Being a first-time rodent owner can be a little bit daunting initially, but mice are surprisingly easy to care for once you get the hang of it. The most important thing with mice is good hygiene, as these little creatures can easily pick up infections from soiled bedding and bacteria build-up. But how regularly should you look to clean out the cage? Here is what you need to know.
So, how often should you clean a mouse cage? Mice should be spot cleaned several times a week, with a deeper clean carried out at least once a week, depending on how many mice you have. Always ensure you use a safe cleaning agent for rodents and rinse any equipment thoroughly before placing it back into the cage.
Mice are also highly social animals, so they will do best if they are with others of their kind.
Obviously, more mice will mean that there is more mess to contend with!
But regardless of how many you do decide to own, a good cleaning routine is essential with mice.
This should include following good hygiene rules and always washing your hands before touching them or any cage contents.
Thankfully, the cleaning process is actually fairly simple and can be done using common household materials.
Let us now explore exactly how to do so effectively in the next few sections!
How Often Should I Change My Mouse’s Bedding?
Bedding should be checked daily and replaced at least once a week, even if it doesn’t appear to be dirty.
Mice have a much stronger sense of smell than humans, so any build-up of ammonia has the potential to cause harm to your mice even if we can’t smell it!
Always remember to mix in a little of the old bedding with the new stuff, as your mice will be able to recognize their scent.
If you completely remove the old bedding, then the scent will be completely unfamiliar, which may cause stress.
You will also cause more work for yourself as your mice will instinctively try to mark their new territory by urinating all over it!
Although it must be said, how often you will need to change the bedding will depend on a variety of factors.
This will include your choice of materials, the number of mice you have, and the size of your enclosure.
When it comes to cage size, bigger is always best for mice because they can be very active!
Although this generally does mean more cleaning.
There are loads of options to choose from when it comes to cages but do ensure you choose one that has good ventilation as this will help to prevent any respiratory infections from developing in the future.
You should also make sure that the bar spacing is small because mice are excellent escape artists; 9mm or smaller will be sufficient.
Enrichment is vital for mice, so make sure you add plenty of tunnels, hides, and climbing apparatus to keep your little rodents entertained.
Choosing The Bedding
Substrate is perhaps one of the most important considerations when it comes to having mice as pets.
However, there is quite a bit of debate among professionals and welfare organizations over which substrate is the best to use.
The general consensus is that you should find one that is dust-free because mice are highly susceptible to respiratory infections due to their small lung capacity.
Other considerations include absorbency, comfort, and the level of insulation it provides.
Wood shavings are commonly used for mice however it is fairly dusty and contains phenols that can cause respiratory issues.
The small sharp pieces can also sometimes harm the delicate skin of your little rodents, so it is probably not the best choice of substrate.
Newspaper is another controversial choice as the ink can be harmful if ingested.
Good substrate options you can consider include:
This biodegradable softwood pulp is ideal for mice as it absorbs odors well.
When it is made, megazorb is heated to 500 degrees Celsius and dust-extracted, which kills off any chance for mold, bacteria, or spores to be present in the substrate.
It is usually sold in big bags, advertised as horse substrate, which makes it a good cost-saving option.
This reclaimed pulp waste substrate is advertised as being highly absorbent and able to hold three times its weight in liquid.
It also has good odor control and low dust levels.
This is perhaps the only type of wood shaving that is considered to be safe for mice, as it does not contain any toxic phenols.
Always ensure that the aspen you use has been heat-treated and dust-extracted.
The benefit to this bedding is that it is highly absorbent and holds its shape well.
This is a relatively new option on the market but is gaining popularity as it is 100% natural and absorbs odors well.
However, it does pose a small allergy risk so make sure you observe your mice for the first few days for any signs of a potential allergic reaction.
Symptoms include sneezing, discharge coming from the nose or eyes, and red, sore areas on the skin.
It is important to make sure that you provide plenty of opportunities for your mice to dig, build tunnels and make nests when considering which substrate to use.
These are crucial natural behaviors, so you can actually negatively impact their welfare if these needs are not met.
For this reason, you should ensure the cage has a thick layer of substrate (1-3 inches or 2.5 to 7.6 cm) and offer plenty of nesting material on top, which can come in the form of shredded paper, wood pulp, or a type of compressed paper bedding.
Paper towel is also a good choice as the sheets are easy to shred.
Many people used to add hay or straw to their mouse cages as bedding, but this has decreased in popularity in recent years because of the high dust content.
It’s best to try to offer a mixture of nesting materials so your mice can make more complicated nests.
Never use cotton wool or any other thin strand type materials as your mice can easily get caught in it, which can lead to injury.
It can also cause fatal blockages in the intestines if ingested.
What Do You Clean A Mouse’s Cage With?
You can clean your mouse cage with items that you probably already have in the house. Unscented baby wipes are a commonly used cleaning agent, as they are antibacterial and simple to use. You can also use a pet cleaning spray alongside paper towel sheets or a clean cloth.
The latter is the better option for dirtier corners and areas with tougher stains.
Do make sure you rinse the cage well with clean water if you use a pet spray as the chemical scent can linger and cause potential respiratory issues in your mice.
You will also need a dustpan and brush, bin bag, and possibly a scrubbing brush or toothbrush if you intend to do a deep clean.
A good cleaning routine is essential with pet mice, especially if you have a large group of them living together.
This routine should comprise of the following:
This will involve emptying and refilling the water bottle and feeding your mice.
Consider scattering food items throughout the enclosure so your mice can forage for it.
This is a much more natural way of feeding than putting food in a bowl and will prevent boredom.
You should rinse any water bottles or bowls in hot water daily.
You can use dish soap or a pet spray when they are particularly dirty but do make sure you rinse them thoroughly.
Keeping these items clean will hopefully prevent your mice from picking up any nasty infections.
This is also a good opportunity to check through any bedding or nesting material in the cage. Remove any particularly damp or soiled areas and throw them away.
Roughly once a week, you should do a full clean of the cage and all equipment with any of the cleaning products listed above.
Be sure to remove your mice from the enclosure during the cleaning process, so they are not exposed to any chemicals you will be using.
If you notice any signs of skin allergies in your mice after cleaning, you must change to a different product.
This may sound like a lot of work, but it will get easier once you get the hang of it.
How Do You Clean A Mouse Cage?
In this section, we will be delving into the process of weekly cleans.
If you carry out your daily spot checks, you should have some clean old substrate available and a good amount of nesting material to put back in the cage alongside the new material.
Scent is extremely important to rodents as it provides information on food and the presence of any predators, as well as social information such as age, rank, sexual status, and the individual identity of each mouse.
As mentioned above, it is important to remove your mice from the enclosure before you begin the cleaning process.
Make sure you have a sturdy escape-proof container or run to put them in, so they cannot escape.
You will then need to remove all of the toys and accessories from the enclosure.
Certain cages come with ladders, wheels, and tunnels built in, so you may find it easier to completely dismantle these cages to make cleaning easier.
Substrate and nesting material can be gathered up using your hands or a dustpan and brush and placed into a bin bag (apart from the stuff you are planning on putting back in the cage).
You can then use baby wipes or a cleaning spray to clean the enclosure and all equipment.
If you have an enclosure with bars, make sure you clean the area between each of the bars, too, and don’t forget the enclosure lid!
Small items like tunnels and houses can be a bit tricky to clean, so you may find it easier to soak them in hot water and a tiny bit of washing up liquid and give them a scrub with a clean cloth.
A lot of these items come apart into smaller pieces which will make the process easier still.
You must rinse these items thoroughly after cleaning to ensure that no soap residue is left on them.
Ensure everything is completely dry before you attempt to put it all back together, then add 1-3 inches of substrate to the bottom layer of the cage.
After this, you just need to add the nesting material, water bottle, and any food offerings, then let your mice enjoy their new home!
Mice are extremely active little characters so make sure you move enrichment around regularly and offer them new toys to explore and climb on.
These can be anything from cardboard cereal boxes to rope ladders and colorful store-bought toys – use your imagination!
Why You Need To Stay On Top Of Cage Cleaning
It is essential that you keep the enclosure clean as mice are prone to infections that can be caused by a dirty environment.
A couple of the most common ailments are:
Mice are prone to getting mites, which usually arise from dirty bedding or substrate that has been stored outside.
They can also catch mites from your hands if you have been outside in the grass or have touched any other animals.
This is why it is so important for you to wash your hands before handling your pet mice.
Symptoms include excessive scratching, hair loss, scabby skin, and may even display aggressive behaviors.
Eye problems are common in mice. The odd bit of discharge or squinting is not a cause for concern and normally disappears in a day or so.
However, if you find a mouse with an eye that is swollen or you see white lumps on the eye or crusty areas, then these may signify a more serious infection.
In the most severe cases, your mouse could go completely blind.
The best way to avoid any nasty eye infections is to keep the cage clean and always wash your hands before handling them.
Remember that mice are prey animals, so they have a tendency to hide any signs of illness.
You should inspect your mice daily so you can pick up on any subtle changes in behavior or appearance, which may suggest a vet visit is required.
Daily and weekly.
That’s the recommended cleaning schedule for a pet mouse cage.
Daily spot cleaning, with a more thorough weekly clean.
Just be sure that your mouse/mice are safe at all times; be it where you put them during the cleaning process or in the products that you use.
And remember; keep some bedding back.
Their scent is more important to them than you may think.
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.