Caring for a pet mouse

Not all of us have space available to keep dogs, but would still like to have a furry companion. Mice might be the answer. Pet mice are quite different than the wild kind that would have many people jump onto the closest chair!

Should you get a mouse?

Pet mice come in a variety of colours, and picking the one you like most can be just as much fun as picking a puppy! There are a few things you should know before deciding that this little critter is the pet for you.

Mice are social animals, so while you are considering a mouse as a pet, rather consider more than one! A young pair of female mice is a good choice, as males might fight with each other, and with a male and female couple you might end up with many more mice than originally planned.

Not only are they social, but they are fun-loving and they need mental stimulation. Your mice’s cage should be of a proper size, and you will have to provide them with adequate toys to keep them busy. Your mice will appreciate things they can climb on, places to hide and tunnels to run through – not to mention the good old favourite, the exercise wheel!

If you are concerned that mice are dirty, you needn’t be too worried. Yes, they do have a natural, musky odour, but it shouldn’t be intolerable. Mice also groom themselves several times a day, much like cats do. Of course he won’t be able to clean his own home, which is where you come in. You will need to remove soiled bedding, uneaten food and droppings on a daily basis, change your mouse’s bedding at least twice a week and wash his cage with hot, soapy water once a week.

Feeding your mice

Food for your mice should be kept available at all times. Commercially available pellets should be the main dietary component and are available from all pet shops. Complement their diet with small amounts of salad greens (clean, freshly washed, non-contaminated dandelion leaves can be a treat for mice), fresh fruits in small amounts (mice love bananas and avocado) and vegetables. Raw broccoli and corn-on-the-cob are a favourite with mice as well as whole wheat bread. DO NOT give your petstreats such as chocolate, chips or other junk food as it cannot be digested. Treats such as dry, healthy, low-sugar cereals, plain popcorn, wild bird seed, dry oatmeal and occasional table scraps can be given.

Choosing your mice

When you choose your new pets, look out for these signs that they are as healthy as possible:

√ The mouse is energetic and full of life.

√ The ears and tail are nice and pink.

√ Eyes are bright and shiny.

√ The coat is smooth and clean.

√ No discharge near the nose, and the mouth and anal area should be clean.

TIP: Small children might show their love by squeezing the mouse too tightly. Only allow children who know how to handle mice to play with them

Learning to trust

Mice will generally only bite when they are scared or hurt, and you can teach your pet mouse to be hand-tamed. Follow these steps:

  1. First allow your mouse about a week to adjust to his new living conditions and family.
  2. Then start by placing your hand inside the cage with a treat on it, and letting your mouse approach on his own.
  3. Be gentle and softly talk to him. He might not take the food right from the start.
  4. When he does start coming to you, you can start holding the treat just outside the cage to encourage him to come out to get it.
  5. When letting your mouse out of his cage for the first time, sit on the floor with your mouse in your lap and he will naturally want to explore the surrounding area.
  6. As he gets braver he will wander further from you, but if something startles him, he will come running back to the safety of your lap. It’s a good idea to confine his play area to a bed, couch or chair. Mice should not be allowed on the floor as they become too easily frightened and will try to run to a safe hiding place.

 

Mastering mice – 4 handy tips

  1. Avoid wire exercise wheels when choosing your mice’s exercise equipment. Get a solid plastic wheel to avoid the mice getting their feet and tails caught between the wires. The wheel also needs to be nice and big so that the mice needn’t bend their backs while running.
  2. Help your new mice to get used to you by keeping the cage at eye level and talking to them when you approach the cage.
  3. Mice who are properly cared for will have a lifespan of between one and three years.
  4. Never pick your mouse up by his tail. It might not look like it, but this hurts him!

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