Lifespan: 2-3 years
Recommended for: 5 years+
Although the wide range of pet mice available these days may appear to be completely different from your average brown house mouse, they are very much the same. The main differences are in coat colour and appearance.
It is believed mice have been domesticated for thousands of years, with interest in breeding and fancy mice starting in China around 300 A.D. During the 1700s, the Japanese worked extensively on breeding new colours, and visiting Europeans took these mice back home. Today, there are clubs around the world that hold shows for mice enthusiasts. Just like dogs, cats and other animals, mice are exhibited and judged on their appearance. Today pet and fancy mice are as popular as ever.
The standard pet mouse is smooth coated and comes in a variety of plain colours. The body is around 10cm long and the tail around 10cm. In all approximately 20cm in length from nose to tail tip. Fancy mice is the term given to those mice that have been bred with unusual colour, pattern and/or coat types. The names used to describe different fancy mice reflect the physical characteristic of the type. They include white, brown, black, bluey grey, himalayan, siamese (colourpoint), burmese, long hair, long hair rex (curled hair), short hair rex, normal short coat, hairless, tail-less (Manx), fox (white stomach), tiger or brindle, ticked, roan (white hair tick). There is even a ginger variety that carries a gene for obesity.
Owners have found mice to be curious and even people orientated. Unlike their undomesticated counterparts pet mice are not particularly timid and will investigate something new in their territory. They do bite, but usually because they are scared or handled badly. According to enthusiasts, mice can form a bond with people and can be trained to perform simple tasks.
One of the most important aspects of keeping pet mice is handling. Mice should be picked up at the base of the tail and then quickly supported underneath. (Manx are tail-less and should be just gently eased into the hand.) Once the mouse is balanced and comfortable it can wander all over a person as much as permitted. Mice are pocket pets and are more than happy to spend time crawling from shoulder to pocket to head and back again.
Care and maintenance
Mice can be kept in a medium-sized glass tank, or clear plastic container, with a secure lid. They are great escape artists so be very careful. Inside the enclosure will need some kind of non-toxic substrate, like recycled paper in pellet or chuck form or even sawdust. Add a drip feeder for water, a little dish for food and some toys like a wheel or tube. Two mice of the same sex is best way to start. Two girls might be better as male mice do smell a bit more and can be territorial. The mice enclosure should not be kept in direct sunlight.
Toys are very important to keep these active creatures occupied and a mice wheel is practically essential. Simple household items like toilet rolls or little boxes are also a great idea. Mice love paper towel as they will build little nests with it. Any non toxic object can be placed into the enclosure or the mice can be let out of their enclosure to explore. (Make sure the room and house is secure and there are no hidey holes.)
The most important task associated with keeping mice is the cleaning of the enclosure. Once a week the substrate must be removed and replaced and any other waste cleaned out. Once a month the enclosure may also need to be thoroughly washed out. The mice will always have one corner of the enclosure they will use as the toilet and if this is not removed weekly the enclosure will smell.
Mice can be easily fed with basic mice cubes and the odd bit of seed, fruit and vegetable. Mice cubes are made of compressed minerals and vitamins and can be bought from a pet store. Be aware that mice need to gnaw to keep their teeth worn down. Any chewable substance placed into the enclosure will be chewed and therefore should be non toxic. (The mice cubes do suffice as gnawing material and will keep the teeth worn down.)
Health and lifespan
Mice will only live 2 to 3 years and may experience respiratory problems and cancerous tumours. Respiratory problems usually occur when the mouse has been left in a cool draught or when the enclosure has become damp. Tumours are lethal and can be removed by vets if desired.
When purchasing mice look for animals that are not hunched up or fearful.
The coat should be clean and soft with no bald patches. There should be no bite marks on the mice and no broken whiskers. The eyes should also be bright. If the mouse looks unhappy don’t feel sorry for it and buy it, it may be unwell.
If you are serious about breeding mice then joining a mouse club is highly recommended. The average litter is about 6-8 and males and females will have to be separated at around 3 weeks to ensure that breeding is controlled.
Pet mice cost between $2-$3 while fancy mice can cost $6-10. Expect to pay around $20 for a Hairless mouse. Everything you need, including mice, can be bought from a pet store and set-up costs are around $50-$60 for two mice. Upkeep is no more than a couple of dollars a week. Mouse clubs also sell mouse toys and accessories.
Mice are pretty adaptable and will live anyway with anyone. They are a good pet for kids, but it is recommended that children under 5 years do not handle mice unsupervised.
We filmed our segment with breeder Robyn Woodward. Robyn has been breeding mice for around 10 years and is a member of the NSW Fancy Rat and Mouse Club. The Australian Rat Fanciers Society (AusRFS) has branches around the country(except NSW and the Northern Territory) however the society does cover all states. In some states the society includes rodents, such as fancy mice. For all the information about this group go to the website at: www.ausrfs.org.au or approach the contacts listed below.
Australian Rodent Fancier’s Society – ACT
Phone: (02) 6231 7077 (Nikki)
NSW Fancy Rat and Mouse Club
37 Frank Street
Australian Rodent Fancier’s Society Qld
50 Lay Street
Mt Gravatt, 4122
Phone: (07) 3272 8949
Rat and Mouse Hotline 0408 339 905 or 0408 712 778
Australian Rat Fanciers Society SA
See Vic details below
Website: ausrfs.org.au/sa (under construction)
Australian Rat Fanciers Society Vic (AusRFS Vic)
PO Box 15
Heidelberg West ,3081
Phone: (03) 9743 9887 or (03) 9440 7710 or 0410 538 234
West Oz Rat Fanciers
Phone: 0412 482 085