Wild field mouse ©Getty Images

Wild field mouse ©Getty Images

Mice belong to the animal  group called rodents. Rodents are mammals that have a pair of front teeth (incisors)  on both the upper and lower jaws that grow continuously.  Rodents include guinea pigs, beavers, squirrels, porcupines, hamsters and rats. Rabbits, hares and pikas are not rodents, although they also have continuously growing teeth.

There are a number of different species (kinds) of mouse. The best known species is the house mouse. There are a few kinds of mouse that do come into houses but there are other kinds that live in the wild and do not.  The house mouse is found in almost every country, and is a popular pet.

Body and behaviours

Mice are small animals. They have pointy faces and large ears, and have a long tail.  Their eyesight is not good, but they have very keen senses of smell and hearing.

Pet mice ©Getty Images

Pet mice ©Getty Images

Mice are excellent climbers, and can jump straight up in leaps of about 30 centimetres. They can squeeze themselves through tiny openings as small as 6 millimetres.

Because of their continuously growing front teeth, mice gnaw to keep them a reasonable size. This means mice can make holes in cardboard, wood, storage containers, books, furniture and things like electrical wires.  

They are very silent, and are nocturnal, or active at night. This means they are rarely seen in a house, and their droppings and the damage they do are generally the only clues that they are there. They are most likely to invade houses in winter, otherwise they make burrows outdoors.

Mice are thought of as pests. They can do a great deal of damage, and can spread disease. When they get into wheat or other grain storage on farms, they can ruin the whole lot: not just what they eat, but they contaminate the rest by leaving droppings.

Wild mice are brown or grey but mice bred as pets come in other colours as well, especially white.

Newborn mice ©Getty Images

Newborn mice ©Getty Images

Life Cycle

Mice can breed all year round. Females are ready to mate every four or five weeks. 

The baby mice are born about 21 days after a female mates with a male. They are born in a nest prepared by the female. There are usually five to ten mice in a litter. The young are born without hair or teeth and are blind and deaf. After a week the hair begins to grow, and after ten days the baby mice can see and hear. Baby mice drink milk from their mother's body for about three weeks. From about two weeks teeth begin to grow and the young mice can begin to nibble at solid food.

While they are little, the young mice are cared for by their mother. She cleans and feeds them and keeps them safe. After they are four weeks old they can look after themselves. Pet mice can live for about 3 years.

Mice as pets

©Getty Images

©Getty Images

Mice are friendly animals and make good pets. A good start is to get two or three females. They get along well, and it means you won't have baby mice being born every few weeks. Male mice are better kept alone as they can fight each other fiercely. Pet shops buy their mice from breeders. Choose mice with bright eyes and clean fur that does not have bald patches.  Do not buy a mouse that is timid and scared.

Always handle your pets carefully, and wash your hands afterwards.

A warm hidey hole for sleeping in ©Getty Images

A warm hidey hole for sleeping in ©Getty Images

Housing your pet mice

Mice can be kept in a big metal cage with a plastic floor that comes up the sides for a few centimetres, or in a glass or plastic aquarium tank with a fly wire lid.  Ventilation is important.

  Ideally, about 30cm tall and wide is a good size.

There should be a hidey hole because they need a dark place to sleep, which should have soft paper (without inks) to nest in: tissues are ideal.  Wood shavings on the floor of the cage will soak up the mice urine (pee). The mouse house must be cleaned frequently to keep the mice healthy.  Small animals like mice are active because it is hard for them to keep warm.  

An exercise wheel is an important addition to a mouse house ©Getty Image

An exercise wheel is an important addition to a mouse house ©Getty Image

Mice will exercise on a wheel in their house.  

Feeding your pet mice

Mice can be fed dried oats, canary seed, fresh fruit such as apples and bananas, and vegetables such as carrots broccoli and peas. Pet shops sell special food pellets for mice. Mice should have a constant supply of fresh water.

Responsible pet ownership

Pet mice depend on their owners for food, protection and shelter. Before becoming a pet owner think carefully about all the things you will have to do to care for your pet responsibly.

Read more about caring for your pet mice

Read kidcyber pages about other animal pets.