Spiny Mice

We're Getting Spiny Mice!

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

Information to Start Up With

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 & Spiny Mice - a Good Fit?

For Starters -

It is very easy to fall in love with spiny mice. They are cute and charming little animals, which have practically no distinct smell t all. However, before you go and get spiny mice of your own, you should always remember that in spite of being easy to care for, owning spiny 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 spiny 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 spiny mice for example because your parents will not tolerate your new hobby. Best situation for you and especially your (future) spiny mice is that the whole of your family is excited and happy about your new pets.

Lullaby's We Can Work It Out

Egyptian Spiny Mouse
Lullaby's We Can Work It Out
o. Sari & Saara Mattero,
pic: Arttu Väisälä

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

This means: can you be certain that your spiny mice will get good care if you are ill or away from home for a few days? If you are allowed to get spiny 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 spiny 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 spiny 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 spiny 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 spiny mice when you are not able to do it yourself.

Remember - spiny mice can live for a few years and you need to be committed to them for the whole of their lives.

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

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

Buying your spiny 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 spiny mice and to take care of them?


o. Saara Mattero
Pic: Arttu Väisälä

You will have to look after you spiny mice every single day. Basic care consist of looking after that the spiny mouse has food and fresh water. Food bowls should be washed daily with hot water 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 spiny mouse, you will get a perfectly tame and nice pet. Furthermore, due to the small size of a spiny 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 spiny 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 spiny 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 Spiny Mouse From?

First of all, think over if you would like a "purely" pet spinie, or possibly a spiny mouse to attend shows with. Of course, the possibility of showing spiny mice depends on your local mouse club - not all of them have standard classes for spiny mice, Egyptian or Nile. In standard classes the spiny mouse should be as close to the standard both when it comes to the color, type and size. It's more likely to find a club with standards for Egyptian spiny mice, while Nile spinies may only be able to attend unstardardized or provisional standard classes.


The best way of obtaining a standard class spiny mouse is from a reputable spiny mouse breeder. Mouse clubs usually list breeders and you can contact them for reference. With breeders you will get information on the spiny mouse's background and family, many will provide you with a pedigree. In some countries the spiny 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 spiny mouse keeping.

Many breeders have excellent and fun looking pet spiny mice as well. Some breeders also will let you have a joint ownership or similar to offer. Sometimes even very good show spiny mice are rehomed for responsible mouse owners for free. Spiny mice live longer than regular mice and a breeder may need room for younger generations, rehoming older and also pretty tame spinies.

When you get a spiny 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 spiny 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 spiny 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 - spiny mice are housed in cramped and dirty cages and especially if you can spot males and females living together; be very careful.

Spiny mice are ready for new homes at six weeks of age. You should not sell nor buy spiny mice any younger than this. Spiny 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 as easily as with fully grown adults; 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 spiny 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 Spiny Mice?

Spiny Mice

Spiny mice in their tank
o. & pic: Heidi Ketonen

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: The spiny mouse has to be at least six weeks of age before it is sold, even though it has been weaned a couple of weeks earlier. 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.

Young spiny mouse

Matterhorn Find Me In My Fields Of Grass
o. Saara Mattero, 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.

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 spiny mice are both perfectly suitable for keeping as pets. With spiny mice, there aren't even too many differences between the two sexes (no distinct boy smell - spiny mice don't have a mousy smell as a species), so the decision is totally up to you. Spiny mice are very social animals, so do not get a single spiny mouse!

There may be difficulties with introducing a new spiny mouse in an established group of females, as the older ones tend to defend their territory. This can be rather aggressive even. Adults may have a hard time accepting any new spiny mouse in their territory. Therefore it is better to house together two young spiny mice at selling age or somewhat older, or introduce a younger spinie to an adult.

Let the spiny mice to meet each others on a neutral ground, a larger show box (plastic tank) will do fine. Watch the situation closely at first and if everything seems to be going fine, leave them to get used to each others.

In the mean time clean the intended new home for the spinies thoroughly, including all the toys, nests, food bowls and water bottle. Change used cardboard boxes and tubes for new ones. Spiny 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 spiny 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.

Hra. Piikki

Hra. Piikki
o. Saara Mattero, pic: Arttu Väisälä

Spiny 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, their spines are in good condition and there is no discharge coming from the nose. The spiny mouse should be clean under the tail and it has to be able to move about with ease. Healthy, level headed spiny mouse does not act aggressively towards you, although some skittishness may be happening before it gets to know you better.

Final words

Please, be a responsible spiny mouse owner!! Do not breed your spiny 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 and continuous pregnancies are a huge strain on a poor female spiny mouse. You don't want to be called a spiny mouse miller or baby factory and despised by all responsible spiny mouse owners, do you???

It is very easy to avoid unwanted litters of spiny 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 spiny mice of one sex.

Remember that your spiny 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 spiny mice what they are as well. Do not dump a spiny mouse in favor of a "better looking one". Get help - and that does mean contact a vet - if there is something wrong with the spiny mouse. All 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:

"Be happy with your little prickly spiny mice!"

Text by Satu Karhumaa with help from the spiny mouse care & feeding information.