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African pygmy mice | Housing | Care & Handling  | Feeding | Breeding

African pygmy mouse (Mus minutoides)

The African pygmy mouse is one of the smallest rodents of the world. It is widespread within southern Africa (see map). Pygmy mice live in social groups, and are mainly active during the night. The mice are nice to look at and not for handling, because they are small and very quick. The mice have a reddish brown back and a white belly and chin. Their body length is about 30- 60 mm and the tail is about the same length. An adult pygmy mouse weighs between 2.5 Ė 12 grams. In captivity the mice can live up to 2 years.


Adult African pygmy mouse next to 2 euro coin   African pygmy mice

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Pygmy mice arenít very difficult to keep. You can house them in an aquarium (see picture) or fauna box. The mice are very quick and jumpy so it's best to keep them in an enclosure that can be opened at the top. They are very small, so their enclosure must be well sealed. They can escape through holes and cracks which are larger than 5 mm. As substrate for the enclosure you can use hay, straw, small wood chips or sand. In hay they make a maze and you will hardly see them. African pygmy mice live mainly on the bottom of their enclosure, but they can jump and climb very well. Some branches in their enclosure for them to climb on are recommended. Since these mice are from Africa, they donít tolerate temperatures below 60įF, also keep them out of drafts. It costs these small mice a lot of energy, to keep their body temperature stable. The ideal temperature is between 70įF and 80įF.

Our mice live in winter at night at 63įF and are doing fine. They are sleeping in nests of hay to keep them warm. When nesting boxes are used, they must be from a natural material. Plastic boxes get wet on the inside because of the high metabolism of the mice. Moist in the nests isn't very good for the mice! In my experience a tuft of hay in each corner of the enclosure works best.

African pygmy mice are rather territorial mice. The best way to keep them is as a threesome, one male and two females. In a very large enclosure you can keep two or more threesomes. Then you have to provide them with more places to nest or hide and several feeding and drinking areas. In a fauna box of 30x20x20 cm you can keep one threesome. Introducing new animals in an existing group can be difficult. The best thing to do is to put all mice in a new enclosure at the same time and hope for the best. Sometimes one or more mice will be killed, before the group has stabilized. Introducing a new male in a existing group of females is more easy than introducing a female in that same group.  


Pygmy mice enclosure

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Care and handeling

African pygmy mice are easy to keep. To keep them healthy you must feed and water them in time, thatís the most important thing to do. Also important is to clean the feeding dishes on a regular basis, to keep them free from mould and vermin. Hygiene is important because the mice usually pee and defecate in their dishes. The enclosure doesnít have to be cleaned as often as for most rodents. These small mice are very clean and donít smell. Depending on the number of mice that are kept in the enclosure, it should be cleaned every two to four weeks.

Handling these small mice isnít very easy. Theyíre very small, vulnerable and quick. A person who is used to handling small rodents, can pick them up by their tail. You have to be careful not to damage the skin on their tail. They can bite really hard so be careful not to drop them. Keep the tub you want to put them into above their enclosure. If you drop one it falls in the tub or in his enclosure and not on the ground. In case one escapes, you can catch it very easily with a mouse-friendly mouse trap. Place the mice trap with some fruit in it along the wall.


Adult African pigmy mouse on a rock


Mouse-friendly mouse trap to catch the mice


If you are less experienced with handling mice, you can use a small container to catch them. Place the small container in the enclosure en try to drive the mouse into the container. Block the entrances of the small container with both hands and pick it up. Place the small container with the mouse in his new enclosure and set the mouse free. Itís also very easy to determine the gender of the mouse by using a transparent container.


Grooming mouse


Climbing mouse

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African pygmy mice eat mostly seeds and insects. Because they are such small mice, tropical bird seed is very suitable for them to eat. Most of the seeds in tropical bird seed originate from Africa, so they are a part of the natural diet of the African pygmy mice. Beside seeds, their diet must be completed with small insects such as buffalo worms and small crickets. You can also use some insect food for birds or tropical fish food instead of live insects. Itís all about the proteins which they need in their diet. Once in a while you can give them some tiny pieces of fruit. Water can be served in a drinking bottle, best with a nipple without a ball. When you use one with a ball, it better be a very small bottle, otherwise the ball can cause the mice trouble. Water can also be served in a bird fountain (see picture), placed on a stone. The mice have a very high metabolism, so they must have access to food and water at any time, otherwise they will die!

This pygmy mouse is drinking from a small bottle with ball   The mice peel the seeds and store them in their pouches. They will eat the seeds later in their hides.

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Breeding African pygmy mice is quite simple. Most important is a stable group of adult mice, good food (especially proteins are very important)  suitable nesting places and some peace and quietness. African pygmy mice are producing smaller litters than fancy mice, usually 2 Ė 4 babies in a litter (sometimes up to 8). The gestation period (19 - 21 days) and the growth of the babies are almost the same as those of fancy mice. After 3-4 weeks the young mice are independent and after 6 weeks they are sexually mature. Itís wise to catch and take out the young mice on a regular basis, to prevent them from inbreeding, or killing other babies (when there are too many males).


Young mice of different ages in one nest.


Two or three day old pink mice


  • Dekker, R (2000). Knaagdieren encyclopedie. Warffum: Welzo Media Productions.

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This site is updated on 15-02-2009

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