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African Dormice as Pets

Care Sheet

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A little pet that is becoming more popular as a pet is the dormouse, most commonly the African dormouse (Graphiurus murinus). These little rodents are also called the African dwarf dormice, African pygmy dormice, and sometimes even micro squirrels.

Dormice are small squirrel-like animal. Their body length is a mere 3-4 inches or so, and they have a bushy tail that is almost as long as their body. They are nocturnal and get quite active at night. African dormice have a life expectancy of around 5-6 years in captivity.

Dormice are social animals, and should be kept in groups of two or more. Same sex groups usually get along well, as long as they are raised together from a young age.

Dormice can be hand tamed, although regular interaction from an early age is is the best way to ensure a pet that enjoys handling. While they may not want to be held they will climb all over their humans. Using a favorite treat as bribery helps, too.

Housing

These little creatures are excellent escape artists and can sneak through a very small opening. The best type of housing is a glass tank with a tight fitting, fine mesh top. During their active times they will get to the top of the cage, so make sure the top is secure! A 10 gallon tank will house 2 dormice adequately, although being active animals they will appreciate the additional room of a 20 gallon tank. If keeping more than two, a larger tank is a necessity.

The tank should be lined with a relatively thick layer of bedding such as a recycled paper bedding product or aspen shavings. Two inches provides a nice absorbent layer.

Because they naturally spend a lot of time in trees, branches should be provided for climbing. Ropes (suspend from cage top) and other wooden toys make a nice variety of opportunities for climbing and play. Also, a small rodent wheel can be provided for exercise (mouse sized). A solid surface wheel is a good choice to reduce the chance of their feet or tail getting caught.

Nest boxes are also necessary, to give the dormice a sense of security. Commercial small animal nest boxes can be purchased, or can be improvised. Cardboard tubes can be provided for hiding and play time.

A couple of heavy ceramic dishes can be provided for feeding. Most dormice will readily eat from dishes on the ground, but if necessary you can also hang a small dish or wicker basket from a branch for feeding. A small water bottle can be used, but the water should be changed regularly.

Dormice need to be kept at 70 F or above - at cooler temperatures (i.e. below around 65 F) they may begin to hibernate. In a captive animal that is not prepared, hibernation can be dangerous.

Feeding

In the wild, dormice eat a variety of foods including nuts and seeds, fruit, birds eggs, and insects. A good variety seems to be the key to keeping dormice in captivity, although specific feeding recommendations vary by reference.

The main groups of foods to be included in the diet are a seed mix (such as that made for hamsters or other small rodents, with sunflower seeds or raw peanuts added), fruits and vegetables, and protein sources such as hard boiled egg, feeder insects (mealworms, crickets), cooked chicken, and yogurt. The seed mix can be fed daily, but make sure the dormice do not fill up on seeds and nuts and refuse other essential parts of the diet. Fruits and vegetables can be fresh, frozen or dried. Fresh foods can be offered in the evening and any uneaten bits removed the next morning to prevent spoilage.

Different references I have read make different recommendations for feeding - from whether or not seeds should be offered in unlimited quantities to how often fruits/vegetables and protein foods should be fed. I do not have any personal experience with these animals, but in general as varied a diet as possible is often the best way to prevent pets from becoming fussy eaters and maintaining a healthy balance. Therefore, I'd recommend feeding a variety of foods from each group (seeds/nuts, fruits and vegetables, and proteins) on a daily basis.

Reference

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