We're Going to Get a Mouse!

Hello to all new mouse owners, all who are thinking of getting a mouse and perhaps also more experienced mousers! Here's a little reading for the very first phases of mouse ownership: pondering not only whether a mouse is a good pet for you, but also whether you would be a good mouse owner; choosing between males and females; and where to actually get the mouse from.

Owning a pet brings along much joy and company, but also a responsibility lasting the life time of the pet. The decision of whether to actually get a pet should be considered thoroughly! We all probably know of cases when impulse purchase of a pet has lead to a happy ending. However, in the majority of cases this has brought heartache, sad endings and even animal abuse. This can happen even with people who mean well.

Responsible people who are considering getting a pet do find out early in advance the qualities (size when fully grown, temperament etc) and care requirements of the species they are thinking about. This way they are able to avoid many unwanted and unpleasant surprises (the pet and the owner just won't fit together and such), as well as mistreatment.

You & Mice - a Good Fit?

For Starters -

It is very easy to fall in love with mice. They are cute and charming little animals. However, before you go and get a mouse or mice of your own, you should always remember that in spite of being easy to care for, owning mice is a huge responsibility and will take your time. So, you need to consider the following points:

Do all of your family members agree with your getting a mouse or mice?

This is certainly something you need to find out beforehand. You don't want to end up in a situation where you are forced to find a new home for your mice for example because your parents will not tolerate your new hobby. Best situation for you and especially your (future) mice is that the whole of your family is excited and happy about your new pets.


Owned by Tia Vento
Pic: Anniina Tuura

Will the other members of your family look after your mice when you yourself are not able to do it?

This means: can you be certain that your mice will get good care if you are ill or away from home for a few days? If you are allowed to get mice on the condition that no other family member than you need to touch them or even think about them (it is you who will take care of them, by yourself), you will have to think beforehand. If none of your family is interested in the welfare of your mice, who will take care of them when you can't do it? You may think now that you are going to stay home enough to take good care of your pets, but can you be sure? You can get sick and be unable to even stand up, not to mention feed you mice, for many days. Your class might go out on a trip for a few days... Your friend may agree to take care of your mice when you can't, but you should be able to trust your family to be there for your pets.

It does pay to discuss early in advance on the question about who will take care of your mice when you are not able to do it yourself.

Are you prepared to get your pets a home of adequate size and all the necessary equipment?

A mouse will not thrive in just any small box. Mouse is small, but it does need space. You will have to be prepared to get your mouse a home of adequate size. A home which is not only roomy, but safe for the mouse and easy to clean. Furthermore, you need equipment. Food bowl and water bottle are essential, but not the only things your pets need. Mice need nesting box (or other type of nest), a large and safe wheel to run in and other toys to play with.

Buying your mouse's home with all equipment can be fairly expensive, although you may find cheaper used stuff as well.

Do you have enough time each and every day to interact with your mice and to take care of them?


SP Muskotti
Owned by Anniina Tuura
Pic: Arttu Väisälä

You will have to look after you mice every single day. Basic care consist of looking after that the mouse has food and fresh water. Food bowls should be washed daily with hot water (mice tend to pee in their food bowls) and water should be changed daily - rinsing the bottle carefully as well. In addition to this basic care you need to interact with your mice - they are pets, after all. By interacting with your mouse, you will get a perfectly tame and nice pet. Furthermore, due to the small size of a mouse you need to check its well being every day. Ailments can develop very fast and you have to know when your pet is not feeling well in order to get proper treatment (medical, taking the mouse to vet) as fast as possible.

Are you prepared to learn all you can about proper mouse care?

Oh well, this may sound like a strange question on a mouse site - you being here shows you have some interest in mice!

Nevertheless, it is extremely important that you get all the information you need and to get the information before getting a mouse. Not knowing better is no excuse for bad treatment. Information is there, it can be found - it is up to you to be active and find it. No not rely on information given out by a pet shop, especially of the shop keeps its animals in crowled, dirty environment. Also, no not rely on only one source for information - this includes reading just this site.

Where to Get the Mouse From?

First of all, think over if you would like a "purely" pet mouse, or possibly a mouse to attend shows with. As a pet and in pet classes it does not make any difference if the mouse is of Pet (American, Swedish.. the name varies)- or English type. In standard classes the mouse should be as close to the standard both when it comes to the coat, color, markings, type and size. Usually the required type is English.


The best way of obtaining a standard class show mouse is from a reputable mouse breeder. Mouse clubs usually list breeders and you can contact them for reference. With breeders you will get information on the mouse's background and family, many will provide you with a pedigree. In some countries a mouse has to be registered in order for you to show it and breeders will have the mice ready and registered. Good breeders are also able to help you with all kinds of questions regarding mouse keeping.

Many breeders have excellent and fun looking pet mice as well, as "pet mice" (as opposed to mice who can take part in standard classes!) are always being born in litters. Some breeders also will let you have a joint ownership or similar to offer. Sometimes even very good show mice, usually bucks, are rehomed for responsible mouse owners for free.

When you get a mouse from a good breeder, you will know the exact time of birth and you are able to avoid many unpleasant surprises which may happen with a pet shop. A breeder will tell you the mouse's sex for you, she will not sell you a male - female couple instead of two females, or a female that is already pregnant. To put it short: it pays to use the service of a breeder!

Last but not least: there are all kinds of breeders around. Some are responsible and have a good reputation. Others could be better classed as mouse millers. Ask around for references, especially clubs. If possible, go and visit the breeder and keep your eyes open!

Pet Shops

You can get a perfectly nice mouse for yourself from a pet shop, especially if the shop is of good quality and run by knowledgeable people. If the conditions in the shop aren't very good - mice are housed in cramped and dirty cages and especially if you can spot males and females living together; be very careful.

Mice are ready for new homes at one month of age. You should not sell nor buy mice younger than this. Mice who are old enough to be sold already have the looks of a young adult. They don't look like babies with large heads and skinny legs. You should be able to determine the sex quite easily; buck will have their testicles showing, females do not. Females have a short distance between the anus and the urethra and you may be able to spot two rows of teats on both sides of the belly. Young males can lift their testicles back up so you can't see them, if they get scared, but you will still be able to determine a male from a female by the longer distance between the anus and the urethra.

When in a shop, it is best to ask when the babies were born. They should know this fact, at least roughly. Do not buy too young a mouse! If there were males and females housed in the same tank, be prepared for babies if you decide to get a females. Even though it is possible that a female mouse gets pregnant at one month of age, she is not ready for pregnancy until much older, 3-4 months old.

What to Look For When Getting Your Mice?

As has been pointed out earler, you can get a new pet either from a breeder -- directly from her home or at a show -- or from a pet shop. Unfortunately there are shops who couldn't care less about the well-being of animals sold there and you may end up getting a pet that was sold too young, that is already pregnant, is older than you're told, is sick or infested with parasites. Then there are, unfortunately, irresponsible breeders, although 'producer' would describe these people better.

How to tell a good shop from a bad one?

Basic things have to be in order:

Animals have good food and fresh water: They have either rat/mouse lab block or good seed mix (preferrably without green rabbit / cavy pellets). Water bottles are clean and there's water in them. Furthermore everyone in the cage/tank has to be able to reach the bottle.

Clean conditions: Beddings are clean and don't smell dirty.

Enough room for the animals: There shouldn't be too many animals in one cage / tank. There should be only few older animals in tank. There can be a little larger group of younger animals without it causing troubles, but this doesn't mean that there's should be a huge crowd! It is a good thing if there aren't animals of mixed ages in a tank, as older ones may bully youngsters, thus making it impossible for the young ones to get enough food. Even though a pet shop is only a temporary dwelling for the animals on their way to the future homes, the animals should have as stress-free environment as possible!

Number of animals: There shouldn't be an excessive amount of any species, because in this case the animals will probably not get handled, which leads to the future owner having difficulties with taming her new pet.

Selling age: Mouse has to be at least one month of age before it is sold, even though it has been weaned earlier, spiny mice and zebra mice are ready to go at six weeks. There should not be animals younger than that sold! Some pet stores have horribly wrong ideas about weaning and selling ages of different animals, for example that it's OK to sell a rabbit at 4 weeks. This is NOT the case! A baby that is ready to go to a new home already looks like a miniature adult - if the baby has out-of-proportion head and 'twiggy-style' legs, it isn't ready to even leave to mother. A baby that has been weaned too young may suffer the rest of its life from physical and mental damages, which could've been prevented by following rules on weaning ages.

Sexes are kept separate: This is important! Since the weaning age all small pet rodents should be kept in single sex groups. Females may get pregnant at a very young age while they are still kids themselves. If you can see males and females together in a tank or there are visibly pregnant females, the shop is an irresponsible one! When buying a female you can get a dozen or more little babies. If the shopkeeper tells that the animals are best kept in couples of a male and a female, do not believe it. This isn't true.


O. Outi Nikula
Pic: Arttu Väisälä


Origins of the animals: The shop keeper should be able to tell you where the animals came from; were they born in the shop, do they come from a breeder (and who!), animal wholesaler or have they been imported.

Handling: Without a doubt, the shopkeeper must be able to handle the animals he's selling and to handle them in a proper way. This means no lifting spiny mice, zebra mice, gerbils, rats etc from the tail or rabbits by the ears!! The animals shouldn't be overtly shy either.

Instructions on care: It is a good sign that the shopkeeper is interested in the home he's selling the animal to. He must tell you on the specific needs of the pet and know what kind of housing suits best for its needs and what it should be fed with. He shouldn't try and sell the smallest possible cage/tank available.

Pets only: This means NO selling live animals to be reptile food. Reptiles do not need to be fed live and the shopkeepers have to know this. In some countries live feeding is illegal.

What about a good breeder?

The above is true when it comes to breeders as well, only that it is OK for them to have pregnant females every now and then and male-female couples. However, may be a bad sign that you can see female with a litter and the father together, as this means the female has got pregnant immediately after giving birth to the first litter. If you see something like this, do ask the breeder for a reason. For example this is a common practice with gerbils, where first-time mother may not know how to take care of babies causing the first litter to die, while the second will do well. Two litters after each others isn't that bad with mice - more than that falls into the category of animal abuse.

Openness: A good breeder lets you see your future pet's family and tells you about them. Not only show results, but about their temperaments. She also tells you if there have been some kind of troubles with health or otherwise. She will be honest with the possible show career of your pet; if the breeder thinks your pet will have good possibilities on the show bench, she will often ask you to attend at least one show. If the breeder thinks your pet doesn't meet the requirements of standard class shows, she should mention about this and tell you about pet classes. You should definitely get instructions on how to take care of your pet, preferably by giving written instructions. She should also tell you about clubs to join in, gatherings, shows and other activities available for you and your pet.

Male or Female? One or Several?

Male and female mice are both perfectly suitable for keeping as pets. There are certain differences between the two sexes, which you should consider before actually getting a mouse. Otherwise the decision is totally up to you. Mice are very social animals, so if you do get a single mouse, you should interact with it a lot. This means each and every day.


Most males are aggressive towards other male mice, especially after they reach maturity. This is why males are usually kept singly. When you spend a time with a single male daily, you will have a very tame and nice pet who is eager to play on you.

Rapunzel's Orison

Rapunzel's Orison
b. Anniina Tuura, o. Sari Andersson
Pic: Anniina Tuura

The males, also called bucks, do have a distinct smell. However, the smell really isn't all that bad, especially if you have only one buck. You do get used to it after a while. Regular cleaning of the cage will keep the odor at bay. If you clean too often, you will only make the smell worse with bucks, as the little fellow will hurry up and mark his territory with his wonderful smells again.

It is possible to get a male mouse castrated, which makes it able to live with females or other castrated males. Neutered males smell much less than intact ones and they can be even calmer. However, bear in mind that all kinds of operations are risky for such a small animal as a mouse. If you do have a good vet, who will use gas anesthesia and you can afford the operation and can take a day off to see everything goes fine after the operation, neutering is one option you have. Neutered males cannot be entered in standard classes in shows - pet classes are open for them.


Female mice prefer living in a group of a few females, so they can keep each others company. The easiest way to establish a group is to get young females of similar ages.


A harmonous group of five does
o. Katri Pohjanvaara
Pic: Anniina Tuura

There may be difficulties with introducing a new mouse in an established group of females, as the older ones tend to defend their territory. This can be rather aggressive even. Let the mice to meet each others on a neutral ground, a larger show box (plastic tank) will do fine. In the mean time clean the group's cage / tank thoroughly, including all the toys, nests, food bowls and water bottle. Change used cardboard boxes and tubes for new ones. Mice recognize their own territories by the smell, so they won't be as eager to chase the newcomer out if the cage does not smell familiar. It is also a good idea to give the mice something very tasty to eat, so they won't necessarily bother fighting each other with all the goodies around. There can be some quarrel when the group reestablishes their "pecking order", but usually everything goes fine.

Mouse's condition

Always remember to check the condition of the mouse you are buying. Healthy mice are lively, their coats have a healthy shine, their eyes are bright and there is no discharge coming from the nose. The mouse should be clean under the tail and it has to be able to move about with ease. Healthy, level headed mouse does not act aggressively towards you. It also pays to take a peek in the mouse's coat and see if there are any unwanted tenants there - ectoparasites or their eggs.

Final words

Please, be a responsible mouse owner!! Do not breed your mice, if you are not certain that you can find good homes for each and every baby you produce. Dumping the babies to a pet shop does NOT qualify as finding good homes! It is highly irresponsible to get a male and female couple to live in the same tank. The result will be large flow of babies, as mice can have over ten babies every three weeks. Continuous pregnancies are a huge strain on a poor female mouse. You don't want to be called a mouse miller or baby factory and despised by all responsible mouse owners, do you???

It is very easy to avoid unwanted litters of mice. Just keep the males and the females apart. If there is any possibility that someone in your house hold could let the sexes mingle together, get only mice of one sex.

Remember that the mouse or mice have only you to provide them with everything. They are your pets and don't care what you look like or if you are in perfect health. It is your responsibility to love your mice what they are as well. Do not dump a mouse in favor of a "better looking one". Get help - and that does mean contact a vet - if there is something wrong with the mouse. Mice are such small creatures that you do need to act quickly. "I'll just see what happens for a few days before I decide on contacting a vet" -attitude literally costs lives.

Well, that's about it! I'll just say:

"Happy Mousing, everybody!!"