Other name(s): Pygmy Mouse; Afrikanische Zwergmäuse
Scientific name: Mus minutoides
Holding the distinction as one of the smallest rodents and smallest mammals in the world, the African Pygmy Mouse is not much bigger than a thimble and may weigh as little as a copper penny! Though found in the grasslands of sub-Saharan Africa, these tiny mice are also kept as pets.
Though there are many advantages to such a small pet, the African Pygmy Mouse does require a bit of extra consideration. Handling African Pygmy Mice should be avoided as their tiny, delicate bodies are easily injured – this is a “look, but don’t touch” kind of pet, and children should never be allowed to hold them. They’re also very sensitive to cold temperatures, so their environment needs to be carefully regulated, and you should always keep them in groups. In addition, their nocturnal nature may make them noisy roommates if you choose to keep them in a bedroom.
Wild animals, including the African Pygmy Mouse, should never be taken from the wild. Domesticated African Pygmy Mice will be somewhat difficult to find, and are not widely available world-wide.
Appearance / health:
The African Pygmy Mouse is truly a tiny rodent with an average length of only 3-8cm, 2-4cm of which is tail, and an average weight of 3-12 grams (a copper penny, for example, weighs about 3g). Their short fur covers the whole body. Their coat is most commonly red with a pale belly, but may also be blue with a white belly. They have a rounded, oblong body, a pointed snout, black eyes and prominent, triangular ears.
Because of their small size and desert origin, African Pygmy Mice are sensitive to drafts and sharp drops in temperature. Such exposure can lower the immune system and make them more susceptible to respiratory infections, and can even cause hypothermia and death.
In the wild, the African Pygmy Mouse only lives around 2 years, but have lived as long as 4 years in captivity.
Behavior / temperament:
African Pygmy Mice are fast, agile, and active. They’re great climbers and high jumpers and enjoy foraging, exploring, and digging. They are nocturnal, so they’ll be their most active at night, but their high energy requirement often leads them to forage during the day. They are highly social and should always be kept in groups – preferably 4 or more. These groups will also share their body heat and keep each other safely warm.
Care must be taken when handling African Pygmy Mice as their incredibly small size makes them delicate and vulnerable to injuries, and their speed makes them difficult to catch. It’s best to avoid holding the African Pygmy Mouse at all, and children should never be allowed to handle them. They are also quick and easy to startle.
Like other species of mice, the African Pygmy Mouse likes to chew and gnawing will help prevent tooth overgrowth. Acorns, walnuts, and other hard nuts are acceptable for dental health, as are sticks of wood from fruit trees, or the various sticks and edible toys provided commercially.
The best housing for your African Pygmy Mice is a glass aquarium or terrarium with a mesh cover. Because of their tiny size, African Pygmy Mice can easily escape barred cages so this type of habitat should not be used. The cage should be kept in a temperature-controlled location and unlike other mice, the African Pygmy Mouse does best in temperatures around 82 degrees F (28 degrees C). A red heat lamp, such as those marketed for reptiles, can be placed above their cage to keep it warm (using a red lamp versus other color is important so that your mice don’t feel they have a bright light shining on them all the time). Temperatures should be monitored to make sure the heat lamp doesn’t make things too hot.
Bedding or nesting material is essential. Aspen shavings, corn cob bedding, or commercially available paper products are preferred, though paper strips, paper towels, cotton, tissue paper, and rags can provide additional bedding or nesting material. Cedar and pine shaving volatile aromatic oils that can cause damage and irritation to the respiratory system, and should not be used.
Hide-aways such as cardboard shelters and wood boxes should be provided for seclusion and privacy. Toys such as obstacle courses and wheels are also recommended to keep the mice stimulated and active. Wheels should have a solid floor and be sized small enough that the African Pygmy Mouse can get it to spin easily. The cage should be cleaned often to minimize exposure to ammonia and waste products. The frequency of cleaning will depend on the bedding used and the number of mice. To prevent disease, the entire enclosure should be disinfected at least twice a month.
The African Pygmy Mouse has a diet very similar to that of the Fancy Mouse, though because of their high metabolism, they should be provided with a bit of additional protein – this can be supplied with scrambled egg, dog or cat kibble, or even insects like mealworms. “Lab blocks” or laboratory pellets are specifically formulated to give mice the balanced nutrition they require as well as the gnawing experience that keeps their teeth from growing too long. Fresh foods like fruits and vegetables can be offered daily, but uneaten fresh food should be removed at the end of the day. You can supplement your mouse’s diet with nuts, seeds, pasta, grain mixes, and wheat bread, though these should be given sparingly, as a treat. Obesity can considerably shorten your mouse’s life span, so excess weight gain should be carefully avoided.
In the wild the African Pygmy Mouse stacks pebbles in front of its burrow and in the morning, drinks the dew that has accumulated on the stone – but you should provide your mice with a bottle! It is difficult finding a water bottle that is small enough that the African Pygmy Mouse can easily manipulate the ball or toggle to release water, and when providing a new bottle, it’s important to offer a small “dish” of water – something as small as a bottle cap will work – until you know for sure the mice can access the water in the bottle.
smallest rodent, tiny mice, tiny little things, experienced people
tight lid container, handling, high price tag, ammonia smell
insectivore mix, special mixed feed, fluffy rodent nesting, good rodent bedding
A Mouse As a Great Pet? Who Woulda Thunk It?
I was about 12 years old when my mum decided to reward me for my good grades at school. Out for a drive, we were originally meant to pick up a video game, or a movie, just something of that nature, but as we walked past the pet store I had to go in. Which kid can walk past a pet store without wanting to go? Show them to me! Ahem, I digress. Walking into the store, I knew mum would never go for a dog or something of that price (we just couldn't afford it back then), so I went to the aisles containing the smaller animals. Still unsure wether I could actually get a pet, I mosied on down to the mice section. I was captivating watching these little things scurry about. They moved so fast and were just full of life. Not seeming afraid that I was there 2 mice came up to the glass and leant against it looking at me. Now I know looking back this was purely a coincidence, but to a child's mind, it was fate. I asked mum for them and to my amazement, she actually agreed! Never mind the fact that they were cheap as chips. Now i would need a cage or some housing for them and I forked out my pocket money for a mouse house. After everything was set up at home, I decided to get to know my mice. See, mice are usually skittish creatures so as soon as I open the cage, they darted straight out and ran around my room for a good 20 minutes with me running around like an idiot chasing them. I managed to get them both back in the cage (thanks be to JAH!) and thought I'd give them some time to get used to me behind the glass. Fast forward 2 weeks and I gave it another shot. They seemed to be more at ease this time around, calmly walking around their enclosure and then retreating into their holes. After some coaxing, they came out and started climbing up my arms. It's hard to describe, but it was a fantastically emotional moment. The two mice had learned I was their friend, their to help and to play. Over the year and a half that they managed to live, I ended up taking them out everyday after school and allowed them to cross up my arms, to rest on my shoulders. They would play with some of the little makeshift toys I had fashioned for them. They were little personalities to say the least. I was amazed at how fast they had grown and adapted to me (and how intelligent they were). Unfortunately, the time came where one of the mouse's health gave way giving in to cancer. We had to put it down and 2 weeks later, I had found the other one dead in the cage. Nevertheless, they were good little buddies to have. If you can train them properly, they are a fun time and building and expanding their home can be another fun hobby. Highly recommended..
From rickmelfi Sep 27 2015 6:10AM
I acquired these mice as part of my PhD studies. They were given to me from a Zoo and I had the chance to spend 4 months caring for and interacting with them.
First, these mice are really, really small, and you have to be very careful when handling them or cleaning the cage! It is very possible, that you might hurt them.
They are quite social and cute little mice. They would spend a lot of time together, but the truth is they would not do much beyond that. Furthermore, they spent a lot of time in nests they made, beneath their feeding bowls.
If you provide them with little pebbles and sticks, these mice tend to construct nests, which is very interesting to watch and have inside your terrarium! They do not need too much space, but you should provide them enough, in case there is competition between them - you don't want them hurting each other. Have more than one, and make certain they are not of both genders!
Feeding them is quite easy. It only takes seeds and fruit. They are so small that they only need small quantities to be content.
So, to conclude:
2. Not a lot of stuff to do with, apart from looking at them
2. Easy to maintain
3. Tiny and interesting.
From Eneekay Mar 18 2014 4:03AM
Not for me
I was given two of these mice as a gift. I did not like them and they did not like me. They were both male and the smell was awful! No matter how much maintenance I did I couldn't get rid of it. They hated to be handled and did nothing but bite the whole time - which really hurts. I would not recommend these to anyone - I hope others have had better experiences with these. I stuck it out to the end and tried my best to love them but it was a struggle!.
From RhiaL May 18 2014 4:36PM