All mice should live in a suitable environment. A mouse’s home affects how that mouse feels, thinks and behaves. Providing your mice with shelter and a comfortable resting area is one way you can make sure that your mice stay healthy and happy.
This law is called the Animal Welfare Act. The Animal Welfare Act says that your animal has five groups of welfare needs. These are five groups of things that animals need to be healthy and happy. These five welfare needs are called the Five Freedoms.
Under the Animal Welfare Act, all animal guardians (owners) need to provide these five groups of things for their animals. One of these Freedoms is: Freedom from Discomfort. In this section you will learn about this freedom and how you can make sure your mice have the right environment and shelter they need to be free from discomfort.
Mice can become bored and depressed without enough fun and interesting places to explore and things to do. Imagine spending your whole life in one small room. Even with occasional breaks, life would be pretty boring!
For the sake of your mice’s health and happiness, it’s important to provide them with an enclosure that is as large as possible. A larger enclosure provides room for your mice to exercise, as well as giving them plenty of space to run and play with their toys.
The more space you can provide, the more opportunities your mice have to express their natural behaviours. This means happier and healthier mice!
With a roomier enclosure, mice can exercise on their schedule, not yours. Mice are crepuscular and nocturnal animals. This means that they are active at dusk and dawn and throughout the night, when it may not be convenient for your family to take them out for playtime.
Larger homes also increase the likelihood of peaceful friendships among groups of mice. It means they will have areas for time out or breaks on their own. They will not have to compete for space or constantly bump into each other when playing with their toys or foraging for hidden food treasures!
The base of your mice’s enclosure should be a solid surface.
While it might seem like a good idea to have wire floors so that your mice’s waste falls through, serious damage can occur to a mouse's feet if they have to stand on wire all of the time. Having their feet constantly pressed against wire can cause a painful condition called ‘bumblefoot,’ where your mouse's feet may swell and become infected.
To prevent ‘bumblefoot,’ you should look for an enclosure that has a solid surface floor. If you have an enclosure that has wire shelves or ramps, you can cover them with a solid surface to help protect your mice’s feet. You can use plastic laminate from the hardware store (commonly sold for kitchen floors). An adult can cut it to size for shelf covers that you can wipe clean, or use pieces of carpet that you wash and dry regularly. You can even use cardboard that can be disposed of and replaced whenever needed.
If your family invests in a good quality enclosure, your enclosure will last for the entire lifetime of your pet mice. With good care can be used for many more years if you continue to keep pet mice.
Ask your parents or caregivers to help you look for an enclosure that has sturdy plastic if you are choosing an enclosure with a plastic pan. This way you will be able to scrub and clean the pan without worrying about it cracking. It is even better to look for the metal enclosure components that have been powder coated or PVC coated, which will protect the metal from rusting. Keep in mind that PVC coated enclosures are susceptible to the finish wearing or cracking, but they will last much longer than a metal enclosure with no treatment applied.
Make sure your mice enclosure is clean with dry bedding and nesting material. It is important to maintain a balance between keeping your mice’s enclosure clean while avoiding excessive disturbance and stress from cleaning too much.
When your family are choosing a mouse enclosure, take a good look at the way the shelves and doors are organised. The enclosure doors should be large enough for an adult to reach in and take out your pet mice, without having to squeeze them through a small opening.
The shelves and ramps within your mice’s enclosure should be set up, or movable so that you can adjust them. There should be no spots where your mouse can feel cornered either by you reaching for them or by another mouse in the habitat.
Make sure that the door closure method is safe and secure. A good way to test this is by closing the enclosure door and giving several firm tugs on the bars in the centre of the door. If the door pops open, you can assume with enough practise, a smart mouse will learn to pop the door open when they want to come out. Other pets may also work out how to get inside this way too.
Some enclosures offer the addition of flip top lids that open the entire top of the enclosure in addition to doors, which provides another easy access point. If you have to reach in to an enclosure and bend your wrist around a shelf to reach any part of the enclosure, remember that interacting with your mouse and cleaning that type of enclosure will be more difficult.
Once you've selected the right housing for your mice, you’ll need to determine where in your home your mice will live. Here are some factors to consider:
Bedding material is used to describe the material or substances that you need to use to cover the bottom of the enclosure.
Mice spend lots of time sleeping and like to hide and sleep in dark, safe shelters. Mice often have preferred resting sites. Suitable bedding materials are wood chips (non-pine or cedar), cellulose based chips or shredded filter paper. Avoid dusty bedding materials such as sawdust, and any bedding which is made of pine or cedar as these can result in breathing and other health problems.
You will need to provide your mice with nest boxes that they can hide in to sleep. These can be store-bought such as large igloos, roll-a-nest beds, or log cabin homes. You can also try home-made nest boxes such as a cardboard box (although it may need to be replaced often), a flowerpot or jar turned on its side, or a section of PVC drain pipe (perhaps cover one end).
Mice love to get up high off the ground and lounge around, that’s why hammocks, soft sleeping tubes, and hanging hideaways are great to include in your mouse enclosure. Store bought or home-made hammocks and soft sleeping tubes can be hung with safety pins, diaper pins, chains, hooks, or any other method that holds them secure. Lining the hammock or soft sleeping tube with a towel after it is hung will allow you to change the surface without having to change out the hammock in-between cleanings.
Nesting material is used to describe the material provided in addition to bedding material, which is given to animals for nest building and nesting behaviour.
Provide your mice with a variety of different nesting materials to give them a choice over what they use and so they can build good nests. Mice enjoy shredding nesting materials such as paper, unscented/no aloe facial or toilet tissue, and hay to create their own nests.
Do not give your mice nesting materials that separate into thin strands such as cotton wool or similar ‘fluffy’ bedding products. They pose a serious risk to their health and welfare. There is concern that this material can cause harm if eaten and thin strands that form in this material can be difficult to break. This material can lead to a mouse becoming tangled up in their bedding, and/or the loss of circulation in tangled limbs, resulting in amputation or unfortunately, euthanasia.
Be sure to change the nesting material often. Ammonia resulting from urine (wee) can be harmful to mice especially in a small confined area such as a nesting bed.
Shelves & ledges: Mice enjoy multiple levels in their enclosures. A few products that can add levels are movable platforms, hanging baskets, hammocks, tubes and tents.
Igloos: There are lots of designs online to purchase and most pet stores will have them in stock. If you want to get creative, you can also make houses out of ice cream containers, lunch boxes or larger food storage containers. Then of course you can always place a full tissue box in the enclosure to provide hours of nesting fun and a temporary house to sleep in and then destroy!
Climbing accessories: Mice love to climb. You can outfit your enclosure with such things as ladders, ropes, wooden bird branches, and climbing tubes. You will find many good climbing toys in the small animal and bird departments of most pet shops or have a look what’s online. Take care not to use climbing toys in the enclosures of elderly or ill mice though.
Digging boxes: In the wild, mice forage and dig. Giving them a digging box is a safe way to let them practice this natural behaviour. To create a digging box, all you need is a plastic box, such as a litter box for cats or a low plastic storage box, and a bag of sterile potting soil. Make sure the soil has no fertilizers or other additives. Ask an adult if they can help you sow seeds to grow oat grass, wheat grass, millet, rye, or even use birdseed. Add enough moisture to grow the grass but not enough to cause fungus or mould growth. If you see fungus or mould, remove the digging box from the enclosure as it may make your mice sick. Assorted rocks and a PVC tunnel partially buried create an even more interesting environment. For fun, you can hide treats in the digging box for your mouse. Your mice’s digging box can either be in or outside of the enclosure. If you leave it in the enclosure, you will have to clean it and replace the soil regularly.
Suitable places to hide: Shelters, with multiple exits, should be provided so your mice can hide when they wish, and avoid any confrontation with other mice. Mice will use tubes for hiding or sleeping in. Cardboard tubes are particularly good as they allow the mice to climb, chew and manipulate them. Hiding places should be large enough so the mice can turn around easily and not become stuck.