Mice – handling

Information about handling, training and showing mice.

Schools that keep mice must have the use of suitably constructed cages that secure the animals. These cages may be portable but must be solid in construction and erected in a way to be safe for both humans and mice.

Approved activities Category
Observation of normal animal behaviour 1

When handling mice, students and other handlers must do so in a quiet and calm manner, treating mice with extreme care to prevent distress and injury to the animal and handler. As with all animals, mice will sense if a handler is nervous or stressed and will act accordingly. While mice rarely bite, if they are provoked or feel threatened they may resort to biting the handler. Well-designed cages with refuges will aid in catching mice, limiting stress to both animal and handler. Objects in cages like elevated shelves and nest boxes should be removable to make catching animals less stressful. If mice hide under shelves or nest boxes, they can be easily removed and the mouse easily captured without struggle. Mice should always be conditioned to being handled from a young age so that they are well prepared for handling by students.

Students can catch, pick up and handle the mice during classroom activities and for maintenance. Prior training must be given to students in the appropriate methods of handling. Loud noises, sudden movements and jerky movements should be avoided at all times.

There are several methods for safely picking up mice. These include:

  • Adult mice can be safely lifted by the base of the tail, but never the tip. After being lifted, always place the mouse immediately on a firm surface such as a table or back of the hand while still being held. Avoid dangling the mouse in the air for any amount of time especially from heights.
  • Mice can be picked up by closing the hand almost completely around them and holding firmly but without applying unnecessary pressure.
  • Mice can be grasped by the scruff of the neck. This immobilizes the animal and enables examination of its underneath.

Only mice that are accustomed to being handled should be used for handling and mice with minimal handling experience should be familiarized slowly, with short periods of handling before being returned to their cage. This prevents the mice from becoming stressed from too much handling and ensures that they relate handling with a pleasant experience.

All handling should be carried out in a gentle and unhurried manner. Gloves are unnecessary and undesirable as they lead to clumsy handling and unless provoked, there is little danger of mice biting the handler.

Capture, restraint and handling of mice

Approved activities Category
Capture, restraint and handling 2

When handling mice, they should always be handled gently and with extreme care. It is important to consider that mice are prey animals and will usually feel overwhelmed and threatened by their handlers due to our much larger size in comparison to theirs. Loud noises and sudden movement will also make a mouse feel endangered and will make it more likely to bite, scratch or struggle to try and get away. Mice have minimal defense mechanisms and so their usual response to danger is to try and flee.

If a mouse is nervous, or has had minimal handling experience, patience should always be used and time spent holding the mouse should be kept to a minimum.

Only one student should handle the mouse at any time. Like many small animals, mice can be very sensitive to over handling and should not be handled by multiple students or for long periods of time in any one session.

Familiarising mice with consistent handling from a young age will result in better outcomes in a variety of situations and for different purposes. These include:

  • For cage cleaning and daily management
  • Transportation
  • Routine husbandry procedures (worming, grooming, washing, skin treatments).

Familiarising animals can be made easier by mixing younger, untamed mice with older more placid mice that are comfortable with being handled. When a handler approaches the animals, if the older, tame mice do not attempt to run and hide away, younger animals may be more comfortable with the handler. Usually if one animal becomes stressed, the other animals will sense that there is a threat of danger.


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