How to Take Care of a Pet Mouse
If you’ve got a sweet tooth and a soft spot for fuzzy animals, then you probably have a home that’s full of pets. The most common critters living in our houses include dogs (76 percent), cats (50 percent), and birds (30 percent), according to the 2012 American Pet Products Manufacturers Association survey. Of those surveyed, 13 percent said that they had rodents as pets.
Rodents come in all shapes and sizes. Some look like hamsters, while others resemble rats or gerbils. There are also “pocket pets” such as guinea pigs, chinchillas, and prairie dogs. All can be great additions to your family, but there are things you should know before adding one to your home.
For instance, do you really want a rodent running around your house? Or will you end up having to give it away after it chews through everything in sight? Read on for tips on caring for these adorable little furballs.
You’ll need a cage. Rodent cages typically measure 3 feet by 2 feet by 2 feet, so make sure yours fits inside your home. Also, consider buying a larger cage for breeding purposes. Once you locate the perfect cage, read reviews online to see which ones best suit your needs. If you choose a smaller cage, you may find yourself tempted to fill it with lots of toys and other goodies to keep your rodent occupied.
This isn’t ideal because rodents tend to chew on anything within reach, including the items meant to entertain them. A bigger cage will allow them to explore without damaging the furniture, carpeting, and belongings.
Pick the Right Size
Once you buy a cage, pick out the appropriate-sized one based on the number of rodents you plan to own. It’s important to note that rodents aren’t as active as dogs or cats, so you won’t be able to leave them alone in the same room all day long. They’ll require more interaction and exercise than your typical housemate.
In fact, you’ll need to spend at least part of each day interacting with your rodents. So, decide whether you’re ready for that kind of commitment now. They like company but don’t overdo it
It’s tempting to think that since rodents live in burrows and nests, they must enjoy spending time outside their cages. However, this doesn’t reflect reality. Rodents are nocturnal creatures, meaning they prefer to sleep during daylight hours. When you’re not around, they’ll retreat into their burrows and dens.
And although they might seem shy, they’re social enough to become stressed when left alone for extended periods of time. After about six weeks, they’ll begin to feel depressed and anxious, and they could start chewing on themselves. To avoid these unpleasant situations, try taking them outside once a day for 10 minutes to stretch their legs and relieve boredom.
Don’t Let Them Get Too Rough
Mice are tiny, fragile, and sensitive. Unlike large dogs or cats, they don’t have sharp teeth or claws. Any physical contact with you could cause serious injuries. Although they’re naturally gentle creatures, they’re still very curious and intelligent, so you shouldn’t play with them or tease them in ways that might encourage bad behavior.
Instead, treat them gently and consistently. Make sure they always have clean water available and feed them healthy food. That way, they’ll grow up happy and well-adjusted.
Although mice are smart, they can’t speak English yet. As such, you’ll need to rely on signs and cues to communicate with them. Pay attention to their body language, facial expressions, and vocal tones. Learn their unique behaviors and respond accordingly.
For example, if your mice are prone to digging holes, put bowls filled with treats near the entrances to discourage this behavior. On the other hand, if they’re interested in climbing, provide elevated areas where they can climb safely. Mice also enjoy playing games, so set up various fun activities for them to participate in. Finally, use positive reinforcement whenever possible. Praise them lavishly for good behavior and ignore negative cues.
Give Them Their Space
Because rodents are small and live in groups, they need plenty of personal space. Provide at least three square feet per rodent. One tip is to build tunnels called runways using cardboard tubes, string, paper towels, and toilet paper rolls. Then place cutouts of different heights along the runway to help them navigate.
Another trick is to create barriers by putting obstacles in front of their runs. These barriers can consist of boxes, plastic bins, or wire mesh. By doing this, you’ll prevent them from getting injured when they bump into objects or fall down.
Know what type of mice they are. There are dozens of types of mice. Here are seven basic categories to help you identify them:
Sponge mice have short ears, short hair and a rounded head. Their bodies are usually grayish-brown and they weigh between 1 ounce and 4 ounces. Common species include the black-footed, Swiss, and castor.
Hairless mice have longer tails than sponge mice, brown or reddish fur, and pointed snout. Hairless mice are generally skinnier than Sponge mice, weighing between 5 ounces and 14 ounces. You’ll find them primarily in North America, Europe, and Asia.
Pygmy mice are the smallest variety of mice. They weigh less than an ounce, have pink noses, dark brown fur, and relatively long tails. Pygmies are found throughout Africa, Central and South America, India, and Australia.
House mice are common pests in homes and offices. They have long ear tufts, brown fur, and bushy tail. House mice are often used as laboratory animals and are sometimes referred to as white-throated.
Brown rats have brown fur and whiskers, long ears and tail, and weigh anywhere from 8 ounces to 20 pounds. Brown rats are native to South America and Southeast Asia.
Giant rats are the largest variety of rats. They have long ear tufts and reddish fur, weigh between 24 ounces and 60 pounds, and are found mostly in Indonesia.
Water rats have brown fur, long ear tufts, round heads, and short tails. Water rats are native to parts of Africa, Asia, Oceania, and South America.
While mice are popular pets among many families, they do require special considerations. Treat them kindly and responsibly, and don’t forget to show them affection!