Care instructions for Natal mice, Zebra mice and Pigmus (Mice)
1. Animal species
Natal mouse ( Mastomys/Praomys natalensis ), Zebra mouse ( Lemniscomys barbarus; L. striatus ), Egyptian/Black Nile (black variant) pygmy mouse ( Acomys cahirinus ); Turkish pygmy mouse ( A. cilicicus ); red pygmy mouse ( A. russatus ); dwarf/pygmy pygmy mouse ( A. spinosissimus )
2. Full grown size
Zebra mice and porcupines 7-14 cm (without tail), and weight 20-70 g. Natal mice 13-15 cm and 60-120 g.
3. Life expectancy
Zebra mice and natal mice typically live for 2-3 years, while pygmy mice can live up to 6 years.
4. Recommended size and layout of facility or cage
Natal mice are naturally nocturnal, while zebra mice are active during the day. They build their nests in the vegetation, crevices or in underground caves. They are best kept in a cage or closed terrarium covered with wire mesh so they cannot jump out.
The size must be a minimum of H40 x W100 x D50 cm for 2 individuals. The area should be increased by approx. 20% per extra adult individual. Feel free to build the plant up in height with some climbing possibilities (e.g. trunks, branches, roots) so that the movement possibilities are increased.
In addition, provide several good hiding places (grass beds, pieces of bark, small branches, stones, etc.), and there must always be fresh hay available as nesting material and for use as a hide. The bottom layer can consist of dust-free shavings, sphagnum, wood chips or other dust-free products (not sawdust and spruce shavings). For all species, the bottom layer must be so deep that the animals can dig walking systems in it. Drinking water is best given in a solid bowl or trough.
5. Special care needs, including special requirements for temperature conditions
As a rule, the animals should be kept at room temperature (approx. 20-25 °C) and with good ventilation, but without drafts. Plenty of gnawing material such as branches is important to ensure natural tooth wear. In a spacious facility with plenty of climbing and possibly digging opportunities, the claws will wear sufficiently and clipping is unnecessary.
Excrement and feed residues are removed and fresh drinking water is provided daily. The bottom layer is changed and the plant is cleaned as needed, for smaller plants approx. once a week, for larger installations less often. However, leave some of the bottom layer or nesting material back after cleaning so that some scents are preserved.
6. Stimulation and need for exercise
All species need a stimulating facility with plenty of climbing and digging activities as well as hiding opportunities. Furniture such as crisscrossing branches, pipes, flower pots, boxes, cardboard tubes are good for this. As much as possible, keep food around the cage and in different challenging containers. Nuts with shells can be given occasionally so that they are activated by opening them. When handling, it is important not to hold the zebra mouse by the relatively loose skin (e.g. the nape of the neck), as there is a risk that the animal will twist to escape, and parts of the skin may become detached, resulting in large wounds.
For all the species, you must not lift them by the tail. Instead, lift the animal with cup-shaped hands, possibly with a hand that gently holds it firmly above so that they cannot jump down. In general, however, they should be handled as little as possible.
Natural food is grass, soft seeds, grain, leaves, roots and fruit supplemented with a little insects every now and then. As basic food, a rodent mixture containing various seeds should be given to mice. In addition, some greens are given daily (grass, herbs, dandelions, weed plants, sprouts etc.) as well as some vegetables (carrot, boiled potato, celery and leeks) and fruit such as apple and banana. A few times a week is supplemented with some invertebrates. Fresh hay must always be available as feed. Furthermore, there must always be access to a gnawing stone, mineral stone (possibly crushed into smaller pieces and added to the feed) and unsprayed branches as gnawing material. A vitamin supplement can be given in powder form, sprinkled over the feed. Fresh drinking water should always be available, preferably in a heavy bowl.
8. Social needs
All species are social and must at least be kept in pairs or two of the same sex. There is the greatest chance that the individuals will thrive together if they are put together when they are very young. Adult individuals that are strangers to each other must always first have a period of acclimatization before they are put together in the same facility. Always have plenty of cover so that the animals can escape from each other in case of conflict. In the event of serious conflicts, however, they should be separated and go to their separate facilities, although at times so that they stand close to each other, so that they still have some contact and thereby stimulate their natural social behavior. As a rule, the species should only be kept with their own conspecifics.
9. Propagation, brood care and possible neutralization
Species can have 5-10 litters annually. However, it is recommended to limit them to 3-4 litters to avoid physical overload in the female. The gestation period is approx. 3-4 weeks for natal mice and zebra mice and 35-45 days for pygmy mice, and the litter size 1-12, least in pygmy mice. The cubs are born blind and open their eyes after 1-2 weeks. They start eating solid food at approx. 2-week-old, but can be taken from the mother at 4-5 weeks old at the earliest. They become sexually mature at 3 months of age.
10. Typical signs of illness and reduced well-being
Sneezing and difficulty breathing possibly. with wheezing is a sign of respiratory infection, which is most often caused by drafts, cold, insufficient ventilation and inadequate cleaning. This must be treated by the vet. The species can also easily become overweight, which is why too many fattening (nuts and mealworms) and sugary items must be avoided. They can all be affected by the deadly and contagious Tyzzer's disease, whose symptoms are diarrhea, fatigue and loss of appetite. Immediately remove the individual from the group and see the vet if suspected, as the disease can spread quickly and if left untreated can lead to death within just a day.
Natal mouse ( photo: Kenneth Worm ) Zebra mouse ( photo: Klaus Rudloff ) Egyptian pygmy mouse ( photo: Vladimir Motycka )
Prepared by Dyrenes Beskyttelse ( www.dyrenesbeskyttelse.dk ) in collaboration with the Danish Primate Association - Foreningen for Exotic Mammals ( www.aber.dk ).
The care instructions contain general information about the care of an animal species/animal group. Further information can be found in the library or on the above and other websites.
The professional content of the care guide has been approved by the Council regarding the keeping of special animals on 6.12.2013 in accordance with the executive order on commercial trade in animals.