By Patricia Knight
Perhaps the tiniest of all common small pets, mice often seem to be overlooked. Most mouse parents find that their first mice actually exceed their expectations. Like all animals, they have their pros and cons — but these little guys are full of surprises and they’re even popular all over the world. As one mousekeeper in New South Wales, Australia, Jaye Brown, puts it, “They are incredibly sweet, are an endless source of entertainment and are also really cute!”
© Courtesy Jaye Brown
Who can resist the cuteness of pet mice?
The first thing to note about mice is that they are very social animals. Aud Fischer of Yukon, Canada, who runs the YouTube Channel CreekValleyCritters, mentions that they actually have complex interactions — a trait that some rodents (e.g., hamsters) do not have. “Having a mousery is a little like having one’s own personal little soap opera,” Fischer said.
There’s also a fun factor to keeping mice. When first keeping mice, Elena Kern, founder and president of the United Mouse Club, learned that they could be entertaining and keep her company, as well as that they are interactive. “They are great pets for beginners and even people who have had pets in the past,” she said. “They are quite intelligent, and you can train them to do tricks, as well.”
Fischer, whose first mouse was called Jason, actually had a very interesting first experience with mice. When student-teaching, Fischer decided to get Jason on a whim; some baby mice were being sold as snake food, and Fischer got one so that the class could watch the baby grow up. “I had not expected him to have any more awareness than a fly… Did he ever prove me wrong.” Fischer says that Jason’s intelligence, personality and affection were mind-blowing, adding, “I have been hooked on mice ever since.”
© Courtesy Elena Kern
Mice are entertaining, interactive pets.
As if their character weren’t enough, there are additional pros to keeping mice. Brown notes that mouse care is inexpensive and easy. There are also more varieties of mice than most people expect. Robin MacDonald, who owns MausHaus Mousery, cared for a first mouse named PingPong vom Maus. “Mice come in many, many colors and coat types, even tailless.”
As near-perfect as mice may seem, there are a couple of cons. One is their extremely short life span: Most mice don’t even live for two years, which Brown says is the most challenging thing about mice so far.
Mice also have their own specific odor. Sharon Roche of New South Wales, Australia, has a mousery called Mousekateers Mousery. She says that many people find that the biggest challenge is getting used to the specific mouse smell. “The best way to deal with this is to accept the fact that they do have an odor.” She says that you can minimize it somewhat, but it is not possible to completely get rid of it.
MacDonald actually has a very specific way to describe the odor: “I was not expecting the mouse smell to be so much like corn chips.”
© Courtesy Sharon Roche
Pet mice have a distinct odor, which some people have likened to corn chips.
If a mouse seems like a good choice for you, consider a few helpful hints before taking one home. First, remember that they tend to run on their wheels at night. “I learned to invest in a wheel that does not squeak or make a lot of noise,” Kern said. She also says that mice need to be kept away from other pets and really young children who may not be gentle with them.
MacDonald mentions that males should be kept separately from other males. “They will often fight. Females can be kept in groups usually without issues.” Whether to get a male or female mouse may depend on personal preference, however.
Brown suggests keeping three females. “I’ve had a small number of female mice who have become noticeably lethargic and ‘depressed’ after one of their buddies passes away, so I would always recommend having three females at a time in case this happens.”
Roche actually prefers males. She says that they are territorial and live alone — but because of this, they tend to be “extremely friendly” and they also “crave more attention.” She notes that females are more introverted but are great to observe as they “go about their business.”
© Courtesy Robin MacDonald
PingPong vom Maus was the first mouse Robin MacDonald cared for.
Time For A Mouse!
With all of these great characteristics, it’s natural to perhaps look at mice in a new light and want to bring one home. They truly do seem to exceed people’s expectations! Brown summarizes it best: “I feel like they carry a sort of stigma to them and that many people don’t realize how amazing they really are…I couldn’t imagine not having them around!”