By Emma Purnell, RVN Cert.Nut
Fancy Mice are fascinating pets to own, both active and fun to watch, but have specific care requirements.
Fancy mice generally live up to 3 years which is a fairly short life span but still a significant commitment. They are very social animals and must live in same sex groups or mixed groups with neutered males. They are generally active morning and evening as well as overnight, meaning they are not ideal as children’s pets. They can be handled and if handled from a young age can be very settled however, they can nip when nervous and are very fast so again they are not ideal as pets for young children.
Diet is vital to keep mice fit and healthy. They must have clean, fresh water at all times. They are omnivorous so eat both plant and animal-based materials. Complete diets are available for mice and this can ensure they achieve the correct levels of vitamin A, magnesium and choline which they must have in their diet. They will eat seeds as well as fresh fruit and vegetables occasionally, but also mealworms and similar. These should be given as part of their diet and not extras to ensure they do not become overweight! Always check new foods before feeding as things such as grapes, walnuts and lettuce can be toxic or cause stomach upsets. Rather than having a bowl, scatter feeding is advised. Spreading the food around the cage allows for more normal foraging behaviours and works as enrichment for them.
Housing your mouse
One of the key things to consider when buying housing for mice is that they find it very easy to escape from normal cage bar widths! Narrow bar spacing is needed, around 0.5cm- 0.7cm is usually recommended. The top of the cage being metal bars allows them to climb which is normal for them. The base of the cage should be solid and easy to clean and disinfect (wood is not advised for this reason). They are sometimes housed in glass sided tanks, but it is very difficult to ensure proper ventilation in these cases, so it is not advised. While mice are small, they are very active animals who roam a large area in the wild so larger than expected cage sizes are recommended. For 2 mice, a 60cm x 50cm cage size is advised with 30cm height but the bigger the better! Mice don’t really toilet train but will have specific areas they toilet in more often, spot cleaning is possible but full cleanouts regularly will be needed. Mice are brilliant nest builders and providing them with suitable materials for building their nests is vital. They use it for temperature regulation, even if conditions are ideal. Hammocks and hanging beds can be popular to nest but also allows them to use their climbing skills. Nesting materials should be provided for them, this can include specially made shredded paper beddings and hay. A mix of different types to allow them to choose works well. Cotton wool and similar products are not advised as they can make mice seriously unwell if eaten and can also wrap around limbs and cut off circulation.
Enrichment is absolutely vital for mice, they love to be active, climb, investigate and chew! Enrichment can be as simple as a toilet roll tube, a branch or a piece of rope, anything to allow them to climb, nest, chew and be active. They will chew any enrichment added so always ensure branches or similar are free from pesticides or toxins in preservatives as well as a safe wood for them to ingest.
Handling mice will depend very much on how much time you put into getting them used to you. Rubbing your hands in the material used to line the cage, putting food onto your palm and allowing them to use your hand as a shelf will allow them to build a trust with you. Picking them up should be done gently around their body or allowing them to climb onto your hand, they should never be picked up by their tail as this can cause major damage and be very painful. Mice will bite if they feel threatened picking them up should always be done by and adult and they are very fast so lots of care should be taken!
Mice can suffer with some health issues that must be monitored for. Respiratory issues can be seen, and any wheezing or discharge should mean a vet visit. They can also be prone to getting lumps, get these checked by a veterinary surgeon as soon as possible as they can grow rapidly and ulcerate meaning they are potentially very painful. Overall mice are very entertaining pets and can provide hours of entertainment but need a lot of mental stimulation and enrichment in order to be healthy and happy.
About the author
Emma qualified as a Veterinary Nurse in 2008 and works for Nutravet (UK) Ltd. She has a BSc in Zoology with Animal Ecology and an MSc in Ecology, helping to fuel her interest in more exotic species. She has a particular love of small furries and has a grade A distinction in Canine and Feline Clinical Nutrition (CertNut).