interacting with smaller pets easier, as you can physically handle them and get close to them without potentially hurting yourself.
But do pet mice bite?
Mice are very small, delicate pets, that love to whiz around their cages.
This can make it hard to actually pick them up.
If you do manage to pick them up, they can be easily frightened, which may lead to them biting.
Their delicate stature also makes them vulnerable to any rough handling.
So you need to be extra gentle. Make sure they feel safe, hold them close to your body, and only pick them up over a soft surface.
If left alone, mice won’t go out of their way to bite you, but you should be aware of the risk if you do try to handle them!
Are pet mice good with kids?
Because mice can be known to bite if they’re picked up, they don’t necessarily make the best pets for families with young kids.
Letting young children pick up mice is not recommended, as it can be hard to control how gentle they are, especially as mice will move around quickly and likely try to escape being held.
If kids are rough with pet mice when trying to interact with them, they could get bitten.
This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t get mice if you have children.
There are plenty of ways to interact with mice without having to pick them up, such as buying fun new toys for them to try, or even feeding them treats from your hand, inside their cages.
If you’re looking for a small pet that your children can interact with more, perhaps mice aren’t the best choice.
Additionally, the sleeping patterns of mice can mean that your kids don’t actually get to see much of these little pets!
Let’s look at these sleeping patterns in a bit more detail next.
Are pet mice nocturnal?
Mice in general are nocturnal animals, which means you should be prepared not to see much of them during the main part of the day!
Your mice will be more active during twilight, and at night into the early hours of the morning.
This makes them great pets if you have a job that keeps you out of the house through the day!
However, they can be noisy at night when they’re scuttling around their cage or exercising, which can affect where you place your mouse cage!
You’ll want to put their cage somewhere that would mimic their natural habitat: quiet and unobtrusive through the day, but dark at night when they’re awake.
This is important because some studies suggest exposure to bright lights at night can alter the behaviors and cognitive performances of mice!
However, you might also want their cage somewhere where your mice won’t keep you awake when you’re trying to sleep, when they’re busy running around!
Choosing the right pet mice cages
As well as choosing the best location for your mice cage, choosing the cage itself is an important decision.
Barred cages are a great choice for mice, as long as the bars aren’t spaced too far apart.
Mice love to explore, so wide-spaced bars can create escape artists!
If your mice manage to squeeze through the bars of their cage, it can be incredibly hard to catch them, as they’re so fast, and there’s nothing to stop them simply escaping again!
You should look for a large cage with narrowly spaced bars.
Because you’ll be keeping multiple mice, you’ll want to give them as much room as possible to avoid overcrowding, but also to ensure they have enough room to run around and get lots of exercise.
Wired or barred cages are generally a better choice than glass or plastic cages for mice, as they have great ventilation. This helps keep your mice healthy and fresh-smelling.
Those are the basics for a mice cage. However, there are a couple of extra things to keep in mind.
Firstly, you’ll want a living space that will keep your mice entertained and happy.
Mice are active pets, so you might consider a cage with different levels or activities for them to climb on or complete.
For example, a cage with tunnels, or ladders. Exercise wheels are also a great choice, and have even been found popular with wild mice!
If you can’t find a cage with these features built in, you can buy them separately in most pet stores!
Secondly, you might want to invest in a nest box for your mice.Your mice will appreciate this quiet, dark box to sleep in throughout the day.
These boxes are cozy and easily filled with shredded bedding for your mice to burrow and sleep in.
How to care for pet mice
Although mice are low-maintenance, there are some basic pet mice care rules!
You need to provide a spacious cage (as covered in the last section), so they’re getting enough exercise.
You can encourage your mice to be active with add-ons like exercise wheels, tubes, or climbing accessories for your mice to play on.
Clean their cages regularly – once a week – to ensure the best health.
You should place your mice’s cage in an area that isn’t too loud.
Keeping them away from TVs and stereos is best, as vibrations and sounds can keep them awake, or even make them quite stressed.
Make sure your mice are kept somewhere unexposed. Do not expose them to cold draughts and direct sunlight.
Additionally, make sure your mice can’t escape from their cages, because this could get them into situations where they could hurt themselves.
What do pet mice eat?
So one thing you might want to know is what to feed pet mice? What can pet mice eat, anyway?
One of the most important parts of looking after mice is a healthy, balanced diet.
Pet mice food includes a huge range of different foods, from plants and grains to insects!
For the healthiest diet, you should feed your mice a commercial mouse food with a good variety of ingredients, and small amounts of fresh fruits and veggies.
You can also give occasional treats, like mealworms, peas, or even scrambled egg.
If you’re unsure about what foods are healthy for your mice, you should consult your vet.
Some safe fruits and vegetables include: carrot, cauliflower, cucumber, dried banana and seedless apples.
This is not an exhaustive list, so be sure to ask your vet for advice if you’re looking to introduce new foods to your mice!
You should always introduce new foods gradually to avoid upsetting your mice’s stomachs.
Don’t worry too much if they don’t like one particular food – there are plenty of options if you’re looking to add variety!
When feeding your mice, you might want to spread food around their cage.
This will encourage their natural tendency to forage for food, and can give them a little more exercise!
Keeping pet mice healthy
Mice are generally very healthy pets, which is part of what makes them so popular!
But there are a few issues to be aware of.
You should watch out for mites, ticks, and lice on your mice’s fur and skin.
Make sure your mice are getting enough exercise and not being overfed, as these little animals can easily become obese.
Mice have also been known to catch colds.
You should watch out for any unusual behaviors from your mice, such as sneezing, wheezing, runny noses or lethargy.
Wheezing and snuffling can be signs of breathing problems or infections, and colds can develop into pneumonia in worst-case scenarios.
More seriously, pet mice can develop cysts, abscesses and tumors. Regularly feel for unusual lumps on your mouse, as these can signal tumors.
You can treat abscesses with antibiotics. A vet can remove tumors with surgery to prevent certain types of cancer.
You should also watch for wet tail, a serious intestinal disease caused by stress.
Watery diarrhea causes the “wet tail,” and this disease can be fatal within hours. It requires a trip to the veterinarian for antibiotics immediately, as there is no way to treat it at home.
Pet mice may also have uterine issues, especially the females, and upper respiratory infections or asthma. Ear and fungal infections may also occur.
You’ll want to watch for a condition called sticky eyes, which is exactly what it looks like. Sticky eyes can indicate conjunctivitis, allergies, or stress. Mice tend toward blindness as they get older.
Pet mice are also vulnerable to injury because of their size and delicate nature. If their cage is too small, you may see indications of “cage rage.”
If you notice anything unusual, you should always check with your vet.
How long do pet mice live?
Healthy mice can live up to three years.
This can make them seem a short-term pet compared to other animals, like dogs, but they are still a big commitment!
This short-ish lifespan doesn’t mean you don’t need to put any effort into caring for your mice.
All mice need healthy, happy lives, and need regular cleaning and care!
Do pet mice smell?
Unfortunately, pet mice have been known to be relatively smelly.
Mice, especially males, like to mark their scent around their cages, as a way of communicating or establishing their own territory.
Some mice will smell stronger than others, and you might not be noticing any scent problems with your pet mice.
But if you are, there are a few ways to reduce the smells.
Make sure you’re cleaning and disinfecting your mice’s cage regularly, but not too often.
Cleaning their cage about once a week should prevent smells from becoming too strong, but keep your mice from overcompensating with scent marking to make up for the loss of odors when you disinfect their cage!
You should always try to leave some of the original scent in your mice’s cage, such as an old piece of cardboard or toy.
This older scent can encourage your mice to use a single part of the cage as a toilet, thus reducing smells from litter!
Using a wire cage can aid ventilation, airing out any smells that would otherwise become trapped in a closed cage.
You can also purchase different deodorizers at pet stores, which can help if all this regular cleaning doesn’t help improve your mouse’s scent!
Are pet mice the right choice for me? – A summary
So, if you’re still confused about whether pet mice are the right choice for you, let’s summarize!
Mice are pretty low-maintenance pets, but require plenty of exercise opportunities and a well-balanced diet.
They also need regular cleaning to prevent strong smells.
As nocturnal animals, mice will be most active at night and will sleep through the day, so are great for people who work in the day.
Additionally, they don’t necessarily like to be handled, and could bite when picked up if they feel at all frightened.
These reasons mean they aren’t always the best choice for families with young children who want a more interactive pet.
But if you think a nocturnal, cute, low-maintenance pet is right for you, mice are a great choice!
If you’ve had pet mice before, let us know how you’ve found them!
Do you have any tips for fixing smelly mice? Do your kids love them, even though they sleep all day?
Let us know in the comments!
Resources and Further Reading
- People’s Dispensary for Sick Animals, Feeding your mice.
- People’s Dispensary for Sick Animals, Mouse health.
- People’s Dispensary for Sick Animals, The ideal home for your mice.
- Branchi, I. et. al (2006). Early social enrichment shapes social behavior and nerve growth factor and brain-derived neurotrophic factor levels in the adult mouse brain. Biological Psychiatry, 60(7).
- Ros-Simo, C. and Valverde, O. (2012). Early-life social experiences in mice affect emotional behaviour and hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis function. Pharmacology Biochemistry and Behavior, 102(3).
- Datta, S. et al (2016). Gender features and estrous cycle variations of nocturnal behavior of mice after a single exposure to light at night. Psychology & Behavior, 164(A).
- Meijer, J. and Robbers, Y. (2014). Animal behaviour: Wild mice run for fun on wheels, Nature, 509.
- Feng, G. J. et al (2018). Conditional disruption of Axin1 leads to development of liver tumors in mice. Gastroenterology, 143(6).
- Branchi, I. (2009). The mouse communal nest: Investigating the epigenetic Influences of the early social environment on brain and behavior development. Neuroscience & Biobehavioral Reviews, 33(4).
- Thanos, P.K. et. al (2017). Mouse social interaction test: A quantitative computer automated analysis of behavior. Journal of Neural Transmission, 124(1).