Do mice like being handled and socialised?

Taming and Handling your Mice

A tame mouse will let you hold him and pick him up without becoming frightened.  The more time you spend holding and playing with your mice, the more quickly they will learn to trust you and become tame. It is best to begin your taming sessions in the early evening, when your mice are naturally awake.  If your mice are sleeping when you want to play with them, call their names, tap on their nest box and allow them a few moments to wake up before you visit. If you startle or grab your pets, they might bite you.  Do not force your pets to come out of their next box when they would clearly rather sleep.

Some mice are very jumpy and active.  If your pets’ exhibit such behaviour, it is best to start taming them by keeping your hand inside their cage, rather than taking your pets out of their cage.  Let your mice sniff and crawl on your hand, place a food treat in the palm of your hand and encourage them to climb onto your hand.  Do not make rapid movements with your hands.  If your mice seem confident, try using a finger to pet a mouse along his side or behind his ear.  Even a brief momentary stroke will work, continue to slowly pet your mice within their cage while talking softly to them so they get used to your voice.  Eventually your pets will climb onto your hands, they might even climb out of the cage and up your arm.  Replace the mice in their home before they get too far up your arm and they will renew their quest to explore outside their with renewed vigour and confidence.

Holding Mice

You can use one of several methods to pick up a mouse: (1) pick him up by scooping him into your hands; (2) pick him up by his tail; or (3) scoop him up in a small container.  The preferred method is to let him climb onto your hand or to scoop him up under his belly.  Mice can be frightened when a hand descends down over their back, so always put your hand in the cage palm up , lower it to the bottom of the cage, then move it towards your mouse.  Do not turn him over on his back and expose his belly, this posture makes mice feel vulnerable and they will become upset and will struggle frantically to right themselves.  Keep in mind that a normally docile mouse might bite you when he is frightened.

You can use the base or middle of the mouse’s tail to pick up your pet.  But you must be extremely gentle and you must immediately allow him to rest his body on your other hand or arm.  Do not pick up your mouse by the end of his tail, doing so is uncomfortable for him and your pet can turn and bite your finger, which will probably cause you to drop him.  Do not hold your mouse by his tail for longer than necessary, if you restrain your mouse by his tail he will struggle to get away.  Instead, let him rests in one hand and use your other hand to block or control his movements.  Never drop your mouse into his cage by his tail, doing so could fracture his spine.

Mice do not like being scooped up in a container because containers usually have smoother sides that do not let the mouse hold onto anything.  Nonetheless, this method may become useful in an emergency.  Be sure the container you choose will easily fit into and out of the cage, do not chase the  mice around the cage with the container, place it on the cage floor near a corner and gently coax your mouse into the container.  Cover the top of the container with one hand to prevent your mouse from leaping out.

Mice are nimble.  Until your mouse is calm and tame, always use two hands to hold him.  Loud noises and sudden movements could scare your pet and cause him to jump out of your hands.  Use one hand to hold your mouse and lightly cup your other hand over his back or in front of his face.  Keep your mouse close against your body for greater security.  It is also prudent to immediately sit on the ground when first teaching a mouse to be held; then, if he does jump, the distance is much less than if you were standing.

Options for play outside your pets’ cage include large plastic enclosures made especially for small pets that you can set up much like a child‘s playpen, a high-sided plastic swimming pool (at least 32cm high) or a parrot play-stand.  Place bedding, nest boxes and toys in the play-ground, all these enclosures should be escape-proof.  Plastic run-about-balls are another option.  Be sure to choose the smaller, mouse-sized ball, only one mouse can be placed in a run-about-ball at a time.  Always supervise your pets, stairs and other pets are potential hazards.  Small balls are designed to move on a racetrack, which helps to confine your mice’s movements to a safe place.

An Escapee

Should your mouse escape from his home, place the cage on the floor next to a wall, do  not leave the cage door open since you other mice will join the wanderer.  Instead, provide the remaining mice with a new nest box, take the old nest box and the nesting material and place it on the floor next to the cage.  Quite often, the mouse will return to the cage area and then fall asleep inside his familiar nest box.

Introducing Mice to each Other

If one of your mice dies and you want to get your remaining mouse a companion, you should follow these steps.  Mice are territorial and often do not accept an unfamiliar mouse.  Adult mice placed together in a cage for the first time will fight, sometimes until death.  Remember, you can pair a male and a female, or two females, but not two males.

A new cage is an unanticipated cost to purchasing a new mouse friend for your original pet.  It is important that the cage or cages  you use for the introduction be new, your original mouse will resent any newcomer’s intrusion into his territory.  He will be aggressive in defence of his home and the chances of a successful introduction will be reduced.  Buy a younger mouse to increase the chances for success, they tend to be more readily accepted than another adult.

Several methods can be used to facilitate the introduction; place your original mouse in a wire cage, and place the new mouse in another wire cage.  Slide the two cages together so the mice can smell one another through the cage bars.  Alternatively, you can try dividing a wire cage or aquarium with a piece of wire mesh.  You must be certain to securely place the wire so that the weight of the mice pressing against it will not cause it to fall.  The spaces between the wire mesh should also be small enough that a mouse cannot push his nose through and bit the other mouse.

Over the next several days, switch the mice several times a day between the cages or sides of the cage.  Usually the two mice will accept one another within several days.  If they fight, you must continue switching them back and forth for several more days before once again housing them in the same cage.  Carefully watch your mice for the first few days they share a home to make sure that they do not fight and have accepted one another.  Look out for bite wounds.  Providing two nesting boxes can reduce the likelihood of fighting.