The Fun Mouse: Mouse Information: Handling Mice
The proper way to pick up a mouse
I recommend that you let your mouse get to know you before picking them up. This way they will feel less intimidated. Try just putting your hand in their cage and letting them come to you. More than likely your mouse will come up to you and crawl into your hand, given enough time. Mice are very curious and outgoing yet timid at first. If you use this method you must be patient and present your hand in a not-so-intimidating way, i.e. keep your hand below your mouse’s eye level and bring your hand slowly closer to the mouse from an angle. Swooping in from above the mouse can be very frightening to a small critter and you could be mistaken for an enemy such as a bird. I highly recommend letting your mice come to you or picking them up by scooping them. If you have to, you can gently pick it up by the base of its tail. If you do this, make sure the mouse is not holding on to anything. Mice have a strong grip and if you pull on them it could cause injury. You can actually pull their tail skin off their bone quite easily! If the mouse feels intimidated it will try to get away and if it can’t it may bite. I recommend only grabbing the tail when you need to. Mice are not really biters. I don’t want you to get the wrong impression. By nature, they are not aggressive. I have NEVER been bit by an adult mouse unless it was my fault (I was bit once by a male because I didn’t wash my hands first and I smelled like another male. That’s my fault I was bitten, not his). However, I have been bit by dogs, cats, hamsters, rabbits, fish (yes, fish!), and one turtle. Hamsters and female rabbits tend to be the worst in my opinion. But that does not stop me from keeping any of them as pets either ;). It an animal is frightened it will bite, even if the animal isn’t a bitter by nature. Restraining an animal by the tail can frighten them or cause distress.
How to tame a mouse
Patients are the key to taming a mouse (or any animal for that matter). The best thing you can do is start when they are young. Once you can safely handle the babies without upsetting the mom you should start picking them up. When a baby mouse is still a pinky you shouldn’t hold them for very long. The mom might get upset and the baby can get cold. But it is a good idea to hold them for a couple minutes each day after they are 3-4 days old. Once the babies start to open their eyes they enter what’s known as the “popcorn” stage. They will begin to jump around like popping popcorn. Be careful in this stage as the babies can get hurt by jumping out of your hand. They are also hard to catch once out of the hand. This stage can get frustrating but keep in mind that it will get better with time and patients. Holding the babies before their eyes open can greatly help this stage or even eliminate it all together. If handling your mouse at a young age isn’t an option because you adopted them older then there is still options for you. Read my section on “the proper way to pick up a mouse” for some helpful information on this. In addition to that you might want to sit on the floor with your mice in their cage and just present your hand to them. Lay your hand at the bottom of the cage and leave it there (you may want to move them into a fresh tank where they have little things to hide in but still feel secure). Get comfortable though as this takes time. After a while your mice should get curious enough and come to you. They will smell and investigate your hand. Keep in mind that it might take them a while to come out of hiding. After a while one of them will work up the courage to run over your hand as fast as it can. Stay still when this happens. Your mouse is testing the waters now. If you try to grab at them, they will lose trust in you. After a while your mouse will start climbing all over your hand and maybe even up your arm. At this point try moving your hand very slowly so they know they are really on a human. Always make sure they can get away safely. If they jump off, don’t worry they will come back. After a while your mice will gain trust in you and you should be able to pick them up without a problem. Keep in mind that this will take days or even weeks to accomplish. If you have a very scared mouse you might want to just start by putting your hand in the cage for a while and then try again another day to go further. Your mouse will let you know how far you can go each sitting. You can also use treats for encouragement. However, I prefer not to use treats. I like my mice to come to me because they want attention and not because I’m a food dispenser. As I said, be patient, this process takes a while to work. But I’ve found that it is worth while as the mice gain full trust of you this way. If you get grabby, your mouse will never like to be held and might even bite! Also, know your mouse’s limits. He/she will tell you when they have had enough. Once your mouse starts showing signs that it wants to be put down, put them down. This will let them gain even more trust in you and save both you and them frustration. If you put them down when they “ask” to be put down they will know that is always an option. This will make them want to stay on your hand longer next time because they have trust in you placing them down when they want. Imagine if someone was confining you and you wanted to get away. If they let you, then you would be more willing to stay longer next time :).