Home: General Information

Why Keep Mice As Pets?

Mice are happy, playful and active creatures and are great fun to watch. Some fancy mice are extremely pretty and there are lots of different coat colours and patterns. Mice get to know their owners and when well socialised will come to take treats from you, climb onto your hand and up to your shoulder.

Two does peeking out of their house

Individual mice have different personalities. Some will be keep-fit fanatics, running on their wheel and chasing the others around and others will be homemakers, building comfortable nests and rearranging the tank. Some mice are playful and easy to socialise, while others need more work. However, the quiet mouse is just as 'normal' as her hyperactive sister. Watching mice play and socialise amongst themselves, you will see a range of behaviour types and temperaments. This is one of many reasons for keeping several mice rather than just one.

Mice are very easy to keep, undemanding pets. However, they are by nature timid and so you need to spend time getting to know them. They will not play with you in the way that dogs or rats will, but they are rewarding pets nonetheless. Due to their active natures, simply watching them in their tank can provide hours of pleasure.

Mice come in lots of different colours and hair types. You might want to think about getting a female mouse as a pet because males have a strong ‘mousey’ odour. I would suggest getting a pair of female mice to start with and then consider getting a male mouse later if you want to mate them and produce young.

Blue and white satin astrex buck with blue broken buck

What are Fancy Mice? Are they Different from Pet Shop Mice?

Fancy mice have been selectively bred for exhibition. An exhibition standard fancy mouse looks quite different to the pet mice usually found in pet shops; they are considerably larger and have larger ears and eyes, and are usually more docile than pet mice. Ordinary pet mice are frequently bred primarily for snake food and so have not been selected for health or temperament.

Pet mice are sometimes referred to as 'American mice' in the USA, 'Swedish mice' in Sweden and so on. They are just the same as 'pet mice' in England - the names are to distinguish them from English Fancy Mice in show classes.

Light coloured English show mice can grow to a very large size. They can weigh 40-60g or more, while the smaller pet mouse may weigh only 20g (at the minute I have a six-week-old girl from a pet shop who weighs 15g and a large cream fancy doe who weighs 80g!). Dark coloured fancy mice do not usually grow to be as big as the light coloured ones. 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.

The difference between a BE cream show mouse and a pet shop mouse runt

If you think your mouse is overweight then reading these guidelines 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.

Both pet mice and fancy mice may have been produced by close inbreeding, and this can result in a loss of vigour that makes the mouse more vulnerable to illness. It is important to emphasise that there is as much chance that mice from exhibition stock are closely inbred as mice from a pet shop are, so you will have to judge each mouse on its merits. If you are interested in exhibiting mice or would like to obtain some fancy mice to keep as pets, contact a mouse club.

Fancy chocolate buck (Dumbo)

What Colour or Variety of Mouse is This?
Fancy and pet mice come in many different colours, markings and coat types. There are photos of most recognised English varieties on the Finnmouse and London and Southern Counties Mouse and Rat Club websites. These sites contain galleries of photos along with descriptions and are good places to start. However, you may not find a mouse there that looks exactly like your own. One reason for this is as follows:

Show-quality varieties are produced by major colour or coat type genes, which produce the basic colour, marking or coat type. Selective breeding which refines the colour or marking to comply with show standards then follows this. For example, a show-quality red mouse is a beautiful copper colour, but the major gene causing the colour (Ay) only produces a sandy-coloured mouse in the absence of selective breeding for a certain shade. This means that a pet shop mouse and a show mouse might be genetically the same colour but could look quite different.

One common variety of mouse is the 'albino'. 'Albino' mice do not produce any skin or coat pigment. The only pigment they produce is the haemoglobin that makes their blood red. This means that they have white fur, pink skin, and pink eyes. The pink eye colour is caused by light reflecting off the blood vessels at the back of the retina. Fancy ‘albino’ mice are actually known as Pink Eyed Whites, which distinguishes them from fancy Black Eyed Whites.

Top of page

 Where next?

Back to General Information

To go to another section click on one of the links below:







General Information


The Mouse in Science




©2003-2006 Cait McKeown HomeEmail