Mice are quite similar to rats while still being very different. Some people think they are the same or interchangeable, but they are completely different species and have many differences. They can not interbreed and should never live together as rats can see mice as prey and kill or injure them. They do not have the same social dynamics and can't communicate as such.
They are both rodents, obviously. They are both of the family Muridae but our pet rats are of the Genus Rattus & the Species Rattus norvegicus aka Brown Rat or in the case of our domesticated pets called Fancy Rats.
Mice are of the subfamily Murinae & Genius Mus, and species Mus Musculus. Also known as the House Mouse or in the case of pets, Fancy Mouse.
I work with the following varieties:
One of the biggest differences is size! Mice are much smaller than rats, even smaller than dwarf rats. This ofcourse means more care should be taken when handling, having them out of their cage and ofcourse different caging needs to prevent escapes.
Rats are more intelligent, more social, hands-on and interactive, They require much more mental stimulation and attention from their owners. Rats can form deep bonds with their owners like that of a cat or a dog. While mice can love attention and bond with their owners most of the time they will be pets you sit and watch their crazy antics rather than taking them out as often if at all. Mice can happily thrive with less interaction from their owners.
That is not saying you can not bond deeply with mice. As a little girl, I had a pet mouse named Nicodemus. He was the sweetest mouse and loved hanging out with me. I'd carry him around in my pocket!
Some mice may enjoy being handled while other prefer it much less so. You can interact with your pet by feeding them treats from your hand. Decorating their cage is always one of the most fun parts for me as you get to be creative and try to create this wonderful and stimulating environment for them! And of course, watching all the silly things they do!
Female mice must be kept in groups of 2 or more just like with rats. More the better! They are highly social and can never be kept alone. No matter how much time you think you can spend with and devote to them it will not be enough and you are simply not another mouse.
Most male mice CAN NOT be kept together. They will fight and injure one another or even kill each other. They are territorial and hormonal. Male mice can sometimes live with female ASF though! This subject is one that has been brought up and debated among pet owners and breeders. Some breeders feel that we should be breeding towards males having a calmer temperament and being able to be housed together because even male mice have strong social needs and do suffer from being alone. Other breeders feel this is not only risky but have seen issues with loss of hormones and breeding from this.
My opinion is that as a pet owner I do not feel male mice should be kept together in most instances. It can be extremely risky, having a pet injured or killed is not worth the attempt. Even more so if you are an inexperienced owner or unsure of the history of their line.
As a breeder, though this is something, I would like to see worked on, though Rome wasn't built in a day and we can't see these changes overnight.
I do not house males alone. My males, for the most part, live in colonies with females or retire and live with female ASF, which they can be housed with safely and can not interbreed! I am working on a group of males living together as well.
I will only sell female mice to pet homes at this time.
Mice have slightly shorter lifespan than a rat at 1-2 years on average.
Is a pet mouse right for me?
Do you have a smaller home or space that is more suitable for a smaller pet and smaller cage?
Are you unable to let your rats out to play?
Are you very busy and might not have the time to give daily attention to your pet, while still having enough time to clean and feed/care for it?
Rats are cleaner and better at holding their bladders.
Mice can have a strong musky odor. I find the females are not that bad as long as you stay on top of cleaning.
Put down the adorable little colorful plastic crittertrail with all of its tubes and run away. This is not an ok cage for any animal. They are tiny, sooo cheaply made that a sneeze could break it. If you want mice running around your house free, get a crittertrail because they will get out. The tunnels can be cute to add to a proper cage, though a pain to clean (hint get a scrub brush for cups!).
I know many people feel tanks are fine for mice, but I really do not like them for mice either unless they are very very large and still I feel they are not ideal. Tanks are heavy, and a pain to clean. And you still have to worry about respiratory issues even though they can be less at risk. But if you have a large tank they can be acceptable. But still tanks are heavy & expensive.
Some of the larger hamster cages with a base and bars will work. Just be careful as many are very cheaply made. You definitely want good floor space above all.
I feel ideally a properly made bin cage is the best cage for mice. I prefer the 106/110qt bins or the huge Christmas Tree plastic storage bins! You can buy the 110 sterilite bin at target, and the 106 sterilite bin at walmart. The christmas tree ones you might have to wait for the holiday season sadly.
They need windows cut out and hardware cloth added (attached from the inside). You can NOT just poke air holes, that is not acceptable or safe.
Bedding I recommend the same as with rats- aspen or kiln dried pine. I sometimes will add paper or hay just as an addition to their bedding for them to nest and play in.
I also think mice have a lot of really adorable toys and accessories for sale as you can use fun hamster things as well. They make adorable small houses and things.
An 8" wheel is a great size.
Mice should not use those plastic hamster balls at all, no animal should.
You can supplement this if you choose to with extras in moderation. Fresh veggies, limited fruits, pasta, oats, seeds, nuts, cereals
Mice share very similar diets to that of rats. They need a heavy grain-based diet. I do suggest a block diet and recommend Mazuri or Oxbow. Stay away from sugary junk food. Avoid "treats" made for pets as they often have scary ingredients and are loaded with sugar.
I currently feed Oxbow adult, some added dog food, and a seed mix- millet, flax, black oil sunflower seeds, hemp, pumpkin seeds.
Obviously, they need a water bottle at all times with fresh clean water. Do not use a bowl, they will potty in it and get bedding in it or worse knock it over.
$15 for a pair of females.
$5 for each additional females
I was very lucky to get the start of my lines from wonderful breeders!
Niche Critters & Exotics, located in Indiana
Enchanted Hills Rattery, located in Kansas