Wild mice have a variety of foods at their disposal and spend their lives gathering it up and consuming large amounts of food. This practice isn't possible for the caged domestic mouse and as such, meeting their nutritional needs should be a concern of mouse owners. It isn't a hard thing to do, but should be done with consideration and care.
Choosing a base. Each day you will need to feed your mouse a dish or pile of food. This should be done with a base type of food. There are three options for a healthy base food that is a great place to start with good nutrition.
- Rat/mouse lab block- One option for feeding your pet mouse is to give them lab blocks. This is a brownish gray pressed block that is scientifically formulated to meet all of your mouse's nutritional needs. Some mouse owners recommend this food type because it all tastes the same and a mouse can't pick out their favorite parts. On the other hand, the food lacks variety and it is easy for us to imagine the mouse becoming bored. This food can also be mixed with either of the other options for a variety that includes these all in one, guaranteed to be nutritional options.
- Prepackaged mixes- If you go into the pet store, you can usually find a number of prepackaged mixed foods. Sometimes you can find a mix that is labeled for rats and mice. Other times you will want to choose one out of the hamster or gerbil variety. You want to look for a mix with a lot of different foods in it. You don't want it to be full of sunflower seeds or nuts, but a few is okay. You also don't want a ton of brightly colored pressed nuggets. These foods are full of dye and usually just made of pressed corn or corn meal. You also want to make sure it looks fresh and tasty!
- Make your own mix- You can also make your own mix from a variety of items obtainable at the health food store, grocery store, farm supplier, and pet store. You will want a mix that contains some seeds. A mixed bird seed that doesn't have very many sunflower seeds is a good possibility, as well as millet (especially yellow millet which has less fat then white) and budgie seed. You can also add a mixture of oats, corn, and other grains. You will also want to add a small amount of dry dog or cat food (less cat food than dog food because it contains a higher amount of fat).
Your base food can change from time to time according to time and what is available. You should always feed this food once a day (twice for larger groups of mice). If there is almost a full dish at the next feeding time, avoid topping it off so that your mice aren't being too picky. Make sure that it is full of food and not just shells though. If your mice are using their dish for a potty, it is a good idea to move it to a higher level or to dump the food on the ground.
Additional things to feed your mouse. A mouse needs a complete diet with foods from all the food groups (though it doesn't rely on dairy products or meat products to the same extent that we do). To achieve this and offer the best nutrition possible for your mouse, it is a good idea to offer a little extra each day.
- Fruits and vegetables. You should wash and peel fruits and vegetables and offer small amounts to your mouse. Remember that he or she is very small and only needs a piece or two sized for his hands.
- Other plant materials. You can collect fresh grass, dandelions, and even grow sprouts for your pet mouse. These can make for a nice variety, though they should be offered in small amounts.
- Yogurt and sour cream. You can offer your mouse small amounts of unflavored yogurt or sour cream to meet their dairy needs in a nutritional way.
- Dry hay should be offered regularly. This is not only a good thing to munch on, but your mouse will have fun moving it around, burying it, and even nesting with it.
Fresh items should be removed the following day and never allowed to rot or mold. It isn't safe to feed rotting or moldy food to your mouse.
Leftovers. You can also offer your mouse leftover items from your own meals. Any foods that you do offer shouldn't be fried or highly seasoned. Good choices include:
- Lean meats that are thoroughly cooked including fish, chicken, and turkey.
- Porridge or other cooked oats. Make sure you aren't feeding them porridge with sugar because sugar isn't good for them.
- Potatoes that have been boiled, mashed, or cooked with very few seasonings. French fries, tater tots, and potato chips should not fall into this category.
- Pasta and rice, either cooked or raw is a good option as well.
- Leftover veggies can also be given.
These foods should only be offered a couple of times a week and should never be the majority of the mouse diet.
Treats. With all the food options you have of giving your mouse, it may seem like there isn't a need for treats. While this is true, it is still fun to give them to your mouse. You can give treats when outside of the cage and you can also tie them around the cage, forcing your mouse to climb to get them.
- Store-bought options include yogurt drops, seed sticks and blocks, dog biscuits, dog kibble, and chew sticks.
- You can also make your own treats. Dried bread is a simple option or you can look into making and baking mouse treats. Several recipes are available on the Internet.
- Live meal worms can also be given. Many mice like them. They should be the smaller variety for easy eating. You should also clear away any uneaten worms immediately after serving to make sure you don't end up with them hurting your mice. Serving in a small dish or outside the cage is also an option.
Chew options. Mice are animals whose teeth never stop growing. They are supposed to gnaw so that their teeth stay the correct size as well as healthy. There are a few different options for providing your mouse the things or foods that he or she needs for healthy teeth.
- Flavored woods. There are a variety of flavored woods available at the pet store. These are fairly inexpensive and easy to find. You can keep one in your mouse's home so that he or she can chew on it when need be.
- Nuts in their shells. Shells are good chew options so providing nuts in shells is a good idea. Don't give your mouse a ton of them (they are high in fat), but a nut here and there is good. Walnuts and acorns are two good options.
- Dog biscuits are often hard enough that they help with this process as well.
- Other hard foods can be good such as uncooked pasta and rice, dried breads, and mouse treats made to be hard.
These don't have to be given every day, or even every week, but should be given at least once a month to make sure that their teeth are doing well.
Foods you shouldn't give your mouse. It is true that the pest mouse is known for eating all sorts of foods and even for enjoying sugary treats and snacks. However, not all things are healthy for mice. Some can cause obesity, which significantly lowers the life span of a mouse. Still other foods cause digestive issues, diarrhea, and even death. Here is a list of foods to watch out for and avoid:
- Citrus Fruits.
- Extremely fatty foods such as potato chips.
- Unwashed fruits and vegetables.
- Fizzy drinks such as soda.
- Cheese and milk.
- Peanut butter (or other nut butters).
- Foods picked outdoors in a spot that has fertilizer or pesticides used.
Some foods don't have the same side effects as those listed above, but should be limited because they aren't as healthy for your mouse as other options. These things include:
- Peanuts. It is fine if your food has peanuts in it, but it isn't a good idea to offer them as a treat.
- Sunflower seeds. Once again a few is fine, but don't give a lot and don't pick a food mix that has a lot of them in it.
Feeding a pet mouse is often fun to do and offers a lot of variety. You can use the time to get to know your pet mouse and for him or her to get to know you. It doesn't have to be a hard thing to do and can often depend on what is available in the house at the time!