This blog entry is meant to be helpful for people who keep mice as pets. This info is from my experience keeping mice and tips that I have found along the way. Also, I am including info on how to feed your mice an organic diet. Each mouse is different, so it is difficult to generalize, but I hope you will find something that will benefit you and your mouse/mice. If in doubt, please consult a small animal vet, as I am not an expert. Also, please note that as I am in California, the only mouse legal as a pet is the domestic house mouse, so if you live somewhere else and have other types of mice as pets, their diet and behavior may be different.
First of all, the most common question seems to be, "How many mice should I get?" The general consensus is to get multiple (female) mice. However, I have found this to be problematic at times. Female mice can also be very territorial and possessive of their stuff. They will sometimes become bullies and also may "barber" each other; this is when a mouse removes the fur and/or whiskers from the muzzle of the other mice. This is done by the dominant mouse or mice in the group. (You'll know who the dominant mouse is, because she will be the only mouse with whiskers and fur on her muzzle.) Some people say barbering is harmless, but I disagree. I have seen this take place and the barbered mice are abused mice. Mice need their whiskers and it is uncomfortable for them having their fur removed. I in no way mean to discourage a person from getting multiple mice, but do keep an eye on your mouse group and be prepared to separate your mice if need be. I had this happen and had to set up separate cages, but the work and expense was worth it as I saw the subordinated mice recover their whiskers, fur, and confidence. And the dominant mouse seemed delighted that she had finally gotten rid of those other mice! I have successfully kept mice alone and they have been very happy (just be sure to spend time with them and give them fun things to play with and do, which is important whether they're kept alone or not). Another factor to consider is that sometimes when female mice are in heat, they will mount and try to mate with each other, which can be disturbing to them and upsetting to the viewer! They can smell each other in heat and in the absence of a male will sometimes do this. (They know something should be happening!) Some people have said it is also a form of dominance.
Whether you have one mouse or multiple mice, they need attention from you and you need to spend time with them and make sure they have plenty of toys and things to do, as they can get bored quickly.
Another common question is what kind of cage to get. I have tried pretty much every kind of cage over the years and every cage has its pros and cons. CritterTrail by Super Pet and Critter Universe by Ware are fun, because you can expand them and connect them, creating a huge and fun play area. (Just be sure it's something you can keep up on cleaning...too many tubes and accessories can be a lot to clean.) Another common set-up is a 10 gallon aquarium with a high rise cage topper on top. This does create levels and also looks nice. My only problems with this set-up are: cleaning it is awkward, as the aquarium is heavier and bulky. Also, the toppers make it difficult to reach in and handle your pet. Another set up I have used is a large plastic bin. (I put the wire cage part from one of my cages inside to hang the water bottle and wheel on. I either remove the door or wire it open.) The fun thing with this is that you can get a really huge bin and have all sorts of space and play things in it. It's pretty easy to clean (I use a dog food scoop to take out the old bedding) and you can easily reach in to interact with your mice and reach everything. Also, there are various plastic base/wire bar cages to pick from. Just try to get the biggest possible habitat that you can keep up on cleaning and maintaining.
Now to the question of food. I have never found any organic mouse food, so I make my own food for my mice. This does take time and effort, but I feel it is important. Genetically modified food is very common and that includes in pet food. Corn and soy are some of the most commonly genetically modified foods and they are usually the top ingredients in mouse food. Below you will find my Mouse Biscuit recipe and other foods to use to be sure your mice get all the nutrients they need. You may have to play with the Mouse Biscuit recipe, as each mouse can have different tastes.
It is important to note that the Mouse Biscuits alone aren't enough for a mouse's diet; please read all the way through on to the other foods to include along with the Mouse Biscuits.
Here is the recipe I call "Mouse Biscuits". Of course, all the ingredients are organic...you can find a lot of what you need in the bulk bins at a health food store or even at some regular markets.
It is 1/4 cup flour (you can use various kinds...wheat flour, oat flour, or mix them).
1 tbsp. wheat germ or ground flaxseed.
1 tbsp. brewer's yeast or organic baby rice cereal that is enriched
1 1/4 tsp. oil (canola oil or you can use a nut butter...there are many kinds...sunflower seed butter, almond butter, etc.)
2 tbsp. liquid of your choice (you can get creative here...I usually use Rice Dream Enriched Original Rice beverage (not the one that says "unsweetened, because it has xanthan gum and I don't know how that reacts on their tummies), but you can also use another non-dairy milk or I've even used pureed pumpkin or sweet potato. You can also add some molasses or other sweetener to rotate the flavor.)
pinch of sea salt (optional)
Mix the dry ingredients together and then add the wet ingredients. Mix and knead. Then make the dough into small balls and flatten them with your hands. Place them in a lightly oiled baking dish.
Bake at 400 degrees for 10 mins. Then turn off the oven, but leave the biscuits inside with the door closed for 1 1/2 hours. Then take them out and let them cool. Store in the fridge. When serving them, I break the biscuits up in small pieces to put in their food bowl.
You can double the recipe if you want. I make this size, because my mice like variety, so I rotate the flavor each time. Feel free to play with the ingredients, just using the amounts as a base to build on.
I sometimes take a break from making the mouse biscuits and just sprinkle the wheat germ or flax powder in with their food; they eat it and it works out well.
Also, it is great to mix Happy Bellies organic baby rice cereal (it's enriched with DHA and pre-and probiotics) in with the Rice Dream Enriched Rice Beverage Original rice milk (it has calcium, vitamin D, etc.). My mice love lapping this up and the probiotics are very good for them. I give them this every other day. I don't leave it in their cage, because it would spoil. But, I put a small amount in a little bowl and hold the bowl in my hand (they like to eat from my hand) and they come lap it up.
Other ideas to supplement with the Mouse Biscuits, as they alone aren't not enough for a mouse's diet:
Again in the bulk bins, you can buy small amounts of organic rolled oats, barley, wheat flakes, rye flakes, etc. You can mix these together raw for them to eat. Also, you can get small amounts of organic nuts and seeds to add in small amounts to the mix. (I break the nuts up to use for treats.)
Also, the Just Tomatoes brand has organic freeze dried fruits and veggies. My mice love these, as they are crisp and crunchy. I add these to their bowl in small amounts (too much fruit and veggies can cause their droppings to be too loose). Nature's All Foods also makes wonderful freeze dried, crispy, crunchy fruits that my mice love; they especially love the raspberries (they get a piece, not a whole raspberry).
You can also crunch up an organic chewable vitamin and let them have a tiny piece. I do this every other day.
I also cook up brown rice, quinoa, green lentils, bulgur wheat, black eyed peas, and millet that I keep in the freezer. I then take out a little (and let it thaw) and put it in a separate bowl for them to eat. They go wild over the green lentils and quinoa and those are full of protein and vitamins.
I also buy organic baby crackers or biscuits here and there...I keep them in the freezer and break up pieces for them. The organic baby biscuits are normally enriched, so that gives them a good nutrition as well.
My mice love Erewhon organic brown rice crisps. I eat those, too, which is good, because it would take them forever to go through a whole box. I also give them organic hay (Oxbow sells organic meadow hay and Sweet Meadow also sells organic hay; both can be found online).
I don't give them any meats or dairy, because I just want them to have a really clean diet. House mice, like humans, can live well without meat. Most of my mice have turned down meat when it was offered to them. They aren't even interested in it. They have all lived long and healthy mouse lives on this diet. I also don't give them soy...I have no idea if there is any problem with soy, but I had read of a study where soy was iffy on its effect on human breast tissue and since mice have so much mammary tissue and can be prone to mammary tumors, I didn't want to take a chance. But, I am probably just being over careful...I just don't want them to get any tumors, and there are plenty of other foods to pick from without soy.
Organic salad greens (spring mix, spinach, kale) in small amounts about 3 times a week are great and zucchini squash as well. (Rinse all fresh veggies and pat dry). Also, small amounts of cooked, unflavored broccoli or cauliflower are other ideas. Small amounts of fresh fruits (rinsed and pat dry) about once week are also good. My mice like fresh mango and papaya especially. Be sure to only give very, very small amounts (even if they beg for more) of fresh fruits and veggies so that your mice won't have their stomach balance upset.
Also, the Wet Noses organic dog biscuits can make a nice treat for mice. My mice especially love Barbara's oatmeal animal cookies (they're called Snackimals) as a treat.
You can find organic bulk herbs at most natural foods stores. I mix red clover tops, dandelion leaf, chamomile flowers, and hibiscus flowers in a bowl for an herb forage bowl for them. However, I don't do this all the time, as herbs can be potent. I just rotate them in now and then.
I hope these tips help you to keep happy and healthy mice!