All mice deserve to be happy. Loving your mice and learning to understand their needs will help you identify the things you must do to prevent your mice feeling worried, upset, frightened and stressed. By doing these things, you will be providing your mice freedom from fear and distress.
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 Five Freedoms is: Freedom from Fear and Distress. In this section you will learn about this freedom and how you can make sure your mice receive the love, understanding and companionship they need to be free from fear and distress.
Mice are intelligent, fun and social animals that make great pets, but they're not for everyone. Before adopting a mouse, think about your family’s lifestyle. Are you able to interact with your mice every day? Though they're enclosure pets, mice need daily mental and physical stimulation so they don’t get bored. You’ll also need to feed them every day and regularly clean their enclosure.
Also keep in mind that although mice are cheap to purchase and relatively cheap to feed, they will most likely require veterinary care in their lifetime. If you cannot afford or you're not prepared to pay for medical expenses, please reconsider getting a mouse. Just because a mouse is inexpensive to purchase, that doesn't mean they don't deserve the best care possible.
Never house mice individually. They’re social animals and can get really depressed and lonely if they are left alone without company and nothing to do for long periods. This is especially true at night when they’re most active and when their human family are asleep. They use their sense of smell to recognise others, finding out about where they’ve been and what they’ve been doing.
Mice should be housed together from a young age and ideally be siblings. Always try to introduce mice to one another soon after weaning (three weeks of age), as this will result in less fighting. Keep mice in all male or all female groups. Never house unneutered males and females as they would most likely have pups (baby mice) and finding good homes for mice is very hard.
Whenever possible, avoid adding or removing individuals from a familiar group as this will disrupt their social groupings and can lead to aggression.
Once you've selected the right enclosure for your mice, your family will need to decide where in your home you will set it up. To ensure your mice have freedom from fear and distress, you will need to consider:
The first thing to remember when you are picking up or holding your mouse is this – you are much, much bigger than he or she is! A frightened mouse can be very difficult to pick up. They will run zigzags all over their enclosure in an attempt to elude the unknown giant hand coming to scoop them up. Although this is normal at first, the best way to pick up your mouse is to teach it not to be afraid of you. A properly trained mouse will walk right into your hand as soon as you put it in the enclosure.
Mice should be allowed to investigate your hands in their own time.
Cupped hands technique
To pick up your mouse using the cupped hand technique, scoop them on one or both open hands, and allow them to sit or walk over your hands without physically restraining them. If you find that your mouse attempts to escape by jumping off your hands the first time you try to pick them up, gently close your cupping hands loosely around them until their attempts to escape start to decrease (for a maximum of 30 seconds). You can then open your hands and allow them to sit or walk around on your hands unrestrained. This closed cupping should not be necessary after the first handling session.
Tunnel handling technique
A home enclosure tunnel can also be used in combination with the cupped hand technique, to aid the picking up of a mouse. To pick up your mouse in this way, gently guide them into a home enclosure tunnel (one that is usually available in their enclosure and which has their enclosure scent on it) as you bring the tunnel forward. You can then allow them to crawl from the tunnel onto your cupped hands.
If you find that on the first time you handle your mouse, they attempt to escape by jumping out of the tunnel, close your hands loosely around the tunnel ends until their attempts to escape start to decrease (for a maximum of 30 seconds). You can then open your hands and allow them to crawl out of the tunnel onto your cupped hands. Covering the ends of the tunnel in this way should not be necessary after the first day or two of handling.
If you have to pick up a frightened mouse, the safest way to do so is by softly holding the base of the tail (the part closest to their body) and lifting up the mouse just enough to slide your hand under his or her body. Keep gently holding the tail even when the mouse is in your palm to prevent it from jumping out of your hand. Mice typically will not jump on to anything if the fall is more than a foot or so, but frightened animals are unpredictable and may jump from heights sufficient to hurt themselves.
You should not squeeze the body of a mouse from the sides or try to scoop it up from their enclosure as you could easily hurt them (remember, mice are tiny and it doesn’t take much to hurt them). Picking them up like this also frightens them so its best to stick to the methods mentioned above. You may have seen people pick up mice by their tails and lift them up. While this doesn’t really hurt the mouse it is an uncomfortable position for them and you run a much higher risk of damaging their tails. How would you like it if a giant carried you around upside-down by your leg?
Mice are vulnerable little animals and they need to be protected from predators and handled with care. It is particularly important to keep all of your other family pets away from your mice - dogs, cats, rats, rabbits and other pets can all easily hurt or kill mice if they get hold of them. They may even scare or hurt them through the bars of their cage.
Even the smell of other animals, such as cats or dogs can be very stressful to mice, so it’s best to house them well apart.
It is also important to only allow your mice to run around where you can watch them and ensure that they do not get stood on or escape (e.g. under furniture, into holes in brickwork, heating or ventilation ducts etc.)
Companion (pet) mice which escape to the outside world will almost always die very quickly – they will not know how to find food or shelter and will usually be eaten by a predator, die of exposure, or starve to death. Companion mice just don't have the survival skills of their wild relatives. This is why it is not fair to 'set them free' if you cannot keep your mice any longer.