Mouse Diet

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Mouse Diet

Post by AppleCheeks on Thu Apr 07, 2016 6:19 pm

The content on this page is copyrighted and credited to Barbarafunmouse (from The Fun Mouse). Please do not reproduce in any way without permission.

Diet Introduction

There is no single "catch-all" diet that is good for every mouse. Each line differs, and each individual in those lines differ as well. When researching diet, you may come across information that seems to conflict with other information, but consider that the varying recommendations you've found may not necessarily be wrong, they might simply be what works best for a specific line.

A good breeder will know exactly what their mice need and they will know of any allergies in their lines, so much of this page is written with pet shop stock in mind.

If you have mice from a pet shop or other source that is not a quality breeder, you will need to approach diet cautiously. Mice from these places are not bred for health, and are far more prone to allergies and deficiencies. After you've selected a base diet, you might have to tweak it or supplement for individuals in your colony (i.e. feed them some things separately, such as during play time- separated from the colony).

Mouse food is usually unsuitable for mice (the crude protein tends to be too high, for example) so we often recommend feeding a hamster or parakeet food. Some common foods that we recommend are:


In this section we will brush over some important points about nutrition. However, there is a lot more to learn about ingredients and how a mouse processes different sources of nutrients than what we can possibly cover here. Diet is a vast topic that can take years of education just to get a grasp on.

It's important to note that any fresh foods (meat, deceased insects, fruits, veggies, pasta, etc) should be removed from your mouse's enclosure two hours after they are given. If they are left in there any longer they can grow harmful bacteria.

  • Ingredients
    The ingredients in your mouse food are listed by weight, starting with the heaviest. In an ideal mouse food you want to see a variety of quality, whole ingredients listed first.

    It's best to limit or avoid: Corn products (ground corn, corn bran, corn gluten, etc. -- bulk up a feed while offering little primary nutrition), generic meals/by-products and/or derivatives, and common allergens (see below).

  • Crude protein, fat and fiber
    Crude protein, fat, and fiber is an estimate of the amount of all protein, fat or fiber in a food or mix, regardless of its digestibility, source, type or quality. For this reason it's important to closely examine the ingredients in your food.

    Most mice that are NOT from a quality breeder should not have more than 13% crude protein in their daily diet, though generally 12% to 14% is acceptable. High protein can cause what's known as "hot spots". These spots are very itchy to a mouse and are usually on the back of their neck, sometimes going down their spine. Hot spots can cause extreme discomfort, obsessive scratching, open wounds from the scratching, infection from the wounds, and even death. To read more about this, visit this link:

    For untracked lines, we recommend 5-8% crude fat and under 10% crude fiber.

  • Meat Protein
    We recommend that all mice are offered occasional meat in their diet for their best health. Not all protein is equal, and meat protein is often more beneficial. Protein from plant sources are often not complete and can be a source of allergies whereas meat proteins are more complete, easily digested, and less likely to cause allergies. Your mice would be thrilled with cooked turkey, skinless cooked chicken, some kinds of baked fish, as well as insects such as meal worms and crickets. You can get meal worms and crickets from your local pet store (do not catch wild ones to give to your mice!). Bugs are best fed live as they contain the best nutrients but frozen or dried are also beneficial.

  • Common allergens
    Along with high protein, some mice have allergies to things such as peanuts, sunflower seeds, and wheat, to name a few. For this reason, it may be a good idea to look for a mix that contains a small amount of these things. Most mice will be fine with these ingredients in moderation, but if your mouse starts to form hot spots you might want to try eliminating these things from the diet. You can read more about allergies and hot spots in the link provided above.

  • Treats and Supplements
    It's a good idea to supplement your mouse's diet with about 1 tablespoon of fresh foods 2-4 times a week. All treats and supplements should be healthy and fed in moderation. Whenever introducing something new to your mouse, you need to watch their stool. Diarrhea can dehydrate a mouse very quickly and possibly lead to death. However, loose stool or changes in the color of the stool after giving a new thing can be okay as long as it goes away fairly quickly and it isn't intense (explosive). Whenever giving something new, only give the mouse a little sample of it. As days/weeks go by, you can slowly increase the amount of treats or added nutrients your mice get.

    Here are some examples of foods you can use to treat and supplement your mouse's diet: 

    Be careful with marketed treats. Some are very harmful, however some mouse/rat/hamster treats are safe. It's best to check the analysis and ingredients of these items.

    Fruits and vegetables can be fed, however it's important to go slowly as they often cause loose stool at first because the water content is high. For a list of mouse safe foods, visit this link:

Harmful Foods

There are numerous foods that we recommend against feeding your mice. When feeding your mice it is important to know what is okay for them to have and what is risky. NEVER feed your mice anything without FIRST finding out if it is safe or not.

You can begin your search for food safety by utilizing the ASPCA's website. That site is geared more to dogs and cats than mice, but it is a good place to start. Generally (though not always) if something is okay for dogs and cats it is okay for mice too.

Below are a few things that we discourage:

  • Oxbow
    Oxbow is a quality brand, however it is not a sufficient source of nutrients for mice. There have been many reported cases in the US of mice failing to thrive and even dying if fed exclusively Oxbow. Oxbow can be given in addition to a well balanced diet, but it should never be the majority of their diet.

  • Kaytee and Hartz
    We recommend avoiding brands like Kaytee and Hartz if you can find something better. These are known for offering the cheapest ingredients in their diets, meaning the ingredients are nearly worthless and some are flat-out harmful. Kaytee foods once (and some may still) contained carcinogenic preservatives (such as Ethoxyquin, see below).

  • Ethoxyquin
    We would like to take a moment to elaborate a little on this chemical. This is a chemical that is added to some foods as a preservative. Ethoxyquin is added to both human foods and animal foods. The FDA has regulated it by allowing 100ppm in human foods and up to 150ppm in animal foods. If the mix has higher than 150ppm it has been clearly shown to cause cancer, tumors, and disease in mice and rats. There is an alternative to using Ethoxyquin. Vitamin E is also a preservative and is NOT linked to cancer, tumors, or disease and is actually beneficial. Companies choose to use Ethoxyquin because it is cheaper. However, you get what you pay for. 

  • Corn
    Unfortunately corn is an overwhelming ingredient in most foods. Reasonable amounts of corn is okay, but companies love to use it because it is a cheap filler. Look for foods that offer other more nutritious, beneficial, and quality ingredients.

    --Although prior studies have generally been found inconclusive, some owners choose to regulate corn intake as it had once been linked to cancer in mice (as well as all other animals).

  • Yogurt Drops
    Yogurt drops are slyly marketed to make you think that you are feeding your mice something nutritious like yogurt, when in fact what you are feeding them is pure sugar with a tiny bit of "yogurt powder."  There are many healthier alternatives, such as sugar free human cereal. If you want to give yogurt, give them sugar-free *real* human yogurt. Just be sure to remove uneaten portions no more than 2 hours after offering it so that it doesn't grow harmful bacteria.

Pre-mixed foods

Studies clearly show that mice must have mixed food as at least part of their diet to stay healthy. Being scavengers by nature, mice have a physical need to forage food. Scavenging for food keeps a mouse mentally spry. This directly reflects in their behavior as well as their health. A mouse that is given a healthy diet that they can scavenge for will be healthier and live longer than mice that are not given this opportunity. However, you need to make sure that your mice are not only picking out the stuff they like best and leaving the rest before you refill their dish. Additionally, make sure you check the food daily to insure they have actual food, not just empty shells.

Lab blocks

Lab blocks are made of ground up ingredients that are pressed together into "block" or "pellet" shapes. They're most commonly given to lab mice as they contain the essential nutrients a mouse needs in block form, making it so the mice can't pick only what they want out of a diet, thereby not getting a balanced diet. 

The right lab block is a very good staple. If you have mice that pick out only their favorite foods and refuse the rest then your mice might benefit from lab block to ensure they get all the nutrients they need. 

If you choose lab block, be sure to look into the protein. Many lab blocks on the market contain way too much protein for some mice, especially pet shop mice. Most of them are around 18-24% which is terribly high for some mice and can result in horrible allergies.

If you feed block as a staple, it is important to also give healthy treats for them to scavenge. Giving a small amount of treats on a daily basis will fulfill all their needs while not being overbearing to their block diet. These treats should be healthy (cheerios are one great option). It is best to "hide" these treats throughout the environment so they have to hunt for them. Hiding can simply mean putting treats in areas that are not where their block is, or burying them in their bedding (clean spots only). You can have fun hiding these treats too! For ideas, check out our Mouse DIYs section:

Homemade Mixes

With extremely few exceptions, we do not recommend attempting to make your own mix. We can not stress enough how important it is that you do a lot of research into what a mouse needs as a staple diet before even considering making your own. For instance, mice can NOT live on bird seed alone. Nor can they live on dog food or table scraps. Mice need a well balanced diet just like humans do. You need to know how to calculate % in the diet, such as % fat, % protein, etc. You also must have a good understanding of what types of foods are digested in what ways by the mouse. For instance, while soy has a good amount of protein, a mouse is unable to utilize the protein from soy effectively, therefore it is not a good source of protein despite its "nutritional value." This is the spot where most people fail at making good diets for their mice. They take the nutritional value and assume that is what their mice are getting, when that is far from what is happening. This misconception is where their mice suffer.

The best "homemade mixes" we've seen people use are made up mostly of *high quality* lab block or a pre-made mix and then they add other things to it such as cereal, oatmeal, high quality dog food, etc. Just be careful what you add. Things like sugar should not be a staple and your additions should not be overbearing to the base diet as it can render it useless. Additions should be an enhancement and generally not overwhelming the pre-made base diet.

Mixing Two Quality Foods

As mentioned above, some owners prefer to mix high quality lab blocks and commercial mixes in order to offer both proper nutrition and variety. Another option with a similar purpose is to offer two high quality commercial mixes together. When mixing foods, it's important to pay attention to the quality, guaranteed analysis, and ingredients to ensure that your mice are still receiving the appropriate percentages of crude protein, fat, and fiber.

Last edited by Peachy on Sun Feb 26, 2017 2:08 pm; edited 1 time in total (Reason for editing : Information updated)
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