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Introduction to African Pygmy Mice as Pets


The African Pygmy mouse, scientific name Mus minutoides, is
probably the smallest rodent species, or at least the
smallest that has been discovered so far. They are found in
the wild in Africa, south of the Sahara, in small colonies
or pairs, commonly in grassy areas near a pond, lake or
river. Like other mice, they are normally found near areas
cultivated by humans, not in or near the desert.

An adult African Pygmy Mouse is tiny, with a reddish top
coat and a white belly. Did we mention that they are tiny?
Imagine a mouse that is only one-fifth to one-quarter inch
(five to seven centimeters) long, including tail! And half
or more of that length is tail. In captivity if well cared
for Pygmy Mice can live up to three years.

African Pygmy Mice are very social, so if you decide to
choose them as pets, be sure to plan on purchasing at least
a male/female or female/female pair, and make sure that the
mice you purchase have been kept together from youth so you
won't have to deal with the territorial fights and resulting
mouse murders that are common in most mouse species. You may
have to search a bit to find a pair if you live in North
America, they aren't very common in the North American pet
trade, but they are being bred here and can be found.

Pygmy Mice make charming pets as long as you don't mind a
pet that you can't cuddle. Although they will get used to
you over time, African Pygmy Mice are so small that handling
can injure them, and they are also nervous and easily
startled. When they are startled their instinctive response
is to jump straight up and they are very good at it, an
adult Pygmy Mouse can jump up to twelve inches (thirty
centimeters) very suddenly, so be careful when opening their
cage as they are also not so easy to catch. But, these mice
are very high in "cute factor" and are very clean and
without much "mousey odor."

A ten to twenty gallon aquarium with a tight screened lid
such as are sold for reptiles makes the best home for Pygmy
Mice in captivity, they can get through amazingly small
holes and might escape even the smallest wire mesh of
traditional small animal cages. Experienced breeders suggest
that you keep no more than a pair or a trio of one male and
two females per ten gallon tank. You will also need a second
similar tank to use in case a mouse is ill and needs a
hospital tank or on the occasions when you need to move all
the mice to thoroughly clean and disinfect their tank and
two more for the young mice if you plan to breed your Pygmy
Mice.

For substrate on the bottom of the tank you might use
chinchilla dust, well chopped good quality hay, and/or a
fine recycled paper bedding sold for rodents. If you want to
make their environment look more natural, you might add some
small branches for climbing and gnawing, small pebbles and
larger rocks, and non-toxic plants, and some type of
hideaway where they can build their nest and feel safe.
These decorations will also add environmental enrichment for
your pets. A consideration in choosing what to use for
substrate is that if your mice breed, the babies will be so
small that they can be lost in a coarse substrate and
accidentally thrown out with the used bedding at cleaning
time.

Use a water bottle such as is sold for birds, fastened to or
hanging from the side of the tank at a level that can be
reached by the smallest mouse but high enough above the
substrate to prevent leaking, and make certain fresh clean
water is available at all times. All rodents need plenty of
fresh water, and Pygmy Mice drink a lot for their size and
can die of thirst in an amazingly short time if left without
water.

Your mice will eat a good quality Finch, Canary or Parakeet
seed sprinkled with a bit of powdered milk and will love a
millet spray such as is sold for birds. Keep a "rodent
block" available all the time and it will not only
supplement their diet but give them more gnawing fun. An
occasional small snack of bits of dry toast, a sunflower or
safflower seed, well-washed fruit or greens is fine; just
make sure that any bits they don't eat right away are
removed promptly to prevent spoilage, bacteria and mold.
Pygmy mice also need a bit of animal protein, as in the wild
they often eat small insects. Give them a small amount of
crushed dry cat food or small insects two or three times per
week and you will prevent the bad habit of gnawing on each
other that mice sometimes develop when their diet is short
on protein.

If you keep a pair of African Pygmy Mice you will need to
know about breeding. Females can breed at as early an age as
four weeks, can breed immediately after giving birth, and
can give birth to a litter of one to six babies every twenty
days! (Breeding that often is not recommended. If the body
of a female mouse is stressed that way she won't live very
long.)

As with all mice, the babies are born hairless, blind and
helpless. After the first week they will be "fuzzies," and
their eyes with begin to open at about one and one half
weeks. Once the babies are over two weeks old they will
begin to leave the nest for short periods, but will run back
to the nest at any disturbance.

Since it is especially important with Pygmy Mice that they
are not allowed to interbreed, in order to avoid birth
defects, you will need to remove the young and separate them
by gender by the time they are four weeks old. You probably can
find a pet store that will be happy to buy your young mice,
since African Pygmy Mice are rare in the pet trade.


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