Why Do Pet Mice Bite?


Mice are quite docile as pets. They are not known to be aggressive. However, they may scratch or bite their handlers on occasion. We will look at the reasons for this below. We will also look at how to avoid getting bitten by your pet mice.

Pet mice may bite if they are startled or afraid of you. They will bite if they’re not used to being handled, have recently given birth, or if you interfere when they are fighting amongst themselves.

Don’t worry too much though, because although these bites and scratches may be painful at first, they cannot cause you serious harm.

These steps also apply if you have had a mouse for a while but didn’t interact with it yet.

How to Avoid Scaring Your Mouse

If you want your pet mouse to be friendly towards you, you will need to spend time socializing with it. You should handle (or at least touch) the mouse regularly.

Spend Time around Your Mouse’s Cage

Now, you shouldn’t try to touch a new mouse. You should give it some time and space to first get comfortable in its new surroundings.

Even before your start putting your hand inside the cage, the mouse needs to be comfortable with you being around it.

If you spend time near the cage regularly, your mouse will get used to your smell and the sound of your voice.

Speak to your mouse in a calm and gentle tone regularly. All movements that you make when you’re near the cage must be deliberate, slow and gentle. Sudden movements and loud noises (even speaking loudly) should be avoided.

You can read / work on your laptop or PC / watch TV on a low volume / talk to family, etc. in a spot where the mouse can see you without any obstacles between its cage and you. The closer you sit to your mouse’s cage, the better.

While you are doing any such activity, try to ignore your mouse for a while. If you need to have a look at it, do not make it apparent that you’re doing so.

This will give the mouse a sense of ease, knowing that you are not ‘out to get it’ and you do other things when near the cage as well.

It is absolutely essential that you provide a few hiding spots from where neither you nor the mouse can see each other. If the mouse gets too scared, it can go there to feel safe.

Also, try to avoid interacting with it while it is hiding in its spot.

You can begin interacting by placing treats inside the cage by hand. Do this when the mouse can see you. Place your treats some distance away from the mouse, or else it might run away or attack you.

In the beginning, you will need to be patient. Only touch or pick the mouse up when it allows you to. It can take some weeks to get comfortable enough to allow handling.

Gradually increase the amount of time you spend with your pet mouse.

A mouse that hasn’t been interacted with for long will develop aggression towards humans, as it will be afraid of us.

Don’t Keep Multiple Males Together

Male mice are very aggressive towards other male mice. They are very likely to fight and severely injure or even kill each other. The dominant ones will intimidate the non-dominant ones.

So either keep only one male, or keep separate enclosures, with only one adult male per enclosure.

If you are keeping more than one male in the same enclosure, you should neuter them. Neutering them makes them a lot more tolerant of each other.

Keep Multiple Females Together

Contrary to the males’ behaviour, female mice are very social creatures. They interact with each other and need to be kept in groups.

If you have a solitary female who won’t become tame even after repeated attempts by you, you could try getting it a friend or two. The new additions should be female, of course. You could get one male as well.

Having the company of other mice may reduce its aggression towards humans.

If you keep unneutered male and female mice in the same enclosure, you are almost guaranteed to quickly have lots of baby mice.

Overcrowding Mice Cages Can Lead To Aggression

Mice (especially males) tend to be territorial. In an overcrowded cage, there isn’t enough space for an individual to claim its territory.

So they are either unable to form territories, or the territories they form overlap with each other. This is bound to make the mice very aggressive towards each other. This aggression can be shown on humans as well.

Each mouse really needs a part of the enclosure it can claim for itself, to feel safe and comfortable. Male mice will also mark their territory by spraying urine, just like cats.

The Mouse May Mistake Your Hand for Food

If you handle your mouse just after having a meal, be sure to wash your hands thoroughly with soap first. Mice have a strong sense of smell and can smell traces of food on your fingers.

Although this isn’t a sign of fear or aggression, the mouse can still bite quite hard.

If A Mouse Has Recently Given Birth, Leave It Alone

A female mouse that has newborn babies will be very protective of her litter. She can potentially perceive you as a threat to her babies and will bite you.

Keep in mind that this can still happen even if the mother mouse usually allows you to handle her. She needs to be given some space and privacy with her babies.

How to Handle Your Mouse

You can give treats such as raisins, sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds or tiny pieces of fruit. Since these are treats and not part of the main diet, the quantity should be very little.

Try giving these treats every day. Place them on a spoon, so if the mouse bites, it will bite the spoon and not you.

When your pet mouse has been eating the treats you have been offering it for 4 or 5 consecutive days, you can begin trying to touch it.

Gently touch and stroke the mouse’s back with one or two fingers. If it allows you to do this, great! If it doesn’t keep trying to touch it 2 to 3 times every day. Remember to keep your movements slow to avoid startling the mouse.

Once your pet mouse is comfortable enough to let you touch it, you should touch it daily for at least 1 week before moving on to the next step.

Once that is done, it is time to start picking your pet mouse up. Pick it up by placing one hand beneath its body, in such a way that the whole body is supported. The tail can be left dangling if the rest of the body is on your hand.

Gently place your other hand over the mouse, but not covering it from the top completely. The mouse shouldn’t feel like you are trying to grab it.

Remember to never grab or pick up a mouse by its tail, as that is very painful to it. Before taking the mouse out of its enclosure, close all doors, windows, etc. where it can escape from. Also switch off any table fans or other hazardous equipment.

It will definitely help to cover any openings below the beds, sofas, cupboards, etc. If your mouse goes and hides under those, you will have a hard time getting it back out. Also, the mouse will perceive you as a threat and can potentially attack you.

That is something you definitely don’t want when trying to tame your pet mouse.

Once your mouse starts allowing you to handle it regularly, you can slowly begin increasing the amount of time you handle it for.

Remember, if you stop handling your mouse or go on an extended vacation, the familiarization process mention above may need to be done again. Sometimes mice tend to become ‘untamed’ again in a few days, if not interacted with regularly.

Syed Baseeruddin Hyder

I’ve been keeping fish and invertebrates in aquariums for over 5 years. Over the years, I’ve kept more than 15 different species of fish and invertebrates. Through ParadiseInATank.com, I hope to guide new and experienced fish keepers alike with as detailed information as I can get.

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