Scientific name: Mus musculus
Size: Mice measure in at about 3 1/2 inches (plus another 2 1/4 to 3 1/2 inches for the tail) and weigh just 1/2 to one ounce.
Lifespan: One to three years.
Lots of variety, including black, white, black and white, blue, violet and soft dove gray. As for kinds of coats, some mice are super sleek and shiny, while some mice have fur that's thick and curly.
- Mice are upstanding members of the rodent family, which means they are mammals with sharp front teeth that never stop growing. You may also be familiar with their cousins—gerbils, hamsters, guinea pigs and rats.
- One mouse in the house just won't do. Like you, mice need friends—and if you keep two females together, they'll become best buds. There's a good chance that two males will fight, especially when they get older. Please don't keep males and females together, or they will have babies.
What three-letter word best describes a mouse's appetite? BIG! Mice burn up a lot of energy, so they need to eat a lot of food to stay in good condition. To make sure your mousies get all the nutrition they need, feed them special blocks or pellets made just for rodents. You can find this food at pet supply stores, and it should be available for your furry friends to chow down on at all times. You can use a sturdy, weighted food dish or, even better, a wire dispenser that attaches to the side of the cage.
Don't forget to fill 'er up! Fresh, clean water should be available to your pets at all times. An upside-down bottle with a drip tube that attaches to the side of the cage is perfect for your mice. Just make sure you rinse it out and refill it every day, and take care to check that it hasn't become clogged.
Did someone say SNACKTIME? Mice love fresh fruits and veggies, and you should give your buddies some every day. You'll have to experiment a little to find their faves, but try starting out with small amounts of peas, zucchini, carrots, cucumbers, apples and bananas. Just be sure to wash everything first. And remember, we said SMALL amounts—your little guys have little tummies, and too many fresh foods can make them sick.
Never give your mousies any foods from the following list: Chocolate, cabbage, corn, uncooked beans, onions, rhubarb, peanuts, candy, gum and soda. (We know the last three are really obvious, but we had to say it anyway!)
Home Sweet Home
Do you know the first rule of happy mouse housing? The bigger, the better! A cage that's at least 24 inches long, 12 inches wide and 12 inches tall will work well for a pair of mice, but it's always cool to get the largest style you can afford. Wire cages and glass aquariums are both great choices. Wire cages are nice for your mice to climb on, but just make sure that the bars are close enough so your pets can't get out or get their feet and legs caught. Next, take some time to select the perfect location for the cage. A room that's not too cold, not too noisy and not too bright is just right.
Time for a chill pill? Mice need privacy to snooze and just have some major downtime. You can use a PVC pipe, an empty cardboard tissue box or a small flowerpot for your pets' hideout.
Forget the pillowcases and sheets—but your mice WILL need special bedding. Line the cage with about an inch of aspen shavings or pelleted bedding made from recycled paper. Cedar and pine shavings may smell good, but spell bad news for little critters, who can get sick from inhaling the fumes. Some mice are big on making comfy nests for napping. You can find out if yours like making nests by offering them some straw or shredded paper towels. Don't be surprised if they're happy just to dig in and play with their bedding material.
You've got a new job as a mouse housekeeper, so you'll have to set up and stick to a cleaning schedule. Remove any dirty bedding, stale food and droppings every day. It may sound gross to you, but some mice like to pee in their food and water dishes. If yours do, you've gotta disinfect their dishes every day, please. (P.S.: That's one really good reason to use a water bottle that attaches to the side of the cage!) Once a week, you will need to change the bedding and scrub the cage with hot, soapy water. Rinse well, and let it dry completely before refilling.
Fun and Games
Better get the party started, because your pets, like all mice, LOVE to play! Most mice love to run, so it's a good idea to get your pet an exercise wheel. Solid metal or solid plastic models are the ONLY kinds to get. Absolutely NO wire wheels with rungs, as mice can easily get their tails and feet caught in them.
Low on dough? Some of the greatest mouse toys can be found right in your own house!
- Cardboard tubes from paper towels make great tunnels.
- Egg cartons are perfect for climbing and chewing.
- Get a bunch of cardboard boxes, cut out entrance holes and connect the boxes for a majorly fun mouse maze.
- The easiest-ever mouse toy? A brown paper bag, open and placed on its side!
Your little guys are friendly by nature, but you'll still need to get your new pets used to you—and used to being handled. Start by putting your hand slowly into the cage and offering small bits of their absolutely favorite snacks. Talk softly to them, too, and let them get used to your voice. When they're cool with that, gently scoop up one of your mice into your palm and lift gently. Repeat with each mouse a couple of times a day, and you'll soon have tame and trusting pets looking for your attention and affection!
Wanna be a gym teacher? Well, now's your chance—to be a MOUSE gym teacher, that is! Once your mice are hand-tamed, you should let them out of the cage for exercise every day. You can't just let them run all over the room, though. We recommend limiting gym class to a small, secured area where your mice can't get stuck behind furniture or chew on electrical wires. And remember, as part of your job as personal trainer, you will have to supervise. Be sure to put your mice back in their cage when you leave the room...even if it's for just a minute!