American Fancy Rat & Mouse Association

This article is from the Winter 1999 AFRMA Rat & Mouse Tales news-magazine.

Beginners’ Corner

Raising Mice As A Hobby

By Helen Pembrook

Ed Guerena, Ventura, CA
QMy daughter wants to raise mice as a hobby. Can you refer us to a breeder in our area? Thanks.

AWhat kind of mice is your daughter interested in? There are long hair, frizzie hair, satin or shiny hair, and standard or regular mice. Mice come in almost any color your daughter could think of, so what color(s) does she want? Is she interested in showing the mice as well? Most AFRMA shows are in Riverside, San Bernardino, Los Angeles, and the Orange County areas. If your daughter is going to show her mice, I would strongly suggest taking the time and buying her initial stock from a breeder and not a pet store so that she can start with show quality animals

If you do not wish to drive so far and showing is not feasible, you can go to the pet stores in your area and check out the mice there. PetSmart has healthy mice, but each store only sells one sex so you would have to buy the opposite sex some place else. The problem with many pet stores is that they get their mice from large commercial breeders. Commercial breeders are only interested in mass breeding at the lowest cost possible. The animal’s diet is usually sub-standard, the kittens are taken away from their mothers at 3 weeks of age (about 1½ to 2 weeks too early), they are not handled at all and are therefore not tame, and their health is not taken into consideration much as they are bred mainly for feeders.

When checking out pet stores, look carefully at the mice. Is the cage clean? Do some or all of the mice look too young? Do any of the mice look ill and are there any dead mice in the cage? If one mouse is sick, then all of them may be sick even if they are not yet showing any signs of illness.

Signs of illness are: heavy breathing; a sunken-in appearance; sneezing; runny nose or eyes; diarrhea; flaky skin or scabs around the face, neck, ears and eyes; a rough stand-up coat; or any thing else that just doesn’t seem right.

Some pet stores sell “fancy mice.” These are usually colored or Satin mice and sometimes they have been handled (though not always) so you might call around and ask.

Be sure to handle the mice for a few minutes before you buy them. Most of the time they will be a bit hyper, especially the younger ones. Do they try to jump off your hand? Jumpers are not so great to get as they are usually the ones that are likely to be biters. If it nips or bites, do not buy it. Are they just a little nervous but are willing to stay on you and explore? Mice will often try to climb off your hand and back into their cage, so when you are fairly sure the mouse is not going to take a flying leap, turn your back to the cage so that the mouse cannot see it. Many of the personality traits are passed down genetically, so never breed animals with marginal personalities.

And remember that the best way to pick up a mouse initially is by the base of the tail. That does not hurt the mouse and there is no risk of injury to the body and vital organs from being squished. The tail also makes an excellent leash for when you are first looking to purchase a mouse or for handling babies at the “popcorn” stage of life.

If your daughter is going to raise mice, what is she going to do with all of the babies? Mice can have 1–18 kittens with an average of 8–14 in one litter. Is there a pet store that has committed to taking the ones you don’t want to keep? Is there a zoo, wildlife or bird rehab center, or a museum with a live reptile display nearby that you can donate the extras to? These are things to consider when going into mouse raising as your population can multiply very quickly.

I do not know how much you know so I have tried to provide you with some useful information for beginners. If you are a beginner, then you might also want to buy a book on mice as well.

Good luck with your mice. *

June 10, 2014