Owning a pet mouse can be a joyful and rewarding experience. But how safe is it to do so? It helps that mice are keen to keep themselves clean, grooming themselves multiple times throughout the day. But what about diseases? Do pet mice carry them and can they pass them on to you, and other people?
So, do pet mice carry disease? Pet mice can carry and pass diseases on to humans. Although this is uncommon and the risk is considered low in mice bred specifically for domestication. Bacteria and infections can be passed through biting, contact with urine, droppings, or dander – so it is essential owners maintain good hygiene practices and clean out the cage regularly.
While it may sound like pet mice are dangerous in this way, with appropriate care, handling, and hygiene practices they can be safely kept.
There are, however, things you will want to be aware of and some considerations to take.
We will be covering all the potential diseases a pet mouse can carry, before turning to some practical suggestions as to how to keep your family safe while keeping one.
So be sure to keep on reading to the end! It’s important information, especially if you have recently got a pet mouse!
Do All Mice Carry Disease?
All rodents, whether wild or kept as pets, can carry bacteria and viruses that have the potential to cause infections in people.
That’s the keyword there – “can”. It does not always mean that they will be.
Although, it is best to assume that any mouse, whether those in the wild or your cute pet, is carrying an organism that could cause you an illness.
This should be the case, even if they are not displaying any signs of infection.
Mice will often become infected by coming into contact with other diseased mice.
They can also contract ectoparasites (other organisms that live on the mouse – such as fleas, ticks, lice, and mites) which can carry disease.
For this reason, when owning a mouse you should never introduce them to captured wild mice; as you do not know what you could be transmitted into your pet!
Equally, other animals can be infected too, ranging from gerbils to cats to dogs.
So, you need to be careful of both introducing your pet mouse to your other pets, or for your other pets to come into contact with wild mice.
Diseases are most likely spread through a bite. Although, harmful bacteria will also fester on uneaten food, feces, and urine, where it can be picked up.
This is why it is so essential to keep their habitat clean, wear gloves during the process, and to quickly wash any area where you may get bitten.
Using an antiseptic solution on an open wound is strongly recommended to lower the risk of infection.
For the most part, domesticated mice are unlikely to carry disease.
Especially if they were bred and raised in captivity. That being said, infections can have serious consequences so you do not want to take any chances when taking care of them.
Babies, the elderly, those with health conditions including weak immune systems, and pregnant women should be especially careful.
Possible Diseases Of Mice
Let us now take a closer look at the possible diseases a pet mouse could theoretically carry.
Rat Bite Fever
This is most common in rats, hence the name, but it does appear in mice too. Its caused by a specific type of bacteria.
If a mouse is carrying it, then they are likely to transmit it through biting or scratching but it also can be picked up through direct contact with urine.
Symptoms of infection begin early, in as little as 3-10 following contact.
Fever, chills, muscle pain, joint pain, headaches, nausea, and rashes may develop. Treatment requires antibiotics which are considered essential; Rat Bite Fever should never be left untreated.
This is a group of viruses that any rodent can carry.
It is usually contracted through the ingestion of a contaminated particle. So, breathing in bedding or feces dust, contact with urine, or if this contaminated particle enters an open wound.
Similar symptoms to Rat Bite Fever are commonly experienced; fevers, headaches, nausea, and diarrhea but it can develop into respiratory illnesses. Symptoms can take up to three weeks to display the following infection.
Leptospirosis is another bacterial infection that is hard to spot in rodents as no signs are typically observed.
This infection is usually passed in fluid; so urine and contaminated water are the main ways.
Symptoms in humans vary and the illness is known to develop. Starting around a week after infection, a fever, headaches, and muscle aches arise. It can progress into liver failure and meningitis if left untreated.
LCMV, (or Lymphocytic Choriomeningitis Virus) is a type of meningitis. It is most often passed onto humans through soiled bedding, urine, or biting (the saliva) of infected mice.
Again, symptoms mainly include fever, achy muscles, headaches, and vomiting and usually arise within a week of contraction. This illness can be confused with the flu.
Another infection to watch out for is Salmonella and is most commonly transmitted via mouses feces.
Symptoms that a human has picked up this illness mostly include nausea, diarrhea, and vomiting. These usually resolve in around a week and do not always need treatment.
We have run through the potential diseases above, but do remember that these are uncommon in the domesticated pet mouse.
That being said, it is important that you are aware of the symptoms of infections. Early diagnosis and treatment are essential as they can progress and become more severe if left.
Moreover, at the time of writing, there are no designated vaccines for any of the infections listed above.
So, prevention is of utmost priority with strict hygiene practices and doing your best to keep your mouse from becoming infected.
Reducing the Risk of Human Infection from Pet Mice
It is only possible to pick up a disease from a mouse that is infected. Equally, infections in pet mice are uncommon.
Nonetheless, there are some safe practices that you should generally follow to keep you and your family safe while owning a pet mouse.
- Routinely and regularly wash your hands, ensuring you do so after direct contact with your mouse, their items or after cleaning their cage. Use warm water and a strong soap.
- Clean the cage as often as possible, removing any soiled bedding frequently. Do so outside or an area that is well-ventilated.
- Wear gloves and a face mask while cleaning your mouses cage.
- Never wash your mouse in a sink, bath, shower or place you use to clean. Strong disinfectant must be used in locations your mouse has access to.
- If urine or droppings lands on your clothing, wash them thoroughly with a strong detergent and on a high setting.
- Never kiss or hold your mouse close to your face.
- Cover any open wounds, cuts or bandages prior to coming into contact with your mouse, their cage or items.
- Keep your pet mouse in a designated and separate part of your home. Do not keep your pet mouse in your bedroom.
- Do not stay in the room where your mouse is kept for too long.
- Always supervise children around your pet mouse.
- Never let your mouse in rooms where you prepare food, or eat food.
- Do not let your mouse roam freely, and keep their activity to confined space of the home in which you clean up after.
- Never introduce your mouse to wild mice.
- If you think your mouse could be sick, take them to a vet at the earliest opportunity.
- If you suspect you or a family member is going down with an infection, or notice signs of the flu, you should promptly seek medical attention and visit a doctor. This is imperative if you have been bitten or scratched by your mouse within the last 7 days.
Pet mice are fantastic pets to own and to take care of, but you must be aware of the dangers that they can bring to you and your family.
It is imperative that you only purchase a mouse from a reputable pet store; never catch a wild mouse in the hopes of taking care of them as a pet.
By doing so, you will dramatically lower the risk of disease and infection.
In fact, it is considered rare for domesticated pet mice to transmit diseases. They are naturally clean rodents; and one who regularly grooms themselves throughout the day.
That being said, there are some best practices that you should follow at all times to keep illness, and even smells, at bay.
Washing your hands after any contact and keeping the cage clean is perhaps the two to note.
Remember, bacteria can only be passed through the bite (saliva), feces, urine or parasite of an infected mouse.
So long as you proactively take measures to ensure you are careful and remain cautious of these things; you should remain safe.
Lastly, pet mice are not the most suitable pets for pregnant women, children under 3, or those with prior health conditions.
Therefore if you are yet to get one and fall into any of these categories, it is advised to look at other options.
I am an experienced pet owner with decades of experience owning a number of different pets, from traditional pets like dogs and cats, to the more exotic like reptiles and rodents. I currently own a Cockapoo (pictured) called Bailey. I am also the main writer and chief editor here at Pet Educate; a site dedicated to sharing evidence-based insights and guidance, based on my vast pet ownership knowledge, experience, and extensive research.