How to Take Care of Pet Mice

There are lots of things you need to know before making a decision that you want a pet rat or mouse, one of which being that they should not be kept alone!

This article will help teach you some of the aspects of care for pet mice and rats.


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    Know that rats and mice are different and think about what you want from a pet.
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    Rats: rats grow much bigger than mice and so will need a much larger cage - to know how big try the rat cage calculator given under sources. Female rats are much livelier than males, male rats tend to be better to just hold and sit on your shoulder. Being bigger, they are more intelligent than mice and tend to bond better with their owners. In general, they smell more than female mice. The male rats are also more allergenic than the female rats.
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    Mice: Male mice are difficult to keep together in groups without fighting. A trio of female mice is best, so if one dies unexpectedly you are not left with a lonely mouse. You can also get a male mouse neutered so he can live with a harem - but you must wait 6 weeks after the operation to avoid pregnancy risks. Male mice smell more than rats. Female mice love climbing so it is important that they have a tall wired cage. For male mice, floorspace is more important. A single male mouse will bond with an owner as well as a rat, though he may be less likely to learn commands.
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    Both rats and mice: should be kept in a wired cage. They must not be kept in tanks, or modular systems due to the serious health and enrichment issues. Mice must be in a cage with bar spacing of 1 centimeter (0.4 in) or less to avoid escapees. Both rats and mice need essential enrichment such as a solid based wheel - large and medium sized respectively, and plenty of hammocks, ropes and chew toys. They both need multiple nests and hideouts and would benefit from a layer of hay to chew to aid their digestion. They should be handled frequently and have fresh fruit and veg on a regular basis.
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    Buy a large enough cage for your mouse or rats. See the rat cage calculator under sources, for mice a good guide is simply to double the numbers given and remember bar spacing must be 1 centimeter (0.4 in) or under.
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    Stock up on a safe substrate. Nothing pine or cedar based and no sawdust. Something like Megazorb, Finacard, Bedexcel or Carefresh is ideal. You can also shred old newspapers for bedding.
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    Consider getting rescue rodents. Rescues often get them as pups due to unexpected litters from pet shops mis-sexing. You also don't run the risk that you do with pet shops that you might be supporting rodent farms. Rescue or ethical breeders give much better support and advice than pet shops. See under sources for a list of UK rescues that take rodents.
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    Give healthy treats for your mouse or rat. Always check a food is safe first before offering it.
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    Make sure your pet has plenty of toys and nests. Rats and mice are very intelligent and can suffer greatly from boredom. It's a good idea to rotate the toys used and give new layouts every clean out.
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    Be prepared to take your pet to the vet if it needs it. If you cannot afford the veterinary care then you should not get any pet. Female mice and rats are sadly prone to cancerous tumours, which in rats can be removed with an easy but costly operation. Any change in behaviour or coat condition should be checked out. Is is rare that you need to isolate an ill mouse or rat - they gain a lot of comfort from their companions whilst ill.
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    Rats need to be out of their cage (under observation) at least an hour per day. Some sites will tell you that the cage isn't the rats home, no, it's just a place where they are when you can't have them out of the cage.


  • Remember that they need a lot of space and toys. They are very intelligent and inquisitive.
  • You will also need plenty of chew toys, ropes hammocks and a wheel. Sisal rope is a cheap good climbing material for mice.
  • Try boiled or scrambled egg,nuts, oatmeal, plain cereal, cooked couscous, peas, sweetcorn and similar. Do not give seasoned meats, only un-seasoned meats like boiled chicken. Always check a food first before trying and NEVER give junk food or drink.
  • Remember that they must have same-sex company - with the exception of male mice. Both rats and mice can and will get depressed if left alone.
  • Find some good foods.


  • Rats should always live in pairs (or more), unless your rat absolutely not can live with other rats. In regular cases, your rat will be unhappy if it lives alone.
  • Don't over-feed them!

Things You'll Need

  • Toys
  • Water
  • Food
  • Safe substrate
  • A large enough cage with levels
  • Rope for them to climb
  • Solid-based wheel of medium or large size
  • A run-about-ball
  • Healthy treats
  • Plenty of nests and places to hide
  • Hammocks
  • A layer of hay
  • Safe bedding
  • Lots of love and attention
  • Companion animals of the same sex (Unless male mice, only have one)

Sources and Citations

Article Info

Categories: Mice and Rats