House mice are not appreciated by all humans and before they became desirable pets, they were hunted. Even if these animals are capable of ensuring their own hygiene, keeping them in captivity requires human intervention, in particular to fight against bad odors. To avoid these, mouse owners should insist on regular and thorough cleaning of the cage, but they should also choose a quality litter.
Why are mice considered a pest?
House mice are animals found in the wild. However, as they mainly feed on the seeds of herbaceous plants and grasses, they are close to our pantries and other places where we store our cereals. They are ultimately small rodents very close to us humans, even if they remain fearful. This proximity is not appreciated and mice are considered to be pests that must be got rid of.
If they were content to make provisions, cohabitation could be peaceful. But they leave feces in their path and can transmit diseases such as scabies and ringworm. They can also cause disasters. By gnawing at electrical cables and pipes, mice can cause short circuits, gas leaks, or fires.
Locked in a cage, the mice remain limited in their nuisance capacities. On the other hand, there is one that persists, whether the mouse is wild or in a cage, it is the unpleasant smell of their urine. It evokes theammonia. Urine helps a group of mice to orientate themselves but also to delimit their territory: each family of mice has a characteristic odor allowing them to recognize each other.
Clean the cage to avoid bad odors
Leptospirosis, tuberculosis, rabies and plague are diseases that mice can transmit to us, and in particular through their urine, by contact on the hands or by breathing dust soaked in the urine of a sick mouse. It is therefore important to protect any scratches or recent unhealed wounds that you may have on your hands as they are entry points for disease into the body. To safely clean the cage of your mice, it is therefore strongly recommended to put gloves.
In order to achieve a thorough cleaning of the entire cage, it is essential to place the mice in a place where they cannot escape. It may be a small cardboard box pierced to ensure sufficient ventilation. Space can be reduced because it is just a matter of moving them around while cleaning. Once the mice have moved, here’s how:
- All litter should be removed
- You carefully clean the cage with soapy water, going well in the corners
- You rinse with clear water
- You disinfect the cage with a product such as Lysoform. It is a product commonly used in gynecological practice for douching, but also in the medical environment to disinfect hands and premises. It is composed of formaldehyde, potassium soap and ethanol. This type of product is milder than bleach and more effective than vinegar, which is not antiseptic.
- You rinse thoroughly again
- You dry the cage well with a clean cloth
- You do the same with the shelter, the feeders and drinkers, all the accessories and toys, not to mention the wheel
When everything is perfectly dry:
- You cover the bottom of the cage with a clean layer of litter
- You replace nesting material
- You hand out some fresh food.
By finding their cage, the mice will be active in arranging their nests and replenishing food supplies.
How often should you clean the cage of your mice?
Male mice urinate more than females. Thus the litter of a small cage with an area of 0.5 m² (this being the strict minimum, an area of 0.75 m² being more suitable) housing a single male mouse should be changed once a week, or even every 4 to 5 days during hot periods. On the other hand, even if you have several females, in a necessarily larger cage, the change of litter can be reduced to once a month.
Do not consider “cheating” by placing your mouse cage in drafts and hoping that the air will drive away bad smells. Mice are fragile animals that would not stand such exposure well.
Choose a quality litter to avoid bad odors
The choice of the litter that you place in the bottom of the mouse cage is made according to three criteria. A good litter should:
- To be efficient
- Respect the health of the mouse
- Respect your own health
A litter that plays its role is good absorbent. It is this quality that limits bad odors. It is not necessary to choose scented litters which are otherwise known to be allergenic.
Taking into account the fact that the mouse lives the muzzle in its litter, this one must respect the respiratory tracts of the mouse. And as we have seen that dust contaminated by sick mice can transmit diseases to humans, respecting your health goes in the same direction as that of mice.
Finally, when we cross these three criteria, the materials to be used for a quality litter are reduced to a rather reduced list:
- the corn cob
- the special cotton litter
The minimum thickness of the litter should be 40 cm. This thickness is not intended to reduce bad odors but to respond to the needs house mice who spend their time building underground galleries and nests, if given the chance.