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The Fun Mouse: Mouse Information: Cleaning, Bedding, and Smells!



Cages should be cleaned at least once a week and wet spots should be taken out every day. Tanks and accessories should be washed at least once a week or as necessary (exception: see 'Male odor'). Plastic tubes, solid wheels (such as comfort wheels and silent spinners) should be cleaned as often as necessary, which may be daily depending on your mice.

There are several choices you can use when scrubbing housing units and accessories. For light cleaning you can use mild baby wipes and hand wipes. When using wipes, stay away from aloe as that will leave residue behind, make sure they are not scented, and check the warnings as they will vary depending on type. Diluted bleach (a cap full to a gallon) as well as Vinegar (same delusion) work very well for deeper cleanings. For the most part however, there is no need to use such a harsh chemicals like bleach. Antibacterial soap and dish soap are also great to use for scrubbing, though always avoid anything scented. What ever you use, make sure you can't smell the cleaning agent you used when the tank/accessory is dry. Good cleaning tools are sponges, pipe cleaner brushes, baby bottle brushes, and a tooth brush (don't use your siblings tooth brush!). These especially work good when cleaning tubes and accessories. Some accessories can be very hard to clean without the right equipment for the job. If a mouse gets something in their environment really dirty (such as a wheel) it is easiest to let the object soak. After sitting in hot water for a while everything usually falls right off with a soft wipe. Cleaning wood can be done by boiling it. Boiling will help extract the urine out of the wood. After boiling, rinse the wood and let air dry. Beware that wood warps when wet and water, especially boiling, often unbinds glued parts. It is very important to make sure that everything is fully dry before your mice are exposed. Mice can't be in humid temperatures and wetness breeds bacteria. Another good idea is to have at least one more cage set up (with wheel, food, water, etc included) to transfer your mice to while cleaning. This works great when soaking as it allows the mice to still have their necessities while you clean. Many people like placing their mice in a play area while cleaning. This area should be secure, fun, and still provide general necessities (food, water, shelter, etc).

What kind of bedding/litter should I use?

There is NO safe bedding. When selecting a bedding, know that ALL types have risks. There is no such thing as a '100% safe bedding.' You must decide what risks you are more willing to take. Test many beddings to see how much you like them. Then choose the one which fits you and your animals best.

There are several kinds of carefresh. The least expensive gray colored carefresh should be used with extreme caution. This is very dusty and has been known to cause permanent damage to sensitive mouse lungs. Carefresh Ultra (white) and colors have much less dust, thus are a far better option. All kinds of carefresh pose a risk of impaction if ingested. This is rare, but not unheard of. A mouse must ingest a significant amount for this to cause harm. Mice generally do not eat their bedding if given chew toys and food at all times. Carefresh does a decent job of controlling odor. Unlike wood beddings, it does not cover up the smell, it neutralizes it. The bedding has a fast wicking action which absorbs and dries urine quickly, thus helping eliminate smell. While carefresh tends to be more expensive than some other beddings, it makes up for that price by expanding greatly. It also allows for more time in between tank cleanings. Carefresh is also great for nesting and tunneling. Adding a little shredded paper to carefresh really fluffs it up. This will help you go through less carefresh and provides more entertainment for the mice. Before use, carefresh should always be baked or frozen as it is the second leading carrier of parasites.

Shredded PaperShredded Paper
Shredded paper has the absolute lowest risk of allergies of all kinds of bedding available. It is also the cheapest bedding you will find. You can even pick up old newspapers from your local distributor for free. Buying computer paper in bulk is not very expensive either. When using shredded paper it is important to check any ink that may be on the paper. Black ink on US Newspapers is safe (we can not verify if colored ink is safe at this time). Newspaper ink is soybean based. Ink from computers is different however. These are generally toxic and should not be used. Always check the ink package before use. You needn't freeze or bake paper before use as there is little to no risk of parasites. There is also less risk of other nasties, such as fungi. Shredded paper is a great addition to other beddings as well. It expands other beddings, making them go further. It also adds enrichment for the mice. Shredded paper (especially long strips or crumpled paper) puffs out, making tunneling easier for the mice. Many mice also seem to prefer shredded paper to anything else for nesting material. The downfalls to shredded paper are that it can be time consuming to shred depending on your shredder, it needs to be changed more often than some other beddings, and it does not eliminate odor as well as nearly all other types of bedding. A cosmetic downfall to shredded paper is ink from newsprint rubbing off. This is not a problem with plain paper, however.

Soil has been reported as being the best bedding for eliminating odor. If soil is used, some standard precautions need to be taken. Soil from your yard is of a higher risk than sterile store bought soil. Animals walk (and fly) freely among our yards, tracking disease, bacteria, etc. Severe illnesses such as rabies and tetanus (among many other risks) can be contracted if you use soil from your yard. It is advised that you buy only sterile soil. Be sure that the soil has no chemicals added. It is very important that you bake or freeze soil to help eliminate nasties.

Soft-SorbentSoft-Sorbent (unscented)
This is wood manufactured into a form which is close to paper. In the bags you will find branches of wood every now and then. Soft-Sorbent helps reduce odor better than many other beddings. It isn't as fluffy as carefresh which helps decrease the risk of impaction, yet does not eliminate it. This bedding does have a bit of dust to it, which is a respiratory risk, however there are many beddings out there that are far more dusty. There have been several reports of allergies to soft sorbent, causing severe hair loss and skin irritation. It has the same allergen risks as any other wood bedding. As with most beddings, it is important to freeze or bake it before use.

Hay, including the well known Timothy Hay, has been known to help odor. Hay neutralizes some odor and covers some up with its natural smell. Mice deeply enjoy nesting and tunneling in it. As with any bedding, there are cons. Hay is the number one carrier for parasites (such as lice and mites). If you use hay, make sure you freeze or bake it to kill any parasites it may be harboring. Also be sure that it is not moldy or has a musty smell to it at all. This can be deadly to mice.

Hemp is a great bedding for mice that like to tunnel. The structure of the hemp allow for easy tunneling. Hemp both absorbs odor and covers it up with its natural scent, though the scent is not as strong as most wood bedding. Hemp bedding does post an allergy risk, but not as high as wood bedding to the best of our knowledge. A common complaint of hemp is that it is rough/scratchy. It is very important to freeze or bake this bedding before use.

Maple is one of the better wood based bedding. The smell of maple tends to be less potent and of a more pleasant smell (though not perfume like cedar) to most. It absorbs and covers odor like other wood bedding. While it may depend on the brand, maple tends to be lest dusty than most other wood bedding. Unfortunately it is often hard to come by at the present time. You may need to order it online or through your local animal warehouse/feed store. As with all bedding, it is always recommended that you freeze or bake it before use.

PineTreated Pine
This is one of the most common bedding to be quickly attacked. The truth is that treated pine is no more risky than any other wood bedding out there. There is NO *true* evidence that it is any more harmful than any other wood bedding, including aspen (aspen being the one it is most commonly compared to). There are a lot of people that have misinterpreted studies (which state that it "is not clear from various studies", etc). The concern about pine is the phenols in it that protect the tree from parasites (note that all trees have some kind of defense against parasites, not just pine). Treated pine has phenols baked out (kiln dried) at extreme temperatures (beyond what your home oven could heat to). The kiln drying process is rigorous. Don't believe the hype around treated pine and don't confuse it with untreated pine (which is controversial). Look into the studies for the truth.

Do note that ALL wood shavings are an allergy risk as ALL wood bedding contain allergy irritants in one form or another. Like anything, mice (as well as people) could be allergic to any wood product (see the section on aspen for details). Also, when ever using any bedding, get it with the least amount of dust. Treated pine that is sifted for dust is less dusty than many other kinds of wood bedding.

Aspen is a reasonably safe bedding. Because of the structure of aspen, it makes a great bedding for mouse tunneling. A common complaint of aspen is that it is rough/scratchy but that is partially due to brand. As with any wood bedding, has been known to cause severe wood allergies such as itching, sneezing, hair loss, respiratory issues (some permanent), etc. Please note that these allergies can also effect mice on ANY type of wood bedding, not just aspen. Aspen is not the worst by any stretch of the imagination, nor is it the best. Unfortunately there is little scientific data available on aspen at this time.
Also note that not all aspen is created equal! There have been reports of mice (and people) being allergic to some brands and not others. If you use aspen, it is recommend that you get a quality brand (such as teklad) that has minimal dust. Kaytee aspen is among the worst available.

Cat Litter
*Warning* Some cat litters can be used for mice, however, some are deadly. For instance, Yesterdays news is okay. However, never-ever use clumping cat litter. If ingested this can cause harm and even death. The litter can get bound up in the body if ingested, such as the throat and digestive tract. In addition, it can bind up their urinary tract (going up the urinary opening) causing infection and even death. Any litter that has a scent to it is also harmful to sensitive mouse lungs as well.

*Warning* Never use cotton. If cotton is ingested it can cause choking and/or bind up the digestive tract of a mouse, resulting in death. A common product marketed for pocket pets that is cotton goes by the name "Fluff." Never allow any pocket pet contact with this product or any product like it.

*Warning* Never use Cedar bedding. All cedar bedding, to one extent or another, contain Plicatic acid. Plicatic acid causes the body to release antibodies receptors which are found in plasma (blood) and other body fluids. In other words, an animals' body is trying to fight it off. Think of the common cold and how the body releases antibodies to fight it off. Plicatic acid causes inflammatory/allergic reactions and asthma. A mouse that is only exposed to it for a short time (less than 24 hours) can have major break outs on the skin, excessive sneezing, wheezing, etc (asthma). Constant exposure for a few months will always lead to life-time immune problems. Less than 50% of the time will asthma completely go away, even after the cedar is removed. Even IF symptoms go away, the immune system is still effected and will never fully recover. Cedar is also very strong and perfume smelling. Cedar, as backed up by many studies, is the worst wood to be exposed to.

How do I decrease odor?

Mice as a species do not smell any more than any other species, including rats and hamsters. They actually smell *less* than some species, such as cats and dogs because mice are confined to their tank. Additionally, mice are not dirty, contrary to some misguided belief. Mice are extremely clean. They are actually so clean that it can cause OCD type disorders in mice. They tend to use a potty corner (they may even use a potty box, if provided) and they spend countless hours cleaning themselves daily. You will be hard pressed to find a dirty mouse unless they are housed in a dirty cage due to lack of human cleaning. The most important thing is to keep their enclosure clean. Mice must be cleaned weekly, in addition to spot cleaning daily/every could days, depending on the mouse/mice and type of enclosure. Plastic tubes (such as critter trail tubes) and some wheels will collect urine, often to a harmful degree. It is extremely important to keep those areas clean, if not eliminate those areas all together by using a different wheel or different housing enclosure. It is also important to clean potty areas. Some mice are so clean that they will only use one spot to urinate. If this area isn't cleaned often, it can build up ammonia and breed harmful bacteria. Potty areas must be spot cleaned every 1-2 days. This is very easy and takes about 2 minutes. All you have to do is scoop out the small portion of wet bedding and replace it with a handful of clean. Most mice can be trained to use a litter box, especially those that already have a potty corner. You can give them a container (such as tuperware, jar, etc), or buy them a Hamster Potty. Never use clay litter, as outlined above. Also be warned that the litter sold with/for hamster potties is not safe! It often helps to use a different kind of litter in their potty, than in their enclosure. For instance, if you use carefresh as a main bedding, you can try cob litter in the potty. You can also add things to their water to help neutralize the smell. A product called Bio-odor has good over all reviews. Natural, pure vanilla extract (be sure it is real vanilla!) also has excellent reviews. It is important not to over use these things. For instance, Vanilla contains alcohol. In small amounts this will not give any adverse affects. Only use 1 drop per 8oz bottle. It is often recommended to take them off this for a couple weeks every 1-2 months. Room air filters can also help. Never use room air fresheners/deodorizers for mice! These are harmful to their sensitive lungs.

Male odor

Male mice tend to smell more than female mice do. This is contributed to their need to mark their territory. Not all males will do this and most males that do this will get better with age. To help combat their need to mark, it is important to leave one thing in their tank that smells like them. Studies show that males that are allowed to keep their nest don't mark as much as males that have their nest taken and replaced with clean nesting material. If you chose to do this, make sure you check to insure the bedding is clean. Males tend to keep their nest clean, but if it is dirty, replace it with clean bedding for health reasons. You can also try leaving one object with them that isn't cleaned. For instance, if they have a toy that isn't gross, don't clean it when you do the bucks weekly cleaning. Having one thing that smells like them will help because they will not have the need to re-mark as much. Lastly, if a buck smells females or other males it can cause them to mark worse. This includes the smells of other mice on your hands, if you had just touched another mouse. It also includes mice in the same room as they are and smells on any shared space, such as play areas. Please don't let smell be your decision maker when choosing a pet. While some males will smell more than some females (nothing that some females can smell too) they can be kept under control if you clean them weekly and take the tips on this page. Males are often more affectionate to humans than females. Many people prefer males to females as on over all opinion. You may read more about males and their personality on the forum, here.

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