Essential Mouse Gear

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Filed in Small Animals, Mice

Getting a new mouse is like bringing a newborn into your house in the sense that it starts a chain reaction of purchases. Instead of strollers, cribs, and pacifiers, it's aquariums, water bottles, and wheels. Below is a general shopping list of new pet needs to help you get started in the wonderful world of mouse ownership!

A Terrarium To Call Home

Mice thrive in a small group of no more than ten friends per cage. Males may be very aggressive towards each other, so they are better kept in a larger cage.

A plastic terrarium is a suitable home for your new mouse. Another excellent option is a glass tank with a screen lid. There are also cages that are metal with bars that run horizontal and vertical, forming small squares. These generally come in different sizes and often you have the option of a pull-out tray, which tends to make changing the bedding easier.

Another option - Habitral Homes that are available for hamsters. These are fun for you and your rodent, and provide opportunities to to interact with your pet. You can use different shapes and styles of tubing to create a crazy mouse house all your own. Generally, you need to make sure that your mouse cannot get out, nor can it chew through the cage.

If you choose a Habitrail system, be prepared to replace tubes after a while as they will chew thru them. If you do decide to have a group, then you will need to have a larger cage.

Bedding

Stay away from pine or cedar bedding, as they often contain aromatic oils and scents that can adversely affect your pet's respiratory system. These types of bedding also make your rodent susceptible to colds and even pneumonia.

Aspen shavings and other natural hardwoods like oak are a better option, as these don't have the oils and the scent of the others. Never use saw dust or sand! They are dusty and can harm the mouse's eyes or coat, plus they may contain mites, and or fleas.

There are other natural products on the market, such as CareFresh paper bedding. This is a natural recycled paper that is shredded and resembles paper that went through the washing machine. It is fairly soft to the touch and has no odor.

There are also pelleted products that range from paper to organic. These are good options as well, and tend to expand when they get wet and help with the odor. Best of all, they're all natural. Finally, mice love bedding that can be shredded, such as cotton, paper towels (without ink), or even fluff stuff sold at your local pet store.

Remember that your mouse has delicate feet. If he doesn't like the bedding or finds it uncomfortable, he'll stay in his nest or above the floor.

Toys

You should provide your mouse house with toys. They love empty toilet paper rolls and cardboard boxes of different sizes. For a nest, a flowerpot or anything that they can hide in should more than suitable.

For excercise, you can give your mouse a wheel to run in. Choose a wheel that matches the size of your pet. If it's too small, a wheel may cause your pet's tail to curve over its back. Remember that anything you place in the cage will get chewed, so don't put in anything that is poisonous or toxic.

Also for gnawing, try to have plain, clean, wood blocks; raw uncooked noodles; or treats with seed attached to a piece of wood that can hang from the cage wall.

Dishes & Water Bottles

Most cages come empty. You'll need to purchase both a food bowl and water bottle for your new pet.

An eight ounce water bottle is sufficient. Most bottles hang either from a wire that can be run through cage bars, or from a metal holder than can be hung over the outside of the tank.

The best bowls hang from the side of your cage or tank. These must be of hard plastic or steel as your mouse will chew on it.

Since mice tend to potty where they eat, you'll need to clean out a bowl daily if it sits on the bottom of the cage. Bowls that sit on the bottom may also to get wet from a variety of sources, thus creating a damp environment that can be harmful to your pet.

Food

There are specifically designed diets available for your pet. Choose a commercial diet that is natural and provide a variety of ingredients for you mouse to nibble on. 

You'll also come across `lab blocks' that are primarily for rats. These provide a gnawing pellet that your pet can handle with his hands and help keep his teeth sharp and healthy. Lab blocks are no substitute for a more robust diet, however.

Feeding your four-legged friend an occasional bite of vegetables or fruits is fine. However, you should limit how much you give him, as this can create digestive upset and throw the diet out of balance.

Contrary to popular belief, most mice don't like cheese. If your mouse enjoys the taste, feed him only small amounts. Consider feeding a low-fat cottage cheese as a substitute, and try carrots, lettuce, unshelled peas, and even apples.

Remember to remove fresh foods from the cage after your mouse is done eating. If you're unsure, you may leave the food in the cage for an hour, and then remove it. Don't forget to look in the nest as mice sometimes `save' food for a late snack.

In general, commercial diets specifically designed for mice are always preferred, and can be supplemented with hay, whole wheat breads, dry cereal, pasta, fruits, vegetables, and non-fat yogurt.

Snacks

Along with the items listed above, honey drops, unsalted crackers, nibble bars, and honey coated seed make for excellent snacks. A wise treat is something that is small and also can be used to lure the mouse into your hand, thus helping to build a bond with the owner.

Vitamins & Medicines

If you want to ensure a balanced diet for your pet, consider placing a salt link in his cage. Along with the food products listed above, the lick will provide many additional vitamins and minerals your mouse needs.

Unless directed by your veterinarian, your little squeaker shouldn't require medications of any kind. In most cases, the only condition you're likely need to treat is wet tail. This is caused by diarrhea and constant wetness around the tail and hind legs. Your veterinarian may give you medicine to cure this condition.

Irving Street Veterinary Hospital (San Francisco, CA | (415) 664-0191) materials were used as an information source for this article.

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