By Rhi Banks, Animal Care Technician and Foster Parent
Pet rats are all the rave these days, and their adorable counterparts are often overlooked. Mice possess the same decision making skills as rats and make great companions — plus they are pocket sized!
I’ve been a mouse mom for about three years now. It all began when a friend gifted me two little feeder mice for my birthday. Since then, I have successfully fostered and adopted out two colonies and raised one litter of bottle babies.
I was fostering 15 mice most recently, and three of them are still available for adoption.
Female mice are social animals and are generally happiest with a companion mouse. Males, on the other hand, can become annoyed having another male mouse around, unless they are introduced prior to reaching sexual maturity and have lots of enrichment opportunities available in their habitat. Obviously, companion mice of opposite genders are not a good idea, since spay/neuter surgery for mice has not yet been perfected.
The most well-suited habitats for a pet mouse are a glass aquarium with a secure and breathable lid, or a wire cage with narrow bars that the mouse can’t squeeze through. Aquariums are great because they give the mice more freedom to bury themselves in their bedding. Wire cages are fun for the mice because they are able to climb. Mice also love to run on hamster wheels and enjoy having little castles and mouse houses to hide in.
Mice eat various seeds and pellets, with occasional treats of fruits, vegetables, and nuts. My colony loves strawberries, candy covered sunflower seeds, and foods intended for human babies. They are quite low maintenance pets, and generally only need their bowls filled one or two times a day. You will also notice they bury a good bit of food to store for later.
If you find a treat that really motivates your mice, you can train your mouse friends with a clicker! They are extremely intelligent and can be taught a wide variety of tricks, including my personal favorite — mouse agility!
Though rats and mice have many things in common, mice tend to be a bit more skittish at first. They are smaller and the world seems bigger and more frightening to them. This will vary depending on the type of mouse you have and the personality of the individual mouse.
They can very easily become more social with a little patience. Sit with them while they eat, offer them treats, and handle them often. Make their experiences with humans positive every time. Often, they learn to recognize their caretaker and will be more outgoing with that particular person. When they become comfortable with you, they will happily crawl into your hand and up your arm if you offer it to them. My mice enjoy sitting on my shoulder, or nesting in the hood of my jacket.
Because they are more independent of humans than rats are, some people refer to mice as the “cats of the rodent world”.
Mice are such amazing little creatures. It’s enjoyable to just sit and watch them run on their wheels and interact with their mouse companions. They communicate by grooming one another, and it’s so tender to watch them softly groom their friends.