Proper Housing

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Proper Housing

Post by Peachy on Thu Apr 07, 2016 10:22 pm

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Mice are primarily crepuscular and/or nocturnal, meaning they'll likely be most active during dawn, dusk, and in the night. For this reason it's best to keep pet mice in a mildly lit room because of their sensitive retinas. Mice should be kept in an environmental temperature between 65-80°F. To help prevent illness, the humidity level should be kept in between 30% and 70%. The lower the humidity, the less the mouse will smell also. This doesn't mean that you should keep your mouse in NO humidity! For the health of your mouse you need some humidity.

Housing mice with other animals.

Many animals are mouse predators, making the outcome of housing them with other species very obvious. For instance, rats are natural predators of mice. Rats will usually always kill a mouse if given the opportunity. This is known as muricide. The rat can not be blamed as it's instinct, not aggression. This happens very quickly. The rat only needs to deliver one bite to kill a mouse. Species that are not considered mouse predators should also not be housed with mice. One will still likely kill the other. Additionally, mice have different nutritional and environmental needs than many other species.

It is also not advised to house domestic mice with wild mice, especially if the wild mice did not grow up in captivity. If a wild mouse and a domestic mouse got into a fight, 99% of the time the wild mouse would win. The nutritional needs of the two are also very different. Wild mice tend to need far more protein than their domestic counterparts, for example.
That said, some wild mice of species other than Mus Musculus (House Mouse) have been successfully housed with house mice. Deer mice and white-footed mice can not breed with our domestic mice. That combination does have a chance of successfully living together. However, it is a risk that should not be taken lightly.

What type of housing is best?

The "best" type of housing will vary between caregivers and greatly depend on their current situation. It is up to you to evaluate all the housing possibilities and judge for yourself what is best for you, your mice, and your situation.

Please take time to make sure that you're choosing an appropriate sized house for your pet. This mouse cage calculator can help you determine how many mice can safely and comfortably fit in your enclosure:

  • Aquariums and Reptile tanks

    Aquariums and reptile tanks are the safest housing for mice. They are chew proof, have adequate ventilation, are fairly easy to clean, don't fade or cloud, etc. As long as the lid is secure, a domestic mouse will not get out, nor can a wild mouse get in.

    There are a few options when selecting a tank. Reptile tanks are made of Plexiglas, which is much lighter than glass. The built in mesh lids make it impossible for a mouse to lift or move the lid to escape.

    Another option is a tank without a built in lid. Some are glass and very heavy (aquariums). These are built to hold water and are fairly easily broken. Once you have a tank, you can then purchase a number of different mesh lids to fit. When selecting a lid, make sure the mesh is heavy enough that the mouse can't chew out. Some mesh lids have built in locks to prevent the lid from coming off. For the lids that do not have this built in, there are many types of cage clips available, such as these:
    Petco Reptile Screen Security Clips

    Mesh lids also allow you to hang things from the top for your mice to play with. These can include ropes to climb, hanging rope with bells, treat sacks, hammocks, along with many other things that can easily be hung from the lid. A tank is also roomy enough to fit many toys. Tinker toys and other climbing toys are great additions to tanks and fit easily.

  • Kritter Keepers

    Medium and large Kritter Keepers are convenient for housing a single mouse, such as an average sized pet shop buck. Kritter Keepers are very light weight and easy to clean. Everything that a single mouse needs can fit in here including a wheel, food dish, water bottle, house, and several toys. There is a built in hole in the lid which fits an 8oz water bottle securely. Ropes can be hung from the lid as well as a hammock. The tub of the Kritter Keeper is very hard plastic, much harder than modified plastic tubs. While not completely impossible, it is extremely unlikely that a mouse will chew through the actual tub of a Kritter Keeper.

    However, the lids of Kritter Keepers are not very adequate for housing a mouse. The lid is made of soft, easily chewable plastic. Mice have no trouble jumping to the lid, hanging on, and chewing their way out in very little time at all. Kritter Keepers can be modified for safety, however. Wire mesh can be cut to line the lid of a Kritter Keeper and secured on, making it so a mouse can not chew out. The mesh can be secured into place with hot glue generously applied, as seen in this picture (click to see it larger):

  • Bin Cages

    Plastic tubs/bins can be modified to house mice. Bins are very light weight and hard to break. This makes cleaning extremely easy. Bins also have a lot of space inside, so they can fit many toys. Bins are very cost efficient but do take elbow grease. Bins can be modified to be stacked while still allowing good ventilation. All this entails is adding more ventilation to the sides rather than the lid. Only adults should modify bins to house mice. 

    Unmodified bins are never to be used as they will suffocate the mice. There are many ways to modify bins and many tutorials available, such as this one:

    While bins have a lot of great features, there is a risk of mice chewing out of them. To help make sure your mice stay in, you should choose a bin that has a flat floor (no edges, bumps, etc for mouse teeth to get a good grip on) and make sure all holes that are made in the bin are covered and secured with wire mesh/hardware cloth that's squares are no more than 1/4 an inch.

  • Wire Cages

    Cages have great ventilation, which is important for the health of your mouse. There is no better housing than cages when it comes to ventilation. Some pet owners have reported that cages help decrease male smell because of the good ventilation. However, some pet owners have also reported that it is worse because there is no restriction or confinement of the smell, such as that with more closed housing. Mice also enjoy climbing the cage bars which can promote good activity. Climbing the bars can cause injury though. If they fall or jump down, they can catch their foot on any horizontal bars. Vertical bars don't have as much of a risk for catching limbs.

    When looking at cages, make sure the bar spacing is 1/4 - 3/8 an inch. This helps ensure that mice won't be able to squeeze through and escape. A good rule of thumb is that if a mouse can fit it's head through a space, it'll be able to escape.

    Keeping the mice IN is important but keeping other mice OUT is also important. Wild mice can fit through all size cage bars because they are generally a lot smaller than our domestics. Wild mice have been known to sneak into domestic mouse enclosures to steal food, kill males, and impregnate females. Most homes have wild mice that the human occupant(s) don't even know about... never assume you can't have wild mice in your residence.

    Cages can also be messy. Mice have a tendency to toss things out of the bars if they don't want them. You can avoid some clean up by placing the cage in or on a barrier of some kind. It could be a Rubbermaid tub, or a hand made paper/cardboard barrier.

    Some cages have wire floors and shelves. Mice should never be forced to walk on wire floors, even if there are areas to get off the wire. Mice can break legs on floors such as these. Walking on wire floors will also causes major foot problems. You can help fix this by securing cardboard on the wire floor. Twist ties can work well to secure it on. However, you will have to replace it often to keep it sanitary.

    If a mouse chews on the wire, it can cause major damage to their teeth. This can cause malocclusion, broken/cracked/chipped teeth, and even rip teeth completely out! This can result in death. A mouse that is missing a tooth or suffers from malocclusion can't eat well, if at all, and therefore they can't thrive.

    The wheels that come in these cages are usually less than adequate and often dangerous. For more about wheel safety, check out this link:

  • Plastic Trails

    These trails tend to be the most expensive of all types of housing available. For how much they break, fade, crack, fall apart, loosen, etc the price is hardly worth it. These housing units are made of bright flashy colors to catch your eye, yet are generally not the greatest for mice or your wallet. Additionally, these types of enclosures are rarely big enough for even one mouse, and connecting them can cause issues among female colonies.

    The space inside the cage is usually very limited, preventing you from adding many toys, hides, hammocks, etc. These cages have very poor ventilation in the main house as well as all the attachments and can attribute to illnesses. Some attachments have been known to hurt small animals or allow them to escape by breaking apart. The attachments can also be very hard and time consuming to clean, especially the tubes. There are so many plastic pieces to take apart, clean, then reassemble. Cleaning can easily be an all day project.

    If you'd like to offer these types of trails, a good alternative to the small cages they come with would be to add them into a tank! Mice deeply enjoy trails and tubes. Mice love to tunnel, therefore they love running through the tubes. Building trails are just as fun for people as they are for the mouse! You can give your mouse a new design with each cleaning, giving them environmental enrichment.

  • Wood Structures

    Some really neat housing units can be made out of dressers, book shelves, armoires, etc. A large hole can be cut in the door and replaced with mesh, allowing for ventilation and access. When securing mesh, make sure the mesh isn't pokey as it can cause injury. Also make sure that the doors shut securely so there are no escapees. Shelves can easily be added to these. Possibilities for modifying these are virtually endless and they can look very nice in our home.

    However, wood structures have the same risks as a cardboard box, it will just take a mouse longer to chew through it. A mouse can chew extremely fast, creating a hole to the outside world in less time than most people think. Wood also soaks up urine, making living arrangements extremely unsanitary and a health risk. Wood can be used if it's covered on the inside, in every place that the mice touch. The wood should be covered by something impossible for a mouse to chew through, it can't be a material that can soak up liquid, and it needs to be non-toxic. Note that mice can actually chew through cement. Mice can also chew completely completely flat surfaces as well. They don't need a corner to get them started. Wood structures can be used safely, if done properly. Covering and sealing the inside surface with Plexiglas is a good start.

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