Mice are very popular pets and can become very tame. They don’t live long, but can still give a lot of pleasure to their owner. Keeping more than one mouse is a little risky as they are not always correctly sexed by pet shops and you may end up with rather more mice than you can handle – most people have a limited number of friends who will take pet mice off their hands! A single male or a group of three females are the best choices, as long as you are sure of the sex.
Housing your mouse
Choosing a tank as opposed to a cage may seem a good idea, as tanks are undoubtedly easier to clean, but the ventilation issues of a closed in tank are likely to lead to all kinds of problems with bedding. If the bedding is damp and musty with fungus spores being shed every time the mouse burrows, you are almost certain to end up with a rather sickly mouse. Mice are quite prone to respiratory problems and bedding allergies are a common cause. Mice sneezes are quite cute and make up a large number of UTube videos, but they can herald the onset of a very nasty infection which will result, at the very least, to a visit to the vet and in the worst case the death of the mouse. Bedding should be chosen very carefully even if the mouse is kept in a wire cage – cedar bedding is very bad for small animals and bedding with added scent is also not recommended. A mouse does have a natural odour, but by keeping it clean this can be minimised. Scented bedding is not a natural substrate for a small animal with delicate lungs.
Feeding your mouse
Mice don’t eat cheese – that is the first rule of mouse nutrition! They are opportunistic omnivores in the wild. In other words, they eat pretty much everything they can get, so a mixed diet is essential for their wellbeing. Before putting food into your mouse’s cage, just look at it for a moment and try and picture the size of its stomach. From that it should be obvious that it won’t eat a piece of carrot three times the animal’s size, so make sure that portions are in-keeping. True, a mouse does eat a lot, but if one huge piece of one type of food is given, the animal will almost certainly end up with diarrhoea, which can quickly be fatal due to its dehydrating effect. Not everyone thinks of this, but mice do like meat, although in reasonably small amounts. If you have a dog, this is easy, as a tiny spoonful of dog food once a week will be a real treat for your mouse.
To keep the cage clean, though, make sure you remove any leftovers shortly after your mouse has finished eating or it will smell and attract flies. They also like rice and pasta (with no sauce, naturally!) and if you give vegetables, choose dark green ones, such as kale and broccoli as they have more vitamins in per bite. But always watch for diarrhoea and if it occurs cut out the vegetables immediately and give a little arrowroot in water. If the diarrhoea is accompanied by respiratory problems, consult the vet at once.
Friendly mice are easier to keep healthy
Mice are easy to tame and will happily play on your lap or in your hands for ages. They are very inquisitive, so be careful when you are handling them to keep an eye on them or they will be off on errands of their own and you won’t be able to find them easily. Also, if you do own a dog or cat, make sure that they are not in the room when the mice are out. Mice are not the only opportunistic feeders in the pet world! Some dogs and cats are happy to bond with a mouse, but one snap of a pair of large jaws can happen only too easily and the mouse will not come out of the encounter as the winner. Handling your mouse is not only fun, but also will give you an excellent opportunity to check its health. You can make sure that its coat and skin are in good condition and also that it does not have a runny nose or eyes. Have a look at its teeth to make sure they are not getting too long and that they are growing straight.
Offering a treat will make this easier, but make sure that it is a treat from its allowance, as mice can put on weight quite easily and this can bring on other health problems, so is something to avoid. Like most animals, mice can get depressed if they are ill and so if a usually playful and friendly mouse is not interested in you or its toys this may be the first sign of illness. Don’t rush it to the vet the first time it is quiet, but watch to see if it is a one-off or a trend. You can use the time the mouse is out of the cage to clean the habitat and check there is no mouldy food around which may cause problems. By making sure that your mouse is happy, you will be going a long way to making sure it is healthy too.