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The Fun Mouse: Mouse Information: Proper Housing for Mice



Mice are nocturnal creatures by nature, therefore bright light will hurt their eyes. It's best to keep pet mice in a mildly lit room because of their sensitive retina. 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.

Mice should only be housed with their own species. Housing mice with any other species is very dangerous and often results in death. Almost all 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 he opportunity. This as 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. Since rats are mouse predators it can be stressful for a mouse to smell a rat. If you have both mice and rats you should consider keeping them in separate rooms. Studies show that mice who can smell rats are more likely to be stressed and pregnant mice are more likely to miscarry. This is their systems way of keeping their babies out of harms way. If the mom thinks that there is a threat, such as a predator around, she may abort the babies to save them from the rat. However, some mice (especially those who grow up around rats from birth) seem to be less effected by the smell.

Species that are not considered mouse predators should not be housed with mice, even if they are roughly the same size. One will likely still kill the other. Additionally, mice have different nutritional and environmental needs than many other species, including hamsters. Mice and hamsters, no matter the species, should never be housed together. This will almost always result in disaster.

It is a risk housing domestic mice with wild mice, especially if the wild mice do not grow up in captivity. If a wild mouse and a domestic mouse get into a fight, 99% of the time the wild mouse will win even though they are usually smaller than domestics. Wild mice are more hardy and know how to fight much better than their domestic counterparts. The nutritional needs of the 2 are also very different. Wild mice tend to need far more protein than their domestic counterparts. With that said, there are success stories. 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. Housing a male Deer Mouse or White Footed Mouse with female House Mice (Mus musculus) will not produce babies. 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.

Aquariums/Reptile tanks
TankAquariums and reptile tanks are the safest housing possible for mice. Mesh LidThey 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. Some tanks have a built in mesh lid that slides and locks, similar to the one pictured to the right. These are known as Reptile tanks. They are not made of glass or designed to hold water. They are made of plexiglas, which is much lighter than glass. The built in mesh lid makes it impossible for a mouse to lift or move the lid to escape. ClipsAnother 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. Plexiglas is a better option when ever possible. Once you have a tank, you can then purchase a number of different mesh lids to fit, such as the one shown above and to the left. Some lids have hinges in the middle, some have doors, some even allow attachments for tubes. When selecting a lid, make sure the mesh is heavy enough that the mouse can't chew out. Plastic "mesh" lids are not recommended as the are a high chew risk. 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 as shown to the right. Mesh lids allow for 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
Kritter KeeperMedium 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. Their 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. Mesh Kritter Keeper LidWhile not completely impossible, it is extremely unlikely that a mouse will chew through the actual tub of a Kritter Keeper.

However, the lids of critter 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. If a mouse decides to do this, it is very likely that you will not catch them before they have escaped. 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 to the left (click picture to enlarge).

Plastic Bins
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.
Plastic Bin
Unmodified bins are never to be used as they will suffocate the mice. There are many ways to modify bins. One method is to start by cutting a hole in the lid, almost the entire size of the lid. Be sure not to cut too much from the lid as it needs to retain its structural integrity. After most of the lid is removed, fill the hole with wire mesh on the inside of the bin. Placing the mesh on the inside helps prevent the mice from chewing the cut edges and working their way around the mesh to freedom. To prevent the mice from getting poked by the mesh, fold it over all the way around (fold it like you would when hemming pants) before securing it on. The folded side should be toward the bin, not away from it and exposed to the mice. You can then go over the mesh with hot glue to be extra careful. Wire mesh, also known as Hardware Cloth, can be found at a local hardware store. When purchasing the mesh, make sure it is strong enough so the mice can't chew through it. You can secure the mesh onto the lid with pop rivets, bolts, among other things. Hot glue can be used on some bins, but doesn't hold well to others. Hot glue is usually more useful in combination with bolts or rivets. What ever you decide to use, make sure it is not chewable as that will defeat the purpose. When securing the mesh on, make sure there are no holes between the mesh and lid, in the mesh itself, or pieces of wire are sticking out that can poke your mouse. Never assume anything is out of reach as a mouse can get virtually anywhere. Never use adhesive, such as duct tape, to secure mesh on. This is very dangerous for mice if ingested. A mesh lid is all that is truly needed, however you can also add more ventilation to the sides. You can cut holes in the sides of the bins, filling them wish mesh just as you did the lid. You can also use a soldering iron to melt holes at the top. When ever making a hole, you should always cover it with mesh. Leaving holes makes chewing out much easier for a mouse. Again, never assume they can't access these holes.

While bins have a lot of great features, there is a high risk of mice chewing out of them. Mice can chew flat surfaces and plastic. Bins are made of rather soft plastic, making it even easier for a mouse to chew out. Mice can chew out of a bin in very little time. It is likely that you will not even catch your mouse chewing out of these. You will just find an empty container and a hole.

Additionally, some plastics are toxic. Only plastics made to hold human foods should be used, as these are safe. There is no safety guarantee for other plastic bins. A mouse doesn't need to chew a toxic bin to be effected. Constant exposure can do damage by itself. Some plastics contain lead as well as an array of chemicals. These don't effect humans in low quantities, so long as they are not being eaten off of. This is why they can be sold in stores. However, they can be extremely toxic to a small animal that is constantly exposed to it.

Wire Cages
CageCages 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.

The only cage bars that might be okay (depending on the mouse) are ¼ inch square (not tall or long bars but square mesh) or smaller. Most mice can fit out of bar cages, even if the bars are ¼ inch apart. Young or small mice can easily fit out 1/8 inch spaced bars. Almost all mice can fit out of anything that their skull can fit through. Note that their skull is much smaller than their head appears! Mice have a rather flat scull and they can really shimmy it between bars. The mice that don't escape from cage bars are either very over weight or just haven't had the desire to... yet. However, the grass is always greener on the other side of the fence. You never know when your mouse might think that and escape!

Keeping the mice IN is important but keeping other mice OUT is also important. Wild mice can fit through all size cage bars (as opposed to fine mesh)! Wild mice are generally a Cagelot smaller than our domestics and can fit through very small bars. Wild mice will want to get to your mouse's food if they see it. Wild mice are not attracted into your home by mouse food, but they will seize the opportunity to take it if they stumble across it. Along with food temptation, a male mouse can smell if your female(s) are in heat. This will attract a wild male quickly if he's already in the house! There are many occasions where a male mouse has gotten into a females cage, impregnated her, and escaped back out before anyone knew what happened. 19-24 days later the females have babies, much to the owner's surprise! This is not miraculous conception, it is a sneaky wild mouse! In addition to sneaking in to impregnate a female, a wild mouse can also come in and kill your mouse and/or the babies! If a male mouse sees babies that are not his (or he doesn't recognize them as his) he will kill them with the first opportunity he has. Wild males may also kill your domestic male(s). He may do this because your males are in his territory or he wants your males food but gets into a fight while stealing it. Most homes have wild mice yet the human occupant(s) don't even know it. Never assume you can't have wild mice in your residence.

Cages also promote messes in your home. Mice have a tenancy to toss things out of the bars if they don't want them. This can be anything that can fit through the cage bars. It is not unheard of for a mouse to move almost all of the bedding from the cage onto their caregivers floor. You can avoid some clean up by placing the cage in a barrier of some kind. It could be a rubbermaid tub, or a hand made paper barrier.

Most 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 actually 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, therefore they can't thrive.

The wheels that come in these cages are usually less than adequate and often dangerous. See the Wheels Section of the site for more about wheel safety.

Plastic Trails
TrailMice deeply enjoy trails and tubes. Mice love to tunnel, therefore they love running through the tubes available with these types of housing units. Building trails are just as fun for people as they are for the mouse. You can come up with so many elaborate designs with all the tubes and attachments available. You can give your mouse a new design with each cleaning, giving them environmental enrichment. Most trails are also universal so you can attach them together. These type of houses have endless possibilities when expanding.

While you can build these types of housing units out as much as your heart desires, you are very limited when it comes to adding anything inside. It is impossible to hang a hammock in these. Adding climbing toys on the inside, such as tinker toys, does not work well. You are virtually forced to use their house attachments because the inside of these have very limited room to fit even something as simple as a house. Additionally, the house attachments they provide allow for no privacy and very limited ventilation. While it is convenient for you to see your mice, it isn't fair to them not to have a private and dark den. These are very customizable on the outside, but fail miserably when it comes to adding anything to the inside.

You also have to be very careful which attachments you use. Some attachments have been known to hurt small animals. Some have even caused death (such as the Habitrail mini mushroom). Sadly, manufacturers are only interested in the all mighty dollar and not safety. They make these as flashy and eye appealing as possible to sell their product, however this is often at the expense of safety and the lives that are to occupy them. There are limited regulations when it comes to safety and animal products. Never assume that anything in a pet store is safe.

Plastic trails have very minimal ventilation in the main house as well as all the attachments. Mice need to breathe fresh air, just like people do. Poor ventilation can cause illness. Things as simple as your mouse breathing can cause condensation build up. If a water bottle leaks it can pose a bigger problem. Any wetness can cause illness and breed bacteria. If the wheel is enclosed urine build up happens easily. This is very unsanitary and bad for the health of your mouse. Additionally, wood bedding or any Trailother bedding with any scent should never be used in poorly ventilated areas such as these.

Plastic trail type housing units can 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. Many times these plastic pieces get broken in the process as well. Tools that can help make the cleaning process easier are a toothbrush, baby bottle brush, pipe cleaners, and any other small brush that can get into tight places. When cleaning always make sure that everything is completely dry before giving it back to your mouse. As stated before, any dampness can breed bacteria and cause illness in mice.

Tubes and attachments are also an escape hazard. If you have other pets that can access the tubes, they can break them apart and either get at the mouse or the mouse can get out. Additionally, if the plastic pieces are not snapped in properly (which is easy to do) or the plastic pieces have loosened with age, it is all too easy for your mouse to escape. Taping or gluing the pieces together does not add security, no matter the type used.

Plastic trail units also tend to severely lack in space. Many of these trails lack even enough space to house a single mouse. You can chain many of these together to accommodate for this, however. This does add more cost though.

Mothers should never be permitted to have babies in these types of housing units. The limited ventilation can cause major health problems for young mice. A mother will build such a good nest to try to hide her babies that she will likely block off all air flow in the nest. A mother doesn't have any privacy when birthing and caring for her babies either. This is a huge risk to the babies as mom might kill them if she doesn't feel secure. It is also extremely disrespectful not to allow mom her space, privacy, and security.

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.

Wood Structures
Some really neat housing units can be made out of dressers, book shelves, armoires, etc. Armoire CageA 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.

Free Range
Free RangeMice generally, though not always, know better than to jump from high spaces. This is what allows Free Range work, sometimes. The idea of many free range arrangements is to build something high so the mice will be reluctant to jump down. This can be a shelf, table, dresser top, or anything else that is high and doesn't have a ramp, stairs, or anything else easily climb down. The sides are built up, generally 3 inches tall, to hold bedding in. Everything that the mice need are placed in the free range area and the mice are allowed to do as they please. There is no cage, glass, or any other kind of restriction. The area is completely open. As you may imagine, free range living arrangements are one of the absolute worst possible arrangements. While some mice will not leap down, some absolutely will. As with any animal, there is no predicting what they will do. You can know general behavior, but not what an individual is going to do 100% of the time. Something could spook them, causing them to dart off the edge. You never know when something might scare a mouse, even with the most controlled environments. A tree could fall outside, a bird could smack into the window, or anything else unpredictable could cause a loud noise and spook the mice. The mice could get into a spat, causing one or more to tumble off the edge. Even the most docile mice have spats from time to time. Mice can also climb up and down many things that most people don't think is possible. There is nothing to stop these free range mice from plummeting to their death, nor running away. Additionally, wild mice can access the pets without much trouble at all. Mice have been known to get in amazing places, leaving a person dumbfounded as to how they got there. Never put anything past a mouse, wild or domestic! Free range housing is a risk in every possible way. Even if the free range area is behind a closed door with a threshold, there is nothing stopping them from chewing their way out through a wall or simply falling to their death. Many wild mice get in through holes people are unable to locate. One should never rely on catching an escapee in time.

Card board boxes
Cardboard BoxDon't, under any circumstances, think that a mouse will not get out of a card board box! Mice are natural chewers and they will get out in no time. By no means is any type of cardboard, no matter how thick, at all adequate for housing.

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