They may be small but like all animals, mice need an interesting environment, appropriate housing, and your time and attention. If you keep mice as pets, here are some of our tips to help them thrive. You can also read our advice on what to feed your mice on our Knowledgebase.
Mice need company!
Mice are highly sociable animals, so you should keep at least two of them together. You should avoid housing undesexed males together however (as they tend to fight), and also avoid housing undesexed males and females together
Because of this, keeping female mice or desexed mice together is generally best. You should try to introduce mice to their environment together to avoid fighting.
Also make sure you give your mice plenty of enjoyable human interaction! To enjoy human handling, mice need to become accustomed to it from a young age, through gentle and frequent handling. Make sure you support their entire body when you handle them (don’t pick them up by the tail!); and closely supervise children around mice.
Mice can be housed in a range of different types of enclosure, and you should provide a space that’s as large as possible, well-ventilated and easy to clean. Once a week, you should clean the entire enclosure with warm, non-fragrant soapy water once a week, change the bedding material for new fresh clean bedding, remove any soiled nesting material and top it up with fresh materials. Plastic or glass tubs or aquariums are not suitable – they are not adequately ventilated – and wooden enclosures are also not suitable as the wood absorbs urine and can’t be adequately cleaned.
It is very important for mice to have places where they can hide and feel safe, such as small cardboard boxes, shredded paper, and cardboard or PVC tubes. They should have ready access to multiple areas where they can quickly get under cover if they are startled, these hiding places should be large enough to allow the mouse to turn around and have multiple exits.
The floor of the enclosure should be solid and covered with newspaper or towelling. Wire or grid flooring are not suitable as they can damage mice’s feet and legs.
Mice also need plenty of bedding to cover the bottom of their enclosure – suitable bedding materials include wood chips (non-aspen), cellulose-based chips or shredded filter paper. The bedding should be at least 2-3 cm deep so the mice can dig. Don’t use fine saw dust, wood shavings or bedding made from aspen – these can lead to health problems – and also avoid bedding that is fragrant or coloured. You should remove any soiled bedding each day.
Mice also need to build nests and burrow; this is a natural behaviour and also helps them regulate body temperature. So, they also need nesting material in addition to their bedding, such as hay, shredded paper, paper strips, and paper tissues. It is important not to use materials which can separate into long think strands (e.g. cotton wool or other fluffy materials) as these can be a serious risk to the health and welfare of mice if they eat the material or become entangled.
The enclosure should be in an area that will provide your mice with natural daylight but not direct sunlight (the temperature should be between 18 to 30 degrees), not near loud noises or ultrasounds (including telephones, electrical equipment, and the kitchen ), and not near animals they’ll perceive as threats like cats and dogs.
An interesting environment
Like all companion animals, mice need an interesting environment with lots of different things for them to play with or hide in,
You should choose or make an enclosure with plenty of mice-appropriate toys (whether purchased or home-made, such as toilet rolls, non-toxic un-treated hardwood branches or twigs, and paper); different levels and climbing surfaces (but not so high that your mice could fall and be injured); and, hiding places).
You can provide your mice with a play area outside of their home enclosure for supervised outings, but make sure this area is safe and escape proof.
For more information, visit the RSPCA Knowledgebase.
This piece was originally published in Australian Community Media newspapers