Choosing a cage

Firstly I think it’s important to recognise that there is no such thing as the ‘best’ type of cage for mice. The various types all have advantages and disadvantages and choosing is a case of weighing these up to decide which you think is the most suitable. This will almost certainly depend at least partly on personal preference (for example I tend to prefer a larger floor space to height), but there are also a lot of important factors that should be taken in to consideration.

Over the years I have kept mice in wire cages, glass and plastic tanks and housing systems (Rotastak) and I have found them all capable of offering suitable homes as long as there is plenty of space. It may be that the type of cage you have the room or money for dictates the mice you get, or it may be that the mice you want dictate the type of cage. Either way here are some of the main points to consider when making your decision:

- males or females? Male mice are generally bigger than females and are less inclined to live together happily, so a pair of male mice will require more space than a pair of does (females). Bar spacing may need to be smaller for females than males, if you choose a wire cage.

- how many & what age? A group of eight mice will naturally require more room than a group of two or three. Baby or young mice, apart from obviously being smaller, are quicker and more active than older mice. They are more likely to escape through small gaps and are more inclined towards climbing.

- where will they be kept? This will be important for firstly the size of the cage you get and also for whether a barred or solid cage will be more suitable. If space is limited a small based but tall cage might suit or if you have a large surface area but height is restricted a wide, short one may be better. Also if being kept in a room with other animals such as cats or rats a solid walled cage may offer the mice better protection than something paws, claws or tails can poke through. Likewise a solid cage will shield better against drafts if the cage is to be housed in a cool or slightly drafty room (such as a hallway or conservatory), where as a room where it is difficult to open windows regulary (such as downstairs if you’re out during the day) might require a barred cage for improved ventilation.

- what can you afford? Whilst most types of cage can be bought cheaply second hand the amount you have to spend will likely have to cover all the toys and accessories as well as the cage itself. The cage systems often require less adapting and fewer extras than other cages as they are to some extent a playground in themselves. Old fish tanks are often very cheap, sometimes only a few pounds, but will almost certainly need more kitting out to make the most of their space and to make them interesting. This need not be expensive but is worth bearing in mind. Hamster cages will normally come with basics such as water bottles, feeding bowls and wheels and can relatively cheap from new, although not all will be suitable for mice.

Once you have a cage type in mind you may want to read about its pros and cons before making a final decision. I have attempted to summarize the main points in each section here, but in addition you can read what other mouse owners think of the cages they’ve used in Product Reviews.

Wire Cages - eg wide variety of mouse, hamster, rat cages.

Pros: Cons:
- often good value for money, even the largest hamster cages are relatively cheap. - mice can escape through very small gaps so have to be careful of bar spacing and other gaps.
- allow interaction through the bars. - allow contact with animals outside the cage if it is reachable, could present a danger to mice from other pets.
- provide good ventilation. - can by tricky to keep clean, bars can corrode over time.
- cage can act as a climbing frame. - accessibility may be limited by position of cage doors.

Glass & Plastic Tanks - eg fish tanks, Ferplast Duna etc.

Pros: Cons:
- virtually escape proof so long as lid fits tightly. - both glass and plastic are brittle and will probably shatter if dropped.
- offers a blank canvas to add your own layout of toys and accessories to. - glass tanks are very heavy if you wish to move them.
- easy, wipe clean surfaces. - may not be sufficent air circulation in a poorly ventilated room.
- good accessibility from top. - sides cannot be climbed so alternatives need to be provided.
- can be very cheap to obtain.

Cage Systems - eg Rotastak, Habitrail etc

Pros: Cons:
- complete homes in themselves as tunnels, wheels, water bottles etc are all integral. - are extremely expensive if bought new.
- difficult for mice to escape if fitted together properly. - can be fiddly and complicated to assemble and take apart.
- can be expanded and added to as desired. - ventilation limited with solid units, though barred parts are sometimes included or available.
- offers mice protection from other pets. - brittle plastic may break if dropped.
- components easily washable. - some parts may be chewed by mice.
- easy to source second hand.
- interchangable pieces offer variety and interest for the mice.

I realise that this is a lot of information for a first time owner to take in but I hope that by considering your own circumstances and matching them to the points above you will be able to work out the best type of cage for you and your mice.

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