When you think of a traditional small pet, you might think of a rabbit or guinea pig. Though often overlooked, the mouse can also make an excellent pet. Particularly for children as they rarely bite, are inexpensive to keep, do not require a lot of space and can be easily handled and cared for.
Mice belong to the family Rodentia, which means ‘to gnaw’. The Swiss albino mouse is the most popular pet mouse but through breeding and selection, various colours, coat varieties and exotic species are becoming more common.
The male mouse is usually much larger than the female mouse. An adult mouse typically weighs about 30 grams. Their eyes bulge due to the presence of the harderian gland behind each eye. This gland helps lubricate the eye and is thought to play a role in pheromone related behaviour.
To pick up a mouse, gently lift him up by the base of the tail and place the mouse in a cupped hand. Be gentle.
Mice are timid, social and territorial animals. They are not strictly nocturnal, which means they are active throughout the day and night.
Mice gnaw on everything and are exceptional escape artists, so consider hard plastic or glass enclosures. The enclosure should be well ventilated, easy to clean and well-lit (although not in direct sunlight). Provide appropriate bedding material such as recycled paper in pellet or chuck form so it is non toxic, or sawdust. A small nesting box is also desirable, as it will act as a retreat and make your pet more comfortable. A drip feeder or small water dish should also be installed. Finally, you will need to give your mice something to keep their mind and body active such as an exercise wheel and ladders to climb on.
Purchasing a mouse
Mice do not enjoy living alone, so plan to buy two. It is thought by some that the female, makes a better pet than the male, due to their strong odour and tendency to fight if housed with other males. Two of the same sex mice are better than one of each due to their prolific breeding abilities.
When purchasing a mouse, make sure the cage in which it has been kept is clean, that the their coat is glossy, the eyes are bright and the teeth and ears are clean.