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Do Mice Make Good Pets?

Are Mice Too Delicate For Young Children?Aren't They Very Fast and/or Hard to Handle?Don't They Smell?Do They Take a Lot of Looking After?Do They Eat Special Food?We Would Like Mice But We Have a Cat - Can We Still Have Some?How Long Do Mice Live?Do They Bite? Are They Friendly?I Am Worried About The Mice Escaping. Is This Likely and What Would I do if They Did?

The short answer is yes! But then again, I am of course biased, so I will explore the issues and try to answer the questions that a lot of people ask.

Fancy doe (Muffin) aged around 2 months


Aren’t they too small/delicate for children?
The small size of a mouse compared to other pets seems to make people think that they will be hard to handle and ‘contain’. Although mice are small, children often understand that this means they need careful handling. I have had a child who was only just learning to talk handle my mice under supervision. Children of all ages can handle mice with no problems in my experience, especially when they are taught properly how to handle them from the beginning.

It is true that mice should not be roughly handled, but neither should any animal. A mouse dropped from a height can sustain injuries, but then so can a hamster, guinea pig or rabbit. If you are worried about the child dropping their pet, make it a rule that they sit down when they handle the mouse. Although mice can sustain injuries from a fall, there is also research that shows that a mouse can take a fall of 12 feet without being hurt at all. This doesn’t mean you should try it – but it does illustrate the resilience of the mouse.


Aren’t they very fast and/or hard to handle?
See the section on socialisation and handling.

This seems to be a popular misconception. So many people have commented to me on how calm my mice are and how content they are to sit on my shoulder, in my hand, etc. as it seems to be the general view that mice are incredibly quick and perhaps even a little unsociable. This is ironically quite the opposite of the truth. Mice can be quick if they want or need to be, but domestic and pet mice are more docile and like to be handled.

A new or very young mouse may be reluctant to be handled at first if it has not been handled regularly by its breeder (or supplier – i.e. the pet shop staff) but will calm down in time. Most mice are curious creatures and will approach your hand if you place it in their tank rather than run away. They are easy to handle as they will not run off or try to escape. Mice do not jump once they have passed the ‘flea’ stage, which finishes at the latest at around five weeks or so. And of course any mouse you get should be older than this anyway.

Most people are probably most worried about the mouse being too fast for their children to cope with, and also fear escape because of this. I can only say that this is extremely unlikely; most mice will have great fun exploring their environment, which is usually their tank or your arm/shoulder, and will not leap about erratically. In some ways mice are the ideal pet for children because they are so docile and content to remain where they are.


Don’t they smell?
See also the page dedicated to answering this question.

Basically, mice are very clean creatures and wash and groom to keep themselves clean. Female mice hardly produce any smell and many people cannot detect their odour at all. However, male mice do produce a musky smell when they scent mark their territory. This is not a bad smell but will obviously increase with the number of mice kept. A single buck or pair of bucks is acceptable and regular cleaning (around every six days) means that the smell does not become unpleasant.

Mice also choose a particular toilet corner in their tank that can be cleaned out more regularly if desired, but washing the tank and cage furniture with warm soapy water every six days or so will keep your mice clean.


Do they take a lot of looking after?
See also the page on cleaning out your mice.

Another plus point – mice do not take a huge amount of looking after. They need cleaning out every six days or so, with fresh food and water every day. Other than that, playing with your mice every day is recommended to socialise them and keep them happy. They will be happy to play any time of the day or night and are not grumpy when woken.


Do they eat special food?
See Feeding section.

It is best to feed mice a mix of different foods to keep them entertained. Hamster mix is the basic diet for mice, but there are many supplements available in pet shops that you can add to the mix and give as treats. Nothing that you buy for mice will cost a lot of money, and a small bag will last a long time. Mice can even eat certain leftovers from human cooking (plain chicken, plain pasta, vegetables) and you will easily be able to find an economy supplement for their diet in your supermarket, such as rolled oats or museli.


We would like mice, but we have a cat – can we still have some?
Mice should not be allowed contact with animals other than mice as they will invariably come off worst. However, I have kept a rescued kitten in the house while having mice and he did them no harm. Many people have cats and mice – it just means that you have to cat-proof the mouse’s tank (you can’t have a wire cage) and restrict access to the area where the mice are.

Always cat-proof your mouse tank and prevent unsupervised access to the room if possible (the cat above is China, my fiance's sister's cat, who lives happily with two other cats and eight mice)


How long do they live?
Mice live between one and a half and three years and as such are a good child’s pet. This lifespan is roughly the same as a hamster, depending on the type of hamster.


Do they bite? Are they friendly?
Mice will never bite you unless they are in fear for their own life, unlike hamsters. I have had dwarf hamsters in the past and currently have a Syrian, none of which have ever bitten me, but I am always more conscious of a risk when handling hamsters! Mice are very social animals, unlike Syrian hamsters who must live alone, and perhaps this is why they get on so well with people. Mice will also tend to be a lot more active than a hamster and therefore more entertaining for a child to watch and play with. They will be awake during the day, although they are mainly nocturnal, and keeping a pair or group encourages them to come out of their house and not just sleep all day.

My Syrian hamster, Smirnoff


I am worried about them escaping. Is this likely and what would I do if they did?
As with all animals you will have to house the mice in a suitable habitat or they may escape. The wire cages with bars or mesh are unsuitable for mice as they can escape through tiny gaps, especially when young. A plastic or glass tank is the best bet as long as it is strong. I would avoid buying the commercial ‘pretty’ set-ups such as Rotastack or SAM because ventilation holes and other openings in these can mean that mice are able to chew their way out.

Once you have chosen the correct housing for your mice it is unlikely that they will escape. I let my mice run on the bed and the sofa and they never try to hide or escape, instead they seem more interested in exploring. As long as you keep an eye on your mice and do not leave them out of their tank unsupervised you should have no problems. Just make sure that your tank lid is tight-fitting and that the mesh is fine enough and you should have no problems.

If for any reason a mouse did escape, the easiest way to catch it is to put a toilet roll or other cardboard tube down on the floor. Mice cannot resist a tube and are bound to investigate sooner or later. If you do not have a tube to hand you can also try leaving a bowl of food/treats and a bowl of water inside an upended box where you last saw the mouse. When the mouse enters the box to get to the food or water simply pick up the box.

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