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The cage
  • Housing materials should be easy to clean, resistant to chewing and gnawing, and impervious to liquids so that they do not absorb urine and faeces. Commonly used materials include hard plastic, stainless steel, and glass. Check that the lid fits firmly.
  • Purpose-built cages of hard plastic are available from pet shops at reasonable prices. They usually provide a nesting/sleeping box and living quarters. Some provide for additional space if it is needed.
  • Wooden cages are not recommended because mice may gnaw them, they are difficult to sanitise, and they may absorb urine, which leads to unpleasant odours.
  • Mesh floors are not recommended because the mesh can cause foot injuries.
  • Ensure that the cage is big enough to accommodate both the mice and their furniture comfortably. A minimum size for two to three mice is 60 centimetres × 30 centimetres × 25 centimetres high.
  • Provide a sleeping box and good hiding places in the living area. For example, cardboard tubes provide good tunnels and are easily replaced, and opaque non-toxic jars can be cleaned easily.
  • Food containers should be gnawproof. Overhead-rack types are best because they reduce wastage and do not get contaminated by faeces. Containers that attach to the cage's sides are also acceptable because they reduce spillage.
  • Heavy-duty pottery containers may also be used, but as they can be more easily contaminated with urine and faeces, change the food in them daily.
  • Open water dishes are not recommended because of possible contamination by faeces, which leads to disease. The water in them can also be easily spilled, leading to dehydration in the mice and an increase in moisture in the cage. Sipper tubes and bottles attached to the sides of the cage work well.
  • Provide objects for gnawing, such as a small bark-covered log from an apple tree. Select logs carefully because many garden trees are poisonous.
  • Mice need stimulation, so include exercise toys, such as exercise wheels, ladders, plastic tubes, and different-shaped boxes.
  • Do not house male mice together because they may fight and severely hurt or even kill each other.
  • Line the cage with untreated wood sawdust or shavings 2–3 centimetres deep, kitty litter, or shredded plain paper but not newspaper because printing ink may be harmful to the mice.
  • The sleeping box should contain shredded plain paper, such as paper towels or tissues, or cotton wool (although this is not suitable for breeding because it may entangle the limbs of newborn mice).
  • Clean the cage two to three times a week using rubber gloves, a scrubbing brush, dishwashing detergent, and water. Rinse it well and dry it.
  • If cages are not kept clean, such irritants as ammonia, moisture, and bacteria can rise to harmful levels, predisposing the mice to illness. Good hygiene practices reduce both the risk of disease and the smell.
  • Disinfect cages and furniture twice a month with a weak bleach solution (10–20 millilitres of bleach per litre of water), leaving them to stand for at least fifteen minutes in the solution.
  • Clean water bottles and tubes daily with detergent and water and disinfect them weekly with the bleach solution. Soak them for at least fifteen minutes and rinse them well.
  • It is difficult to eliminate the musky smell of mice, but strict cleanliness can help to minimise odours. Some people consider females to be less smelly than males.
Environmental factors
  • The optimum temperature range for mice is 18–29°C. Keep their cage out of direct sunlight.
  • Mice prefer a light cycle of twelve hours of light and twelve hours of dark, with low light intensity.

Cage diagram

  • optimum temperature range 18-29°C
  • not in direct sunlight


Mice cage.

Mice cage: main features


Cage explanation

It is clear plastic with a well-fitting lid.

The cage should not be in direct sunlight and cleaned 2–3 times weekly.

At one end of the cage there is a small hiding or sleeping place.

Inside the cage there are objects for gnawing, exercise toys like a rotating wheel and gnaw-proof, feeding containers for pelleted food.

There is also a container containing vegetables or seeds.

Sipper tubes or bottles are attached to the side of the cage and these should be washed daily.

Optimum temperature for the mice is 18–29°C.

How to care for mice

  • Mice do well on pelleted food as their staple diet. It is also good for their teeth.
  • Give them seeds and some raw vegetables, such as carrots, swedes, and apples, as treats. However, if the mice are not used to these foods, they may develop a mild diarrhoea that doesn't usually last long.
  • Store their dry food in an airtight container in a cool, dry place. Buy only three months' supply at a time to ensure good nutritional value.
  • Change their drinking water daily.
  • You can lift a mouse by grasping the base of its tail and, at the same time, supporting its body with your hand.
  • Daily handling helps to keep mice tame and provides an opportunity to check on their health. Handle mice gently. If they are frightened or hurt, they may bite.
  • Always supervise children and students when they are handling mice.
  • Wash your hands after handling mice.
  • Do a health check each day. Look for normal activity – are the mice eating and grooming themselves? Check that their fur looks normal and that they have no scabs or bald spots. Check that their eyes, ears, and noses are clear of any discharges and their faeces are normal. Know what is usual for your mice.
  • Changes in temperature and an increase in the level of ammonia because of poor hygiene in the cage may cause mice to develop respiratory diseases.
  • Gastrointestinal problems can be caused by unclean food containers, contaminated food, or eating unfamiliar foods.
  • Mice may be affected by viral, bacterial, and parasitic conditions. If you find any signs of illness, or if you have questions, consult a veterinarian.

Interesting facts about mice

Mice are rodents. They are social animals, so it is good practice to keep two or three together, preferably all female.

Facts and features

Mice come in many colours. They have open-rooted teeth, and so constant wear is necessary to maintain good dentition.

Mice live from one to three and a half years.


The doe (female mouse) may breed from six weeks of age, and gestation is nineteen to twenty-one days. Females may mate immediately after the birth of a litter, and so one litter is weaned as the next litter is born.

As baby mice are furless and helpless when they are born, it is important not to disturb the nest at this time. The babies' eyes open at ten to fourteen days, and they are weaned when they are nineteen to twenty-one days old.

Males reach puberty at five to six weeks of age.

You can determine the sex of the young at four to five weeks of age and segregate the males from the females.


The text and illustrations for this online edition of Caring for animals: A Guide for teachers, early childhood educators, and students (published on Te Kete Ipurangi for the New Zealand Ministry of Education in 2005) is copyright © Crown 2005. All rights reserved.

Content has been adapted for the web from the printed version, originally published in 1999 by Learning Media Limited for the Ministry of Education. Although no longer available this publication may still be available in some schools.