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How to Take Care of Mice

Mice are great pets for people of all ages and, though high maintenance, are fun to watch and play with. They're friendlier than other small pets and are very clean. Read more about taking care of your new mouse friends below.


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    Get prepared. Before you bring your new pet home, it is important to get all the supplies you will need. Set up your cage and fill up the food/water bottle. When your new mice come home, they will need some time to adjust; being prepared beforehand makes the transition less stressful for you and the mouse.
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    Consider rescue. Purchasing from some of the larger pet shops means you run the risk of supporting rodent farms. Rescues often take in rodents and frequently have litters due to pet shops breeding their animals incorrectly. In addition, a rescue rodent is likely to be better handled and have more support offered than a pet shop. If you cannot find any rescues near you, try contacting a breeder (yes, people do breed mice just as you would breed cats or dogs) – some of these take in rescues as well.
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    Get informed. Before you purchase a mouse, you should do some research into their care. Pet stores and personal websites are notorious for giving misinformation. The best resources for mouse care are the websites of responsible breeders. You can also try joining a pet forum, some of which are dedicated exclusively to mice. Some of these sites are listed under Sources and Citations below.
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    Find a vet who works with pocket pets/exotic pets. Vet care is a necessity for any pet. Mice feel pain and suffer just as much as other, larger animals. Mice that are bred haphazardly, shipped out to pet stores, and then cramped together into tiny bins awaiting purchase are more prone to suffering from diseases and illness. If you cannot afford the vet bills and medicine to treat these illnesses, it is advised that you do not purchase a mouse until the resources are available to you.
    • Ask your vet questions. Be sure to choose a vet that is available for emergency care. (Or, look for an emergency pet clinic that treats small animals.) Because mice are so small, a simple illness can turn bad quickly. It is important that you can get them immediate care whenever necessary. Be sure to ask your vet if they have the equipment available to perform surgery on pocket-sized animals. If the answer is no, then keep looking for a vet that does.
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    Decide if you want a single male or a trio of females. These are the best ratios, as female mice must be kept with friends and are easier to keep than males. Be sure that the choice you make fits with your life style. If you cannot devote time to your pets every day, you should not purchase a male.
    • Do you want a male? Male mice have certain characteristics that make them the perfect pet for some people. First, male mice must be kept alone. Some people have reported success with keeping two or more males together if the mice were introduced young (under 4 weeks of age). However, the risk of fighting is very strong with males. Because of this, it is advised never to keep males together. If you choose to bring a male into your home, you will be his safest source of companionship.
    • Do you want females? Unlike males, females must be kept in groups. A trio of three females is best. That way, if one passes away, the others will still have a companion. It has been reported by many people that females become lethargic, waste away, and could potentially die without a companion. Therefore, if you would like to keep more than one mouse, it is recommended that you choose females.
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    Do not combine males and females. It is never safe to place a male and female together, even temporarily. Breeding might occur fast with mice and it is almost impossible to avoid pregnancy. Pregnancy is hard on any animal, including mice. Mice purchased from pet stores should never be bred purposefully unless you are willing to accept responsibility for the resulting pups. If you want to breed, contact a responsible breeder and discuss with them some of you options. Some things to keep in mind if you choose to breed pet store mice:
    • Many pet stores purchase their mice from animal breeding farms. These suppliers usually pay no attention to health or temperament when breeding. Because of this mice, purchased from pet stores often carry defective or dangerous genes for tumors and other debilitating diseases. Often times, the effects of these bad genes are not seen until after the mouse is past breeding age. Because you do not know the health lineage of mice you purchase from pet stores, you risk passing on these defective genes to their pups.
    • Mice can have litters of 15 or more pups. Do you have a safe and suitable home for all the resulting babies if your mouse has one of these large litters? If you choose to ship the babies to a pet store, they could potentially be sold to snake owners and used as feeders.
    • Mice can have litters of all males. Although uncommon it certainly happens. If you choose to breed your mice, do you have the space and money to house 10 or more males each in separate cages?
    • Pregnancy and birth might be fatal to the mother depending what she has done all over her lifespan. Are you willing to sacrifice the health and life of the mother? Do you have an emergency vet that can deliver the babies by c-section if this becomes necessary? If you are breeding so your children can understand pregnancy, are you willing to explain to them why the mother died?
    • Mother’s can and will cull their own litters. First time mothers, especially pet store mothers, are very prone to killing one or more of their pups. Are you able to deal with the heartbreak if this occurs?
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    Choose a type of cage. The best cages for mice are wired cages with bar-spacing of less than 1cm. Wire cages allow far more opportunities for enrichment and do not have the serious ventilation problems that a tank does. If you must have a tank, then you need to make a secure mesh lid to increase air circulation for your pet.
    • Be careful about bar spacing when using barred cages. The bar spacing must be under 1cm or your mouse will escape. If your mouse is under 5 weeks it may need to put into a tank as a temporary measure until it has grown too big to escape. Mice are amazing escape artists. Remember, if a mouse can fit its head between the bars, then it can fit its body as well. Also, you can buy wire mesh and wrap it around the cage. Replace it immediately when you see a piece bitten in half.
    • Tanks are quite easy to clean and sanitize but make taming your mouse much harder. Any cage where you must approach from above makes your mouse think you are a predator.
    • Modular systems such as Rotastak and Habitrail are not suitable for mice. As well as being far too small unless you spend a great deal of money and connect dozens of the units together they have a host of serious health and enrichment issues.[1]
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    Choose the right size of cage. Floor space matters more than head room when purchasing a cage. The Fun Mouse Website listed in the citations provides a cage size calculator if you have any doubts about the cage you have chosen. You can also double the numbers given on the fancy rat calculator, which has some cage presets setup for you.
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    Give them something to walk on. Bedding is a must. Never use pine or cedar, as these woods can harm a mouse's respiratory system and make it hard for them to breathe. Also avoid sawdust, sand, or anything that could be easily inhaled into your pets’ lungs. Bedding should be spread 2-3 inches deep on the bottom of the tank. Suitable bedding includes:
    • Aspen: be sure to inspect it and make sure that it contains no dust.
    • Carefresh: If you choose to use Carefresh bedding, you should purchase the white type. The colored and gray Carefresh tends to be too dusty for mice and can cause URIs (upper respiratory infections).
    • Shredded paper: Plain white printer paper that has been run through the shredder makes wonderful bedding. Be sure there is no ink on the paper as this can be fatal if ingested.
    • Megazorb: This is a cheaper and finer-grained version of Carefresh.
    • Ecopetbed, BedExcel and Finacard: these cardboard based beddings are fine, but not suitable for burrowing.
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    Give them something to nest in. Always provide your mice with a soft material that they can shred to build up their nest. Suitable materials include tissue paper (never use anything with added lotion), toilet paper, paper towels, and shredded fleece. Stay away from any commercially sold nesting products (such as hamster fluff); not only are these more expensive than the cheap alternatives above, but they also contain fibers that can be fatal if ingested into your mouse’s system. The most entertaining bedding for a mouse is to buy it cotton pods, which they can then break open and distribute however they like. The husks are also fun for them to chew.
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    Avoid introducing parasites and other nasties. Bedding should be either frozen or baked before use. This eliminates any parasites. Freeze bedding at 0* F for 24-28 hours (this is the safest method). Or bake it at 140* F for 30 minutes (do not allow the bedding to come into contact with any sort of open flame, as it will catch fire). Toys should also be cleaned thoroughly before introduction to the tank. These can be frozen just as the bedding, or cleaned with vinegar and washed thoroughly with fresh water.
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    Buy a water bottle and fill it often. It's best to use more than one water bottle attached to the side of the cage in case one bottle stops working, as mice can dehydrate extremely quickly. Tap water or spring water can be used safely with your mice. The water bottle should be washed with warm, soapy water each night and refilled daily with cold water.
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    Purchase food. Food should be available to mice at all times. Always provide fresh food daily, as their metabolisms are very high. Pre-made mixes designed for mice and rats contain too much protein for most pet shop mice. A safer option is a pre-made hamster mix. When purchasing food, look for 13% protein or less. Also, avoid mixes that contain a high number of sunflower seeds. These are very fattening and are often used as fillers in cheap food mixes.
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    Purchase snacks/supplements. Mouse snacks can be a variety of things. Only give treats in moderation (one or two treats from the list below throughout the week) and introduce new treats slowly. Watch for signs of diarrhea, as this can quickly dehydrate and kill your mouse (this is usually seen when introducing vegetables). Suitable treats include:
    • 1 tablespoon scrambled eggs
    • 1 tablespoon cooked rice
    • Veggies (dark greens are better due to lower water content)
    • 1 tablespoon chopped carrots
    • 1 teaspoon High quality dog food (once or twice a week)
    • ½ Milk-Bone brand puppy biscuit (once or twice a week)
    • Cooked pasta without sauce (once or twice a week)
    • Cheerios (no more than five a day)
    • Cheerios with a touch of peanut butter (once or twice a week)
    • Freeze dried or live meal worms (once every two weeks)
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    Purchase or make toys. Mice are very curious creatures and require a lot of stimulation to be happy. Buy or create a diverse set of toys before you purchase your mouse. That way, you can alternate the toys when you clean their cage. Remember that you must work much harder to enrich a tank than a barred cage and that your mice need plenty of hiding spaces. The more enriching toys you have available, the happier your mice will be.
    • Often times the best mouse toys are not found in a pet store at all. Small wire baskets meant for organization make great climbing toys (these can be found in the home office section, bathroom section, and home organization section or most major department stores). Stringing a hemp rope from one corner of the tank lid to another adds excitement to your pet’s home. Be creative with your toy making endeavors.
    • A safe alternative to purchasing toys is to build your own out of popsicle sticks (new and unused purchased from any craft store). Be sure to use non-toxic Elmers glue or non-toxic hot glue and let your imagination run wild.
    • Other free/cheap (and safe) toys include empty toilet paper rolls and unused egg cartons (not the Styrofoam ones). Cardboard boxes can also be safely used. Clay pots or teacups turn on their side. Wood, when harvested from areas free of pesticide, can be baked in the oven and then introduced to the enclosure. Jars and bottles of all kinds can become favorite hideouts. Placing an unused tissue box in the tank and removing the plastic from the top provides both nesting material, a nesting box, and hours of entertainment as your mice shred the box and tissues inside. If you are using a wire cage, you can use aluminum or stainless steel shower clips, or nuts, washers, and bolts, to hold items to the cage bars.
    • If you choose to make fabric toys, be sure to only use polar fleece. This is the only safe material to use with mice. Cotton and other fabrics have strings that can strangle/catch on the mouse, not to mention pose a choking hazard if swallowed.
    • Be sure to use hemp or sisal for any string or rope you use inside the cage.
    • Never use any type of adhesive tape in your mouse tank. The chemicals in the adhesive are toxic if your mouse chews and digests them.
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    Buy or create a nesting box. You mice should have a covered area available to them at all times. This provides a safe comfortable area for your pet to build a nest. Most mice do not like to sleep out in the open. Igloo hideaways or other commercially purchased nest boxes work well. You can also use items from around your home such as empty tissue boxes or cereal boxes to create your own.
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    Clean the cage. Contrary to popular belief, mice are very clean animals. As their owner, you can keep them happy by completely cleaning their home once a week and spot cleaning at mid week. While you clean, you should have a temporary cage available for your mice. Cleaning is also an opportune time to bond with your mice and give them some exercise. To clean the cage:
    • Remove the toys, food dish, water bottle, nesting box, and anything else from the tank. Soak all plastic or ceramic materials in warm soapy water and rinse thoroughly with fresh water.
    • Empty all the bedding.
    • Sanitize the inside of the cage with diluted vinegar (1 cup vinegar : ½ water). This helps with odor removal. Be sure to wash all traces of vinegar from the tank before refilling.
    • Refill the cage base with two to three inches of fresh bedding.
    • Replace the food dish, water bottle, nesting box, and toys. You should change the toys at every cleaning in order to provide stimulation for your pets.
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    Watch out for odor build-up. Male mice tend to have a stronger odor than females. Although it is present, if cared for appropriately, the smell should never become overwhelming or bothersome. The best way to combat this is to leave one item in the cage uncleaned when you change the bedding. This item has already been marked and its presence will make the male less likely to mark again. Be sure to rotate the item that you don’t clean each time to prevent anything from becoming filthy.
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    Provide exercise. Have a wheel available to your mice at all times. Never use a wheel with metal bars on the runner. Mice can have tails cut off or kinked by spokes. Wheels should have solid surfaces for the mouse to run on. Make sure the wheel is big enough so that the mice don't arch their back while running, this can cause permanent damage to the animal. The medium-sized silent spinner is a good choice. For your comfort, try to pick one that is not very loud. Safe brands of wheels that you should be able to find at your local pet store include:
    • Silent Spinners: Not only are these wheels safe, they also add a decorative touch to your pets home. They can either be attached to the side of a cage or placed freestanding. You must purchase the regular sized wheel (6.5’’), as it eliminates the possibility of back arch. The mini-size will only work while your mouse is very young.
    • Comfort Wheels: Although they are not as attractive as the silent spinners, these wheels are extremely safe. They come in a variety of colors so choose one which suits your taste. Once again, you should purchase the regular size.
    • Saucer Wheels: These are by far the safest wheel available for your pet. They completely eliminate the dangers or back arch and provide a more natural running position for your mouse. Although these wheels tend to take up more room, they are highly recommended.
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    Give your mice time to adjust. When you bring your new pet home, it is advised to give them three to four days in their cage alone to adjust to the new surroundings. When the mice begin to display normal activity (running on the wheel, eating, drinking, playing, grooming), it is safe to begin hand taming. No matter how tempted you are to hold and play with your new pet, this alone time is necessary to build a trusting bond with the mouse.
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    Start off on the right foot. After a few days you may begin bonding with your mouse. The first step is to create trust. From the mouse’s perspective, you are a very large and unfamiliar predator. It is important to be patient and calm when training your mouse. The best way to start is to place your hand in the cage and remain motionless. Mice are naturally inquisitive and may come up to sniff your hand. Do not move. This lets the mice know that you will not hurt them.
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    Set a schedule. Mice respond very well to schedules, and using one makes training much easier. For the first couple of weeks, it is best to choose two or three times throughout the day that you will be available. Write them down and hang them near the cage. Then work with your mice at these times every day. The more time you devote to your mice in the first couple of weeks, the quicker they will feel comfortable with you as their owner.
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    Create a healthy and positive relationship. Once the mouse is familiar with your scent (this may take a day or a week depending on if they were purchased from a pet shop or a breeder), they will become braver. At this point a mouse may climb onto your hand. You may lift your hand up just a little. If the mouse seems frightened, return it to the ground. As you continue training, the mice will become more and more comfortable with you. Once it allows you to lift it off the ground, you can move it to your lap.
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    Be patient. Do not expect the mouse to feel comfortable with you the first day you begin training. Be patient and your mouse will learn you are safe and will not hurt them. Once this bond has been made, you can expect a long and happy relationship with your pet mouse.


  • While handling your mice, they may softly pur. This is called bruxing and usually happens in rats, but is sometimes a behavior in mice. This means they like you.
  • Mice are lactose intolerant so don't give your mouse any dairy products they will Get very ill.
  • Mice love peanut butter but it is very fattening so give it weekly not daily.
  • Make sure your mouse has some things to do in it cage like a wheel to run in or some tubes.
  • A great way to hand-tame your mice is to place them in the bathtub (closed drain with a towel along the ground) and allow them to crawl over your hands. If you choose to use this method, place an empty toilet paper roll in the cage and allow the mice to crawl in. Then, covering both sides so there are no accidents, lift the mouse out and place the roll in the tub. Remove the roll when the mice have left. Then sit next to the tub and place your hands palms up on the towel. Follow the same procedure used above with cage taming.
  • Make sure you don't scare your mouse in case it runs away. Mice are very small and could easily get lost.
  • Purchasing a mouse from a pet shop is often the quickest way to bring a new pet into your home. However, pet shop mice are often bred in rodent mills with little to no attention paid to health, temperament, or genetics. Because of this, pet-shop mice are more prone to illnesses, infections, and misbehavior. If you choose to purchase a mouse from a pet shop, be aware that it may take weeks or even months for the mouse to feel safe and secure with you as its owner. These mice have often been mistreated before coming into your care, and because of this have learned to distrust humans. It is possible to teach these little creatures trust but you will need patience and determination.
  • Remember that mice get scared a lot and sometimes they don't like to be picked up a lot or at all.
  • If your mouse is not acting normal you may want to contact a vet. Also give your pet monthly check ups to make sure your pet is in best health.
  • Look into getting your lone male mouse neutered by a trustworthy vet, after which he can be introduced safely to a group of females. Some people argue that this is a better option, as a human cannot compensate fully for the company of his own kind. You must wait 6 weeks after neutering before introducing to any females, to avoid the risk of pregnancy.
  • Be patient when training or you may loose your temper.
  • A high protein snack you can offer your mice is freeze dried meal worms (or live if you are not squeamish). These can be purchased at most local pet stores often with the fish or reptiles. Mice are omnivores not vegetarians. They need protein in their diet and meat is a quick way to provide this. If you choose to not use meal worms then high quality dog food or freeze dried turkey or chicken can be given as a treat and supplement.
  • The best resource for purchasing a pet is a reputable breeder. Search online for a breeder near your home or one who is willing to ship their mice. Purchasing a mouse from a responsible breeder usually means the pet you bring home will be healthy, calm, and trusting. However, you should expect to wait for a mouse purchased from a breeder. Responsible breeders do not breed mice to create more mice. Their goal is to create healthy mice with great temperaments and ideal markings. Because of this, some breeders will only breed two to three litters a year, and they will only adopt their mice out to responsible owner whom they trust. If you are willing to wait, breeders are the best option for purchasing a mouse.
  • Mesh wheels are preferred by many mouse owners because when a mouse is running, they are less likely to be hurt by flying out of the wheel at a high speed. The mouse grips the mesh and holds on until the wheel stops spinning.


  • Pet stores and personal websites are notorious for giving false information. Check any and all information you find. The best sites for information are those created by responsible breeders. These individuals have the most personal experience with mice and truly care about the care of mice.
  • If you're sick with a cold or flu, never handle your mice, as they can catch your cold/flu. The illness can be fatal if left alone. If you notice wheezing, sneezing, runny eyes, or sniffling, take them promptly to the vet.
  • Never use the fluff "bedding" sold at pet shops for nesting material. This is very dangerous to mice or any other small animal. It's best to provide your mice with toilet paper, newspaper(black and white print), and paper towels and allow them to build their own nest.
  • Never pick up a mouse by the tip or middle of its tail. This is painful for them. It is best to allow a mouse to climb onto your hand before picking them up. If the mouse is not yet hand tame, you can use an empty toilet paper tube to pick them up and then carefully lift this up whilst blocking both ends. But if it's needed, pick them up by the base of their tail, and then support their body with your other hand.

Things You'll Need

  • Aspen bedding (or other, safe bedding)
  • Cage, ideally barred with bar spacing of less than 1cm
  • Secure meshed lid if using a tank.
  • Water
  • Water bottle
  • Food bowl
  • Toys (purchased or free)
  • Three female mice, or one solitary male
  • Food (hamster formula, veggies, and fruits)

Sources and Citations

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Article Info

Categories: Mice and Rats