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Raising Mice

Mice come in lots of different colours and hair types. If you are looking for a specific colour you will probably have to go to a breeder to get a good example (or a rare one). You might want to think about getting a female mouse as a pet as males have a very masculine mouse odour. I would suggest getting a pair of female mice to start and then perhaps later on consider getting a male mouse if you intend to breed. This way you can get to know your does and they will trust you by the time they are old enough (at least three months) to be bred.

You need to check a few things out when purchasing a mouse. Be sure you get one that looks very alert, is active, curious, with a sleek coat and bright eyes. Be sure to check thoroughly that you are getting mice of the same sex unless you are intending to breed. Mice can produce a large litter in just three weeks, so be careful if you're not planning on being overrun with babies!

You should make sure that you get your mouse from a good source (i.e. a reputable pet shop with good clean premises and cages and knowledgeable staff, or a breeder with experience). Never try to capture a wild mouse. These mice may be attractive but you are extremely unlikely to tame them. It is cruel to take a mouse out of its habitat like this, especially when there are plenty of places to get a tame and happy pet mouse. You may also want to consider adopting a 'rescue' mouse from an animal welfare charity or similar organisation.

The weight of mice can vary greatly, depending on the type and sex of the mouse. The males are likely to be heavier as you might expect. A small pet mouse can weigh anything from 20g upwards (although I have had runts weigh 15 grams). A fancy mouse will weigh between about 40 and 60 grams. If you think your mouse is overweight comparing them to these weights may help, but it is rare that mice will be overweight. When this happens they tend to be obese (a genetic condition) which needs controlling with a diet. If you do have an obese mouse please seek veterinary advice rather than simply trying to control it yourself.

Reidun (doe) eating a piece of dried banana

Most mice will have a sleek body, bright eyes and tails with no kinks in them. If a mouse has a kink in its tail there are two possible explanations; 1) The mouse was picked up incorrectly or was in a fight and injured the tail at a young age or 2) The mouse was born with a kink in its tail. If the mouse's tail was injured and has healed crooked then as long as the mouse is in no discomfort this is fine. However, if the mouse was born with the kink it is not a good idea to breed from this mouse because it may pass on spinal defects to its offspring that would be very painful. Although the mouse may not be suffering itself, the kinked tail is an indication of possible problems.

If you look after a mouse well it will usually live around one and a half to two and a half years.

Be prepared as mice will make noise at night, as they are definitely nocturnal creatures. They will scamper about and play - beware of the noises they will make running on their wheel and chewing cardboard tubes! The first wheel I had was so noisy that I had to take it out at night to get any sleep until I oiled it (use vegetable oil to do this).

Mice have a good sense of hearing but are very timid and also nearsighted. Regular handling will help to make your pet more tame and friendly. The plastic run-a-round balls that you can buy are very useful for letting mice exercise and explore at the same time. Just remember to make sure that the ball is securely closed and that the mice are in a safe area to run around (a clear space with no stairs to roll down and nothing toxic that they could come into contact with).

Mice are sometimes timid but if you talk to your pet after you bring it home and place it in a cage of its own, it will gradually become accustomed to its new surroundings. Mice will usually settle into a new cage quite quickly and begin to make it their own by rearranging bedding etc. Male mice will also urinate around the cage to mark their territory, which can produce a strongish smell. This is easily controlled with regular cleaning out and, if needed, air freshener. With regular petting and handling it should be easy to make the mouse very tame. Mice love being played with. Mine like sitting on my shoulder and playing under my hair as well as settling down in the palm of my hand for a good stroke (or rather groom to them I suppose :) ).

When getting your pet make sure that the mouse is not too old and that it has been handled regularly. Mice should not leave their mother until they are at least four weeks, when they are weaned. If the mouse is older than ten weeks then you must ask yourself (or the owner) why the mouse has not already gone to a home. Having said that, I got my male mouse Biscuit when he was ten weeks and he was friendly, despite being a bit nervous when I first held him in the shop. He soon calmed down and was enjoying being stroked. However, this may not be the case with all mice. Some may not be used to people over this age because they have not been handled enough. When the mouse gets to know you and trusts you he should climb into your hand and upward on your arm. You can try to give your mouse some food but I have never found any of my mice to be food motivated, unlike hamsters who will take all the treats you give them!

When you are picking up a new mouse for the first time you will have to be very careful that you do not let the mouse escape. They are natural explorers, which is one reason that they enjoy the run-a-round balls so much. A box is a good thing to have in an emergency to capture the mouse. Simply put the box down on the floor and when the mouse goes to explore it you can just pick up the box and place him back in his cage. You might want to try rewarding him with food when he does come to you and remember that the more you handle the mouse the easier it will be to tame.

The correct way to pick a mouse up by the tail is to firmly grasp the base of the tail between your fingers and gently lift. Never try to lift a mouse by the end of its tail as this can cause injury to the tail and causes the mouse pain. Incorrect handling is one of the ways that many mice receive kinks in their tails.

I would always suggest getting the largest tank that you can afford for your mouse. Mice love to explore and can get bored with nothing to do, which can also make them ill. You will need enough room for an area to put the food and water, a spot the mouse can use as a toilet (you can also buy mouse loos very cheaply), a place to make a nest, and you'll need room for any toys. The mouse will need enough room to play and run around without knocking over items in the tank. Be sure to invest in an exercise wheel as you'll love watching your mice running round it, and it will also help to keep them healthy and prevent them from getting bored.

Mice may jostle for position in the cage hierarchy and can bite each other. More often there will be a lot of squeaking and some squabbling but no real fighting, especially with female mice. Check your mice regularly when they are first put together to make sure that they have not injured each other. If a mouse is injured she will groom herself more and this will clean the wound. As long as there are no serious injuries where there is blood drawn etc the mice should be fine. Do make sure that there is not excessive bullying though. If this happens you may want to try segregating the bully for a few days as a last resort before reintroducing them to a cage that smells like the other mouse's territory. I must stress that this is a last resort because separating the mice unnecessarily may cause them stress.

It is very inexpensive to feed a mouse. He will eat mostly at night so it is best to feed him just before going to bed yourself. If you put out perishable foods in the day and he doesn't decide that he is hungry until the evening, the food may have spoiled and endanger his health. You can work out your individual feeding method with your mouse in just a few days. Eventually the mouse will probably learn what time is its regular feeding time and be waiting to see what is for dinner!

When mice are properly taken care of they are hardy and carry no diseases. Just food, fresh water, and cleaning his toilet area daily will keep your mouse very happy.

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