Can You Keep a Caught House Mouse as a Pet?

Despite their similarities, a wild house mouse is not the same as a fancy mouse you would see at a local pet store. They can carry disease and fear handling.

May 9, 2024By Colt Dodd
can you keep caught house mouse as pet

You bought a humane mouse trap because you love animals. Now, you’ve caught a mouse, and you’re wondering whether you can keep the little guy as a pet. However, while it may initially seem like a good idea, it’s important to note the key differences between domestically bred mice and house mice. Most notably, wild animals can carry fleas, internal parasites, and other diseases.

Still, if you’re willing to accept the risk, there’s nothing stopping you from keeping a feral mouse as a pet.

House Mice Are Not Pets

house mouse on sidewalk
Image credit: Wikimedia Commons

A house mouse is a small rodent sporting a pointed snout, rounded ears, and a hairless tail. While they can vary in color, they generally come in agouti, where a single hair can have different colors. So, in the sunlight, a house mouse may appear brown with fine streaks of black, white, or gray.

Both wild house mice and fancy mice are the same animal. Yet, domesticated mice are bred for handling and companionship. These mice make great pets. A feral house mouse, however, lives for one thing: survival. They don’t enjoy being handled and may make frequent escape attempts if caged.

Another consideration is that house mice can carry diseases (as we’ll discuss later) that fancy mice may not. For instance, a single house mouse could carry tapeworms, which can spread to other animals in the household. They can also carry and spread Hantavirus, a family of life-threatening diseases.

Think Twice About Keeping a House Mouse

house mouse in humane trap
Image credit: Colt Dodd

There’s nothing stopping you from keeping a house mouse as a pet. Yet, here is some information that could help you make a well-informed decision:

  • Wild mice carry diseases. Wild mice can spread salmonella, typhus, and even the plague. While house mice rarely carry rabies, you don’t want to risk any threats to your health—or that of other rodents you keep.
  • House mice may stress in cages. A house mouse generally forages and lives within 30 feet of its nest. It may seem like a small radius, but for a small rodent, it’s generous. Being in a cage could cause stress, aggression, and premature death.
  • Mice shouldn’t live alone. Mice can live in colonies with up to 24 members. They are social creatures that thrive on interaction with others. Keeping a house mouse by itself is cruel. It might also not take kindly to other, unfamiliar mice, leading to fights.

You wouldn’t risk these things by purchasing a well-bred fancy mouse. These pets are screened for diseases, socialized from a young age, and intended for animal husbandry.

What if I Want to Rescue a House Mouse?

Black mouse trio in cage 2
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If you capture a house mouse, you should keep it in a container, then release it two miles away from your home. Mice are extremely intelligent, and they can find their way back to their nests if you relocate them too closely to your home. You might find yourself catching the same mouse over and over again.

Matters change if the mouse is injured or appears ill. In that case, you can contact your local wildlife rehab organization and give the animal to its staff. They can offer the nutrition, medications, and other therapies the animal needs.

Mice do not have strong immune systems, and because they can’t vomit, ingesting poison is usually fatal. If the mouse isn’t long for this world, a rescue organization can offer humane euthanasia to help it cross the rodent rainbow bridge.

Beware of “Docile” House Mice

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House mice are prey animals—and they know it. When face-to-face with a threat (or a perceived one), they scurry away and find shelter. Yet, you may encounter a house mouse that doesn’t object to being handled, accepts food, and even sits in the palm of your hand. An ideal pet? Think again.

Mice that are diseased may not have the energy to fend for themselves or leave a precarious situation. Ingesting poison can cause neurological problems that make a mouse seem confused or disoriented. You don’t want to risk your health by handling a wild, potentially sick animal—no matter how cute or friendly it seems.

As noted, the best thing you can do for a captured house mouse is to relocate it away from your home or bring it to a rescue organization. Keeping it as a pet could be more than what you initially bargained for.

What You Need for Keeping Pet Mice

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At most pet stores, mouse enclosures are typically small to medium-sized cages with colorful, plastic tubing. While visually appealing, these fall short of what a nest of mice needs. They also are easy to break through and lead to escapes.

If you plan on keeping two to three mice, you should get a cage that’s 18 inches long, 18 inches wide, and 10 inches tall, according to Merck Veterinary Manual. You should also purchase a water bottle with a hanger, so the mice have access to consistent hydration. Laying down a few inches of wood shavings or prepared litter is ideal, so they can burrow.

Commercial mice diets contain all of the vitamins and minerals a mouse needs to live a healthy life. Still, you may opt to supplement their diet with sunflower seeds and fruit. Mice aren’t like rats that need a lot of one-on-one attention. They do very well with a running wheel, climbing blocks, and ladders.

Other Rodents Make Better Pets

fancy rat in cage
Image credit: Wikimedia Commons

While many people come to care for and love their pet mice, they’re not right for everyone. These critters generally live less than two years, and other rodents, such as fancy rats, offer more interaction. If you’re looking for a small companion to hang out on your shoulder or navigate mazes, you may benefit from adopting a:

Colt Dodd
By Colt Dodd

Colt Dodd is a sighthound enthusiast with three years of freelance writing experience. He has an Italian greyhound/Shetland sheepdog mix named Homer. In his spare time, he enjoys going to dog parks and writing fiction.