When people think about pet mice they inevitably think about “white mice”, but in fact there are well over 40 varieties. Exhibition quality mice, which are the “thoroughbreds” of the mouse world, can be found in exotic shades such as Sable or Pearl, Cinnamon, or Himalayan, Blue or Silver. They are as far removed from the common house mouse as a racehorse is from a Dartmoor pony.
Pet shop mice are somewhere in the middle and often they are white, or piebald, or “brown”. But mice are becoming harder to find in pet shops because they are not as popular as rabbits or guinea pigs. This is a shame, because the beauty of the pet mouse is that it requires very little space, can be kept indoors, and is extremely cheap to feed. Mice will sit on your hand, wash themselves, and generally explore. They make excellent pets. Female mice make the best pets, because their urine does not smell like that of the male – if you are keeping pet mice then it is sensible to keep two female mice (does) together, to provide company. Two males will fight bitterly, in addition to smelling terrible, and a male and a female will keep producing babies.
- Keep your pet mice in a wooden box or cage but ensure that there is adequate ventilation to prevent condensation.
- They love fun, and an old toilet roll tube or kitchen towel tube can amuse them for ages.
- Learn to pick mice up gently but firmly by the root of the tail (not the tip) and transfer them to your hand. Contrary to popular belief picking up mice in this way does not hurt the mouse.
- Mice should be fed on a basic diet of whole or rolled oats, with a little hamster food and budgerigar seed given very occasionally for variety. Feed bread, preferably whole meal, daily (soaked in water and squeezed out). Dog biscuits are good for their teeth.
- In the summer they love the yellow Dandelion heads, and seeding grass, but don’t overdo this. They will also nibble on a small carrot and mice are also partial to boiled rice (remains of the Chinese takeaway) and pasta. Mice are basically omnivorous, but it is a myth that they love cheese. It doesn’t do them any good and is only used in mousetraps because it smells strongly and has a good texture for putting on the little spike. House-mice will, of course, eat anything, which is why they are such a pest.
- Mice can live for up to two years. They are ready for breeding when about 8 weeks old, and they can deliver a litter of up to 12 babies in three weeks. The babies are born pink and blind, and you should not disturb the nest too much.