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The Fun Mouse: Mouse Information: Keeping Mice Together

Contents

*Also see sections on Introducing mice and Quarantine.

Can female mice live together?

Yes! Female mice are companion animals and love to be housed with each other. A female should not be housed by herself unless there is an extreme circumstance such as fighting, which is very rare. Fighting females can generally be contributed to abuse of some sort or due to horrible breeding. It is rare for females to fight, as long as they have been introduced properly. If the mice have not grown up together, it is imperative that you introduce the females properly. See the section of this site that covers how to properly introduce mice, giving several options. Additionally, females should be housed in groups of 3 or more unless you have additional females in other colonies at home. The reason for this is because of potential severe depression. If a female inevitably loses her only companion she may get so lonely she actually dies of a broken heart (this isn't unheard of in humans either, such as one person losing their long time spouse). This generally happens within a week of the friends passing. The remaining mouse will mope around, looking for her. Her diet might decrease and she may lose weight. If you have 3 or more mice housed together or additional potential companions for your mouse at home (adopting a mouse at the last minute isn't an option due to quarantine), this helps prevent severe depression due to a loss. Having more than one remaining allows them to comfort each other through their loss, helping them avoid depression.

Can male mice live together?

Pet shop males should never be housed together due to the extremely high risk of fighting. Males that have been in contact with a female have a lot less of a chance to be housed together successfully as well. Males compete for females and if they smell one (even in the next room or on your hands from a previous handling) they may get aggressive. Males from well tracked domesticated lines from *good* and educated breeders can sometimes be housed together. This is more common in Europe than in such places as North America. The main reason for this is because mice in some countries have been domesticated longer than others. Some countries have had domestic mice for a century or more than the US. Evolution is a big factor in taking the "nature" out of the mouse. Selective breeding helps as well. Males in the US are not inferior to males in other countries. They have just had domestic mice longer, in turn the mice have become more domesticated. Males in the US will generally fight to the death, even littermates. This can happen from 4 weeks of age and beyond. Many people have tried to house their bucks together and most of the time it has resulted in death or serious injury. Most times the death or injury happens without any warning whatsoever. The bucks will be perfectly fine with each other one day but the next day one or more are dead. It does happen that fast! Even with the closest supervision when housing males together is a huge risk. When there actually is a warning that fighting is occurring, taking out the alpha male isn't always going to improve the situation. Once fighting starts, it snowballs. Taking the alpha male out only opens up the Alpha slot to another mouse in the pecking order. Without the alpha, another quickly takes his place and starts to fight with all the other bucks. It's a never ending chain of events until all bucks are either separated or dead. This is only nature, as sad or inconvenient as it may be. Housing bucks alone is the safest way to do things. A solo male will be perfectly happy with toys and TLC from his caregiver. Solo males are also more affectionate as you are his only friend.

A novice should NEVER attempt to house bucks together, period. The risk is entirely too high and not worth it. It is never fair to play with their lives like that. If you are very experienced with mice, are very educated in mouse care, and know your lines well, the key to keeping bucks together is giving them just enough space for them to be comfortable and no more (this does not mean cramming them into a tiny space). This is contrary to what most other sites out there recommend. This is partially contributed to lack of new and advanced education on the topic and lack of experimentation. Lab reports as well as experience from good breeders shows that it helps to have LESS space, not more space. Giving them a lot of space often results in them claiming their own territory among that space, which can be even more serious when one claims something as vital as the food dish or water bottle. Then when their tank mate goes into that space they fight terribly. By giving them limited space they are forced to share. There isn't enough space for them to divide off and each claim their own. Also stick with using the same bedding. Bedding changes will cause new smells which can result in the bucks fighting, even though the bedding is the only thing that has changed. It is also recommend leaving a little bit of their nesting material with them after cleaning their tank. Nesting material is generally the cleanest and smells like they do. It also helps if the bucks can't smell other mice. Smelling other bucks or does can cause fighting.

Is it possible to keep a male and a female together without having babies?

The ONLY safe way to house a buck and doe together is to have the buck neutered. If this is something you are considering, please read the section of this site that goes into more detail about neutering.

Don't ever assume that your mice are too old to breed. Mice can produce babies their entire lives! It might take longer for the doe to get pregnant, but given time she will. Breeding too old can prove deadly to the mother and her litter. The risk is NOT worth the life of your mice! Additionally, if the buck is left with the doe after birth, she will likely get pregnant again directly after birth, resulting in back to back litters. Back to back litters will always result in babies less healthy than they could be, should they not have been doomed to a worn out mother. The second litter resulting from a back to back litter will nearly always die before the first litter of babies, suffer more illness, and have a higher instance of tumors than the first litter. The mother will also suffer because of her large burden of all those babies taking so much from her. They will all suffer.

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