Are Pet Mice Clean? (4 Reasons Why They Are Considered Dirty Sometimes)

Many people think that mice are unclean or even dirty animals. The fact is that you can definitely see it when you have mice in the house. Just because of the fecal pellets near the food and the footprints that mice often leave behind. But is it really the case that pet mice are dirty? Or are pet mice clean animals?

Pet mice are actually pretty clean animals. They create different places in their territory to sleep and to eat. They also groom their fur and teeth. However, mice do smell quite strongly. This smell may perhaps cause someone to think mice are unclean animals. However, the smell only serves to mark their territory. If a mouse does look dirty, it may indicate a disease.

So mice are not actually dirty animals. But where does it come from that many people think mice are dirty? We will clarify this question in the next section.

Afterward, we will also discuss the smell of mice and whether they clean themselves and also their teeth. We will then look at typical diseases that a dirty mouse indicates.

Finally, we will take care of the question of how and how often you should clean a mouse cage. We will also tell you what you need to pay special attention to when cleaning a mouse cage.

Why Are Mice Considered Dirty?

There is a long tradition that mice are considered dirty by many people. Presumably, this can be attributed to various reasons, some of which we will discuss in more detail later on.

  • Mice leave traces
  • Mice transmit diseases
  • Wild mice live in burrows and tunnels
  • Mice have an intense smell

Let’s take a closer look at the individual reasons.

Mice Leave Traces

If you have ever had a wild mouse as a guest in your house, you know it. You can recognize the mouse by the fact that it leaves you traces.

Mostly these are rather unpleasant traces like droppings. Often also dusty foot or tail tracks after it has come out of the wall and walked through the room.

So it looks dirty when you have an uninvited mouse in the house. And then it’s easy to transfer that to the mice themselves and think that mice are dirty.

Mice Transmit Diseases

Probably everyone knows that rats transmit diseases. The bad plague waves in Europe in the Middle Ages were probably caused by rats.

But mice can also transmit various diseases. Mice have various viruses and bacteria that can be dangerous to humans.

For example, mice transmit salmonella, hantavirus, fleabite fever, tularemia, and bubonic plague. These are all not diseases you want to have.

Mouse droppings, in particular, are dangerous in terms of transmitting germs. So if you have uninvited mouse guests in the house, be careful with the mouse droppings.

Mice Live in Burrows and Tunnels

In the wild, mice live in burrows and homemade tunnel systems. Here they spend a lot of time, take their meals and also raise their offspring.

Of course, it is not excluded that mice can also look dirty. What you don’t see so often, however, is that they also clean their fur extensively.

Mice Have an Intense Smell

Mice smell. That’s just the way it is. But it is not because they are dirty. We’ll take a closer look at what the smell of mice is all about in the next chapter.

Do Pet Mice Smell?

Mice do not stink, they just have an intense natural odor of their own. To humans, it may look like they stink. But for the mice, the smell is just a way of communication.

Mice have scent glands with which they mark their territory. They can even create regular paths in their enclosure. In this way, they also indicate to their fellow inhabitants in the enclosure which areas they claim for themselves.

So if the smell of mice bothers you, they may not be the right pet for you. It would also not be a solution to try to get rid of the smell with rodent deodorant or scented bedding.

On the one hand, the mice would then mark their territory all the more to drown out the smell of the foreign scents used. On the other hand, it would also lead to chaos among the mice themselves.

As we have already said, the scent is also used for communication. If the mice are not able to communicate well, for example, to mark their territory, this can lead to disputes and perhaps even fights between the mice.

These artificial scents can also trigger respiratory diseases in your mice.

Do Pet Mice Clean Themselves?

Mice are one of those animals that groom and care for themselves. They are actually very clean.

Since they take care of their own cleaning, mice also do not need to be bathed and brushed.

However, it is very important that their cage is cleaned regularly. Only then can the mouse also keep itself clean.

If mice have to live in a dirty cage, they will not be clean themselves. They will not be able to take care of their cleaning as well.

However, you can do a lot of things wrong when cleaning your mouse cage. This can cause the mice to become stressed or unhealthy.

Below we give tips on how a mouse cage should be cleaned.

Do Mice Do Dental Care?

The incisors of mice are constantly growing back. This is good for the mice because the incisors usually always wear out a little.

But it is also bad for the mice if they do not have the chance to wear down their incisors.

Mice need something to wear their incisors down well on. For this, you should always put fresh twigs in the mouse cage.

However, not all tree species are suitable for this. It is best to use branches from one of the following trees:

  • Alder
  • Apple tree
  • Ash
  • Beech
  • Birch
  • Blueberry bush
  • Currant bush
  • Hazelnut bush
  • Hornbeam
  • Lime tree
  • Maple
  • Pear tree
  • Poplar
  • Quince

However, there are also trees whose branches are not suitable. This is either because they are toxic to mice, or because mice simply do not tolerate them well. You should keep your hands off the following trees:

  • Cherry tree
  • Chestnut tree
  • Cypress
  • Fir tree
  • Oak
  • Plum tree
  • Peach tree
  • Spruces
  • Thuja
  • Yew

Does a Dirty Mouse Indicate Disease?

If a mouse is dirty, it may indicate a cage that is too dirty. But it can also be a sign that a mouse is sick.

Depending on which parts of the body are dirty, different diseases can be considered. In the table below we show which types of dirt indicate which diseases.

Unclean body partPossible disease
Bald or scabby patches in the coatBald and scabby patches indicate a fungal infestation, less frequently parasitic infestation. If the coat is bristled and uncleaned, this also indicates illness or old age. Shaggy and dull fur indicates a lack of fat.
Clogged, occluded, cloudy, gray thickened, or otherwise altered eyesAltered eyes are a sign of illness. There could be conjunctivitis or injury to the eyes.
Sticky, scabbed, or flaky earsSticky ears indicate an infection in the inner ear, a stronger infection leads to the fact that the animals hold your head crooked and sometimes scratch the ear more. Flaky or scabby ears indicate a parasite infestation or a fungal infection.
Dirty and sticky anus or soft and mushy fecesIf the anus is dirty and sticky, this indicates intestinal problems. A strong, harsh odor of feces from the enclosure also indicates intestinal problems.
Unclean body parts in mice and the diseases it indicates

You should know that mice can hide it very well if they are missing something. You often don’t notice it until it’s too late.

Therefore, you should examine your mice regularly, preferably every day.

If you notice anything out of the ordinary, it is a good idea to see a veterinarian. The vet can examine the mouse more closely and determine if it is missing something.

How and When Do You Clean a Mouse Cage?

It is very important that mice live in a cage that is cleaned regularly. Only in this way they can also keep themselves clean.

But there are some things to consider when cleaning the cage.

Mice find the complete cleaning of their home extremely stressful. By cleaning, all laid scent traces are lost, they can orientate themselves worse.

It can even lead to stress in the group, especially in unstable, new groups. The territory markings are also no longer present.

So it can happen that new territories have to be fought out.

Daily Cleaning Measures for Mouse Cages

The water bowl should be freshly filled and cleaned daily.

If you use washing-up liquid, lemon, or vinegar essence to remove limescale or heavy soiling, you must rinse very long and thoroughly.

You should also clean the food bowls daily.

Weekly Cleaning Measures for Mouse Cages

If the mice use certain corners in the cage to urinate or defecate, you should clean them regularly. Damp parts of the bedding must be replaced.

If the mice bunker fresh food, you must regularly check the nests and remove the fresh food remains.

To prevent bunkering of fresh food, always give only enough fresh food to be consumed the next day. Offer the vegetables on a feed skewer.

Dry greens such as grass and dandelions usually do not need to be removed.

You should and need to clean a large cage only about every four weeks. If you have several cages, it makes sense to clean only one of the cages completely at a time.

This way, the mice will retain some of their scents. If you have a very large cage, it is also possible to clean only one part of the cage completely at a time.

During cleaning, the mice and their nest are moved to a transport box. The nest, if clean enough, is returned to the enclosure after cleaning.

To clean, remove the bedding from the area to be cleaned. Clean the floor pan, grates, and furnishings with hot water and soap.

If the odor is strong, you can also use vinegar/or lemon water. Do not use chemicals, they irritate the sensitive respiratory tract.

Finally, replace the bedding and set up the cage as it was before. Do not move anything immediately after cleaning the cage, but put all items back where they were before.

This will help the mice get their bearings and calm down more quickly.

If you want to offer new cage furnishings, do so in the time between cleanings to avoid overwhelming the animals.

Distribute fresh food and nesting material in the cage and then leave the animals again.

The mice will be very excited inspecting their home, new scent trails will be set and it will take them a while to recover from this stress.

Too frequent cleaning will even cause increased odor, as the mice will have to keep making new scent marks.

Conclusion: Are Mice Clean?

You may have been surprised to learn that mice are actually pretty clean animals.

Unfortunately, this does not mean that they do not smell. But the smell comes from the fact that they mark their territory.

It is important for mice to live in a clean cage. This is the only way mice can keep themselves clean. However, there are a few things to keep in mind when cleaning mice cages.

If a mouse in a clean cage still gets dirty, it may indicate a disease. In that case, it is best to take the mouse to a veterinarian.