SPCA New Zealand
Advice & welfare

Caring for mice

Did you know that mice have been part of human environments for around 10,000 years?

Even though they may be feared by some and are often overlooked as pets, these wonderful creatures can make for lovely companions and prove that it’s not just cats and dogs that can make great domesticated additions to the family.

Mice originate from the grain producing areas of North East Asia, but nowadays are common worldwide. With our lifestyles becoming increasingly active and more people moving to urban areas, mice are becoming a popular choice for pets as smaller companions with less space needed to house them. Read on to discover what mice need to live happy and healthy lives!

Forever Friends

Mice are extremely smart and sociable animals and it is important that they are in the company of those of their own kind, otherwise they are at risk of being lonely and becoming depressed. It’s ideal if they are housed together from a young age and either all males or all females are kept together (siblings tend to get on best and (all female groups tend to get on better than all male groups); this will help to avoid fighting and imbalance in social groups. Mice can even communicate via facial expressions!

Mice are incredibly clean, tidy and organised, and usually keep their home in a relatively good condition. Mice grow on average about 6-8cm long and their life span is about 2-3 years.

A perfect house for a little mouse

Although small beings, the more space you can provide for your mice, the happier they will be. You may be interested to know that mice are nocturnal animals, which means that they are most active during the night.

When deciding on an area to set up your enclosure, be sure to take into consideration a few factors. Will the enclosure be away from any strong heat sources such as the sun or ovens? Mice cannot sweat when they become too warm (just like a dog!) and are particularly susceptible to heat stroke. They also shouldn’t be kept anywhere too cold or breezy.

A quiet, undisturbed area away from the main activity of the home will suit them best. Bear in mind that bright light isn’t pleasant for them as they do best in darker conditions.

Once you’ve found the perfect spot in your home, the setting up of their enclosure should be relatively uncomplicated.

The biggest factor to remember when building or purchasing their home is to make sure that all surfaces within are solid and flat.

While it might seem like a good idea to have wire floors so that your mice’s waste falls through, serious damage can occur to a mouse’s feet if they have to stand on wire all of the time. Having their feet constantly pressed against wire can cause a painful condition called ‘bumblefoot’ where your mouse’s feet swell and become inflamed and infected.

Some people chose to have roomy glass enclosures, others plastic with metal wire lids. Whichever you decide, just ensure that it is also easy to clean and is secure – mice are fantastic escape artists, it is imperative that any doors can’t be pushed open and bars chewed to make room for a quick getaway. Remember that mice are very smart, so if you can easily push through part of the enclosure, it might not take an intelligent and energetic mouse very long to figure a way out!

Interior design

Sturdy plastic enclosures serve as great choices as they can be cleaned well without worrying about cracking or rusting. Once you have your house ready, start by lining the interior of the cage with materials such as sawdust, peat or wood chippings – any of these will make for a comfortable ‘carpet’ for your rodent friends.

You will need to provide them with ‘nesting’ materials they can use as their bedding, such as shredded paper or unperfumed tissues, and materials they can hide in, such as igloos or cardboard boxes. Just like us, they like to have a comfy and cosy spot to catch 40 winks!

It is also important to maintain a balance between keeping the mouse enclosure clean while avoiding excessive disturbance and stress from over cleaning – once a week should be enough to keep it tidy without disturbing their routine too much.

Mice are amazing gymnasts and are excellent at jumping, running and climbing. Add levels and exciting things to climb and explore to their enclosure, so they can scurry around and have fun to their hearts’ content. This may include ramps, platforms, boxes to climbs, and rope ladders. You can pick these up at pet stores or get creative and make your own.

Now it’s time for fun!

Providing your mice with something to do and see is extremely important, just as it is for any other animal.

Mice are smart and curious; they love to investigate, forage and climb their enclosures. There are many ways, most very inexpensive, in which you can dress up their accommodation so it is a mouse paradise and enables them to stay entertained and stimulated.

Some of the types of toys that are great for mice are:

  • Climbing toys such a ladders, ropes, branches or tubes.
  • Chew toys made from safe ingredients such as Nyla bones, non-treated wood and cardboard tubes.
  • Soft paper or tissues, mice love to shred!
  • Toys they can push or carry such as plastic balls with bells in, just make sure they aren’t small enough for the mouse to swallow.
  • Toys that encourage natural foraging for food such as cardboard tubes or origami tubes.

A mice-tastic meal

Food glorious good. Mice are omnivores, and will pretty much eat anything they can get their mitts on – even if it is bad for them.

There are varying options of food types to make up their diet. You may commonly see pellets and lab blocks on the market. These provide your mouse with a complete balanced diet but can get pretty boring for them – just like if we were to have the same meal every day. Mice need food available all of the time. If you chose to feed them lab blocks or pellets (these should have a protein content of at least 16% & fat content of 4-5%) these should be only a portion of their diet, it is vital that they always have healthy fresh fruits and vegetables to forage for, such as apples, pears, banana, melons, stone fruits, citrus fruits, broccoli, cabbage, Brussel sprouts, endive, carrots, Bok Choy/other Asian greens, celery, parsley, berries, tomato, fresh corn, beans, peas.

Hiding these in places away from where their usual food is makes for a fun game of hide and seek and will keep your rodent friends entertained for much longer.

Each mouse is different, so as long as they are getting all the nutrients they need and still able to have fun foraging for food, they will stay happy and healthy. Don’t forget they need access to plenty or water too, a dripper-type bottle attached to the side of their cage with regularly replaced fresh water works well; these are less likely to become soiled than water bowls and can be filled up without having to open the mouse house and disturb the mice.

Mice make wonderful additions to the family, and all have their own unique personalities. They will make you wonder why you have never considered them as a companion before.

Fun Facts

  • A mouse’s tail can grow to be almost as long as their bodies.
  • Mice love to keep their home organised. They have specific areas for storing food, going to the toilet and for shelter.
  • Mice use their whiskers to sense changes in temperature and to help feel the surface they are walking along.
  • A mouse eats 15 – 20 times a day. Therefore, they usually build their homes close to food sources, tending to only travel up to 8 metres from their burrows to find food.
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