Many children want a pet but parents can be wary. The parents, not the children, understand the time investment with cleaning and feeding a pet and the costs associated with it all while children may not even think twice about any of it. But parents first want to make sure that the kind of pet their children wants will be a good pet for them. Pet mice are cute, small, inexpensive, and quite popular with children, especially since they are exposed to them in many different animated movies and television shows.
Mice as Pets for Kids
If the kids (and you) want something they can handle a lot and play with, pet mice may not be the best as they are small, quick (so hard to manage for young hands), and can nip pretty hard if they get scared. But if your kids are calm and patient it could potentially work. Pet mice can be handled but they need a gentle touch and sometimes a good deal of patience if they are not very tame to begin with. So if you are looking for something to cuddle, mice may not be the best for younger kids to handle but every child is different.
However, if your family is looking more for a pet to watch rather than handle (and isn't a pet fish), a pair or group of female mice can be a great choice. Pet mice are fun to watch and not too difficult for a child to care for, although most of the care responsibilities may fall to the parents anyways.
Mice are very intelligent and don't take up much space.
Kids like to watch them run on wheels, hold treats in their hands, and explore their habitats. They are quiet pets but also have short life spans (1-2 years) which can be hard on a young child.
How Many Mice Should You Get?
Mice tend to be happiest in the company of other mice so it is recommended that you get more than one (especially for females since males may fight).
A pair or group of females usually gets along well but to avoid the difficulty of introducing mice that don't know each other try to get some from the same litter (or at least ones that have already lived together). Male mice (from the same litter) may get along but sometimes fight and may need to be separated. Between this and the tendency of intact male mice to be more smelly than the girls, females are a better choice for kids. Obviously keeping a male and female mouse together will result in many offspring so this should also be avoided.
Pet Mice Safety
As with any pet, your kids should also be able to understand that they need to wash their hands after handling a mouse, their food, or anything in their cage. And of course, the adults in the family must be willing to help or supervise proper feeding, cleaning and care of the mice. Adults should never depend 100% on a child to care for a pet.
Mice can chew through wood, paper, and even plastic so it is of utmost importance to make sure there are no holes in your mouse cage that have been created by your mouse. Mice can squeeze through very small spaces and will get lost and possibly injured if they can escape. Always make sure cages are securely closed after your child is done playing with their mouse.
Children that handle mice should always be sitting on the ground. Mice may jump or fall out of your child's hands and if your child is standing or has the mouse on a table the mouse may not survive the drop.
Edited by Adrienne Kruzer, RVT