African Pygmy Mouse

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Other name(s): Pygmy Mouse; Afrikanische Zwergmäuse

Scientific name: Mus minutoides

The basics:
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

Helpful African Pygmy Mouse Review

African Pygmy Mouse

From rickmelfi Sep 27 2015 6:10AM


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