All mice should be allowed to express natural behaviours. Behaviour refers to the way that an animal acts. An important type of behaviour that an animal expresses are those that are instinctive (what they would typically do in the wild). Enough space, proper shelter and housing, as well as company of the animal's own kind, encourages the expression of natural behaviours.
This law is called the Animal Welfare Act. The Animal Welfare Act outlines how people must take care of and act towards animals in New Zealand. The Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI), the Police and SPCA work together to make sure people in New Zealand follow these laws.
Under the Animal Welfare Act, all animal guardians (owners) are responsible for making sure the welfare needs of animals in their care are met. Learning about the Five Domains helps us to understand these welfare needs and how we can make sure we provide these. One of the Five Domains is Behaviour. In this section you will learn about this domain and how you can make sure your mice receive the exercise and enrichment they need to express their natural behaviours.
Mice are active, intelligent animals that require exercise and mental stimulation for optimal health.
There are many fun and easy ways you can provide toys and enrich the environment of your mice.
Mice can be very curious and enjoy exploring different toys.
Simple items like large cardboard tubes, crumpled paper, paper bags, and cardboard boxes can also make fun toys. You can find lots of ideas looking online or in pet stores.
It’s best to rotate your mice’s toys weekly as this will keep things interesting for your mice.
Always make sure the play is not only fun but also safe for your mice. Regularly check over your mice’s toys and enclosure accessories for any damaged or broken bits that could be dangerous for your mice.
Also remember, if your mice don’t want to play one game or seem a bit scared of a certain toy, try something else.
In the wild, mice use and make tunnels all the time. You can provide ready-made tunnels or let them make their own. Tunnels made of hardened plastic or PVC can be placed in your mice’s enclosure, mounted to the side of the enclosure or hung from the roof.
Many tunnels come with elbows or Y's so you can make your own maze. PVC is easily cleaned. Be sure your family selects pipes that are large enough that your largest mouse would not get stuck!
Blocks of wood can also be drilled to make tunnels. The mice can enlarge these tunnels by gnawing at the wood - a natural behaviouir that they enjoy.
Activity wheels provide an excellent way for mice to exercise within their enclosure. However, your family must be sure to select a safe wheel.
Wire or bar wheels are extremely dangerous and are not recommended. They can cause tail, neck, and back injury (including death) if the mouse gets between the bars and the wheel.
Orbit and cage wheels can be hazardous if more than one mouse uses it at a time. If both mice run at different speeds, one mouse may flop around in there while the other one runs. These wheels are very hard to clean inside of. They get messy quickly as there is nowhere for mouse toileting to go so it often gets all over the mouse.
Solid wheels are definitely preferred. Saucer or comfort wheels are the safest wheels on the market to date. There is no risk of tail injury in bars or gaps like some other wheels. A mouse can run in his or her natural form in these wheels. More than one mouse can also run on these wheels without a risk of one getting caught, stuck or hurt.
Ladders, ropes, branches, tubes, bird perches, different sized stacked cardboard boxes, hammocks and other items can provide lots of climbing activity for your mice. These can be attached to the top and sides of the enclosure to increase the amount of play area in an enclosure.
Companion mice need toys they can chew. This is necessary for their dental health, since their teeth keep growing and need to be constantly worn down.
Good chew toys for mice include rawhide chews, Nylabones, wood (be sure it is safe, with no treatments applied) and branches from fruit-bearing trees. Cardboard, paper tubes from toilet paper or paper toweling, cardboard boxes, and egg cartons also make very inexpensive chew toys.
You will find that your mice also enjoy shredding softer materials such as toilet paper, facial tissues, thin paper straw and other similar items. These can provide great entertainment, as well as soft material that they can use to fill their nesting sleeping area.
Many mice enjoy small toys they can carry or push. Some tough hollow plastic cat or bird toys with bells inside make good toys for mice.
Do not give your mice toys made of soft rubber since small pieces of the toy that may be chewed and swallowed. This could cause dangerous, even fatal blockages inside your mouse.
Regularly check over your mice’s toys and enclosure accessories for any damaged or broken bits that could be dangerous for your mice.
In the wild, mice spend much of their time scurrying around on a treasure hunt type of search for food. Too often mice guardians (owners) forget this natural behaviour and just put out a bowl of food for their companion mice. This is taking away their ability to exhbit this natural behaviour that mice really enjoy.
Provide your mice with mental stimulation by hiding some of their food in specially designed toys. There are many foraging toys designed for birds that can be used for mice as well. Fill the holes with some of your mice’s favourite fruit or vegetables and watch them work to get their reward. You can even make your own out of cardboard tubes.
You can make mouse piñatas out of tissue (unscented, no aloe, etc.) and hemp rope. Stuff the tissue with treats and string it up from the top of their enclosure, just low enough for them to get at it. Mice have a blast breaking into the piñatas!
You can also put these treats in origami cubes with safe bedding enrichment (nesting material that is different from that they already have) as filler. This way they have to chew their way into the cube to get the treats... the nesting material is an extra bonus!
Portions of your mice’s daily food allowance can be scattered around their enclosure to encourage foraging behaviour.
Use your imagination and you will be able to give your mice toys that will provide hours of enjoyment.