Mice are small, social animals. They’re quiet, but very active and entertaining to watch. Because of their high-activity level and quick movements, care needs to be taken when handling.
Home Sweet Home
Your mouse needs a cage that is at least 18 inches long by 12 inches wide and 12 inches high. If you have more than one mouse, increase the floor area by half a square foot per additional animal. If wire mesh is used, it should be no wider than one-fourth inch to prevent escape. A cage with a solid floor works best, covered with shredded newspaper or commercial bedding. Never use pine or cedar. These materials can irritate your mouse’s respiratory system. An aquarium can be modified for your mouse, but be aware that glass sides restrict airflow and keep heat in, which could be detrimental to your mouse’s health. Be sure to place the cage out of drafts and direct sunlight. Make sure your cage closes securely or your aquarium has a tight-fitting screen cover to prevent your mouse from escaping. Provide a box for sleeping and plenty of nesting material, like unscented tissue or professional bedding material. Also provide chewing blocks and paper towel tubes for playing and hiding.
Commercial mouse food is available at pet supply stores and will provide a nutritionally balanced diet for your mouse. You can supplement your mouse’s diet with fresh foods like fruit, vegetables, nuts (NO peanuts), seeds, grains, hard-boiled eggs, and cooked meat (no spices). Use a sturdy crockery bowl that can’t be tipped over and is easy to clean. A salt lick is recommended to prevent mineral deficiencies. Hang it from the side of the cage to prevent contamination from feces and urine. Keep fresh water available in a suspended “licker” water bottle at all times.
The average life span of a mouse is two to three years and they reach sexual maturity at about four weeks of age. Even though mice are very clean and spend a great deal of time grooming themselves, they tend to have a unique scent. Mice are extremely active and need a solid exercise wheel and/or supervised time out of the cage to prevent cage paralysis. A mouse will hardly ever jump from a height of more than two feet, so you can build your mouse a “gym” for exercise. Because your mice’s teeth grow continuously, it’s essential that you provide it with hard things to gnaw on to prevent its teeth from growing too long. Untreated hard wood, dog biscuits, and hard bread crusts are some suggested items.
Handling with Care
When picking up your mouse, approach it slowly and be careful not to startle it. Curl one hand over its body with your fingers and thumb around its abdomen. Hold it securely, but don’t squeeze. You can carry your mouse in your cupped hand with the other hand over it for protection or in a loose pocket. The more you handle your mouse, the friendlier and tamer it will be. If you have children, be sure to supervise them whenever they handle the mouse. Never allow them to pick the mouse up by its tail or let its body hang.
Mice are social creatures and do poorly when isolated. If you’re not able to spend much time with your mouse, you’ll want to get a companion for it. Littermates of the same sex tend to get along the best. Be careful when introducing adults, especially males, because they can be aggressive toward each other. Also in order to prevent unwanted litters, you’ll want to make sure your mice are the same sex.
American Fancy Rat & Mouse Association. 9230 64th Street. Riverside, CA 92509-5924; 626-966-0350 (Louise Stack); http://www.afrma.org/. Bielfeld, Horst. Mice: A Complete Pet Owner’s Manual. Barron Book Series. New York.