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Taming and Handling Pet Mice

How to Gain the Trust of Your Pet Mice


Young mouse on my hand

A young mouse explores my hand.

Photo © Lianne McLeod
Taming pet mice is quite possible, though it may take some patience. With time and consistency (and a little bribery) you should be able to win the trust of your pet mice. Handling pet mice can be a bit tricky as they are small and quick, but once they are tamed, they can be picked up and handled.

During the process, it is most important to remember that taming pet mice is all about gaining their trust. Mice can bite hard, but remember if they bite, it is because they are scared. If your mouse does nip you, don't shake your hand to get him or her off, or get angry, as this will just make matters worse. If your mouse does bite, it means you should back off and do more to gain its trust. Throughout, try to avoid doing anything that will stress or your pet mice; of course, you'll need to do routine things like cleaning the cage, but keep in mind that moving slowly and gently through these necessary chores will help in the process of gaining trust.

First, some hints on picking up pet mice:

  • It is best to never pick up a mouse by the tail, as this could startle or hurt them and impede your progress at gaining your mouse's trust.
  • If your pet mice are not tame, an easy (and not too scary for the mice) way to pick them up is by gently directing them into a cup turned on its side. Once they walk into the cup, simply tip the cup upright to move or carry the mouse. Since mice are good jumpers, cover the cup's opening with your other hand to prevent escapes.
  • The best way is to carry a tame mouse is simply cupped in the palm of the hand. You can gently hold the scruff of the neck (hold the loose skin on the back of the neck) to prevent the mouse from getting away if necessary.
  • You could also use protective gloves to pick up an untamed mouse in the same manner as a tamed mouse.

Taming pet mice requires some patience to gain their trust, but it will make handling your mice much easier and rewarding. Here's a rundown of the steps involved:

  • Give new mice a few days to adjust to their new home (keep maintenance and interaction to a minimum).
  • Move slowly and speak softly around the mice.
  • Limit interaction to times when the mice are awake - waking sleeping mice isn't a good way to gain their trust!
  • Start just sitting next to cage to acclimate the mice to your presence.
  • Offer a treat (sunflower seeds, small pieces of nut or raisins) when a mouse approaches the cage bars. Keep doing this until the mice readily come to the cage bars when they see you.
  • Once your mice are comfortable taking treats from your hand through the bars of the cage, offer treats through an open cage door.
  • Once your mice happily take treats from your hand, place a treat on your open hand to entice the mice to step up onto hand to retrieve a treat.
  • Once they voluntarily touch your hand, place the treat on your forearm and allow the mice mouse to climb onto your hand to get to the treat.
  • When your mice are comfortable climbing on your hand, try gently scratching the sides and back of their heads (imitating natural grooming behavior).
  • Keep practicing -- eventually you should be able to gain the trust of your mice have them willingly sit on your hand. Keep doing this regularly to keep them well socialized.


  • Starting with young mice will make this process much easier.
  • Use lots of treats and work in small steps; make sure your mice are comfortable with each step before proceeding to the next.
  • It is best not to allow pet mice to run around outside the cage unless they are tame - the stress of chasing, catching, and returning them to the cage may scare them and make them fear their owners. If you allow your pet mice time out of the cage, make sure the area is very well mice-proofed as mice can get into extremely and through very small cracks.
  • Remember, mice can usually be kept in small groups of females, but males ususally do best alone (or will fight). Female mice usually bond well with each other, but this should not affect the taming process; in fact, a single mouse is more likely to be stressed and nervous, and therefore may be more difficult to tame.
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