Mice can be wonderfully rewarding pets with the proper care and the correct information. One of the things that you might be wondering about, whether you’re new to pet mice or considering bringing them into your house, is: do fancy mice smell bad?
In this article, we’ll go over when and why mice might create a smell, what type of mice tend to be the smelliest, and most importantly, how you can reduce your pet’s smell to increase your enjoyment of owning pet mice.
Do Fancy Mice Smell?
Fancy mice, like other types of mice, can produce odors, but the extent to which they smell depends on various factors, including their living conditions, diet, age, and sex.
Fancy mice are a domesticated variety of the common house mouse (Mus musculus) that has been selectively bred for specific traits, such as coat color and pattern.
While they may have certain characteristics that differ from wild mice, their basic biology and behavior are quite similar. This means that, like wild mice, pet fancy mice do create a smell, particularly with their urine.
Both wild mice and pet mice use their scented urine as a means of communication and a way to mark their territory.
Male mouse vs. female mouse smell
Many new mouse owners don’t recognize the important distinction between males and females. One of the things that make female mice and male mice different as pets is the smell that they create.
In general, male mice have a more distinct, musky smell than females. This is because male mice are more competitive over territory, so they tend to mark their home more than females. Their urine also has a different, stronger smell than a female mouse’s urine.
However, this isn’t always the case, and some male mouse owners report no smell at all from their male friends. Similarly, some female mouse owners deal with stubborn smells from their girls’ urine or feces.
But as a general rule, it’s safe to assume that an unaltered male mouse will have a stronger smell than a female or small group of female mice.
Young mouse vs. adult mouse smell
Another difference that can affect how much your pet mice smell is their age. Mice tend to smell more strongly when they’re young or reaching adolescence.
In males, this is because when they experience a surge of hormones, they feel more inclined to mark their territory with their musky urine. As they age, mice become more confident in their environment and sense of safety, which translates to less scent-marking with urine.
Young mice, both male and female, also tend to have softer, slightly smellier feces than older mice.
Mouse Smell vs. Hamsters and Gerbils
Hamsters and gerbils tend to have less smelly enclosures than pet mice, so if you or your family are very sensitive to pet odors, it might be wise to choose either a pair of gerbils or a single hamster instead.
Female Syrian hamsters have their own unique smell, so if you are sensitive, we recommend choosing gerbils, a dwarf hamster, or a male Syrian hamster.
That isn’t to say that female Syrians, as well as mice, don’t have their own unique benefits that might outweigh any potential smells, but the choice is up to you.
How to Minimize Pet Mouse Smell
If you have a mouse or mice that smell, there is good news. Many mouse owners have faced the same obstacle and found some things that can help. Here are some ways to minimize the smell of your pet mice.
Learn more: What Can You Do About Male Mouse Smell?
Give your mouse time
Our first tip is pretty simple: just give your mouse some time to settle in before you panic about their smell. If you just brought home a male mouse or multiple female mice, you might be initially concerned about their smell. But their smell is likely at its worst right after you bring them home.
Your mouse or mice are still getting used to their new surroundings, and they probably don’t feel safe or at ease yet. This means that male mice, particularly, will spend more time scent-marking in these early days.
Additionally, a new mouse you bring home is likely relatively young, which means they’re at their smelliest. Giving your mice a grace period of a couple of months will let you determine whether that smell is there to stay.
Make sure your mouse is comfortable
Similar to the point above, helping your mouse feel safe and comfortable will help minimize scent-marking and stress-pooping. You can do this by providing plenty of bedding, hides, and clutter in their enclosure.
It’s also important not to force interaction with your mouse until they’ve become at ease in their new home.
When your mouse feels comfortable having you near their enclosure, you can begin to attempt bonding by feeding them out of the palm of your hand. Doing this too soon, though, can make your mouse feel more inclined to mark their territory.
Provide a larger enclosure
It might sound counterintuitive to give your mouse more space if they’re creating an unpleasant smell. But the smell your mouse creates will be much more concentrated if their enclosure is too small and they don’t have enough surface area of bedding.
Providing more space, and in turn more bedding, will help disperse and absorb the smells your pet creates.
Learn more: Mouse Cage Size: What Size Cage Do Mice Need?
Invest in an air purifier
An air purifier can make a world of difference when it comes to reducing any kind of pet smells, including the smell of pet mice.
Choose an air purifier that is at least large enough for the room where you have your mice, and position it far enough away from your mice that they aren’t affected by any breeze the fan might create.
Use an air purifier that doesn’t use ozone-producing UV light for air sterilization, or at least make sure that you’re able to turn the UV light mode off. Some UV lights used in air purifiers can create small amounts of ozone, which is toxic to pets.
We use this GermGuardian air purifier, which uses UV-C that doesn’t produce ozone. You can also choose to use it without the UV mode on.
Use odor neutralizers carefully
A tip you might see on mouse and hamster forums or other sources is to use baking soda in your pet’s enclosure. Often, people suggest putting a layer of baking soda underneath your pet’s bedding. However, this is dangerous and we don’t recommend it.
Putting anything in your pet’s enclosure that’s fine enough to become airborne is a bad idea because it can cause respiratory distress.
Baking soda can be useful in reducing smells created by your mice, simply by placing a box of baking soda (preferably one that’s designed for use in your fridge, like this) near your mouse tank.
Activated charcoal sachets like these can also help absorb and neutralize odors. Make sure that any sachets or neutralizers you place in close vicinity to your mouse enclosure are unscented and completely contained so that they can’t become airborne.
Limit or treat wood items
One of the causes of increased mouse smell is wooden items in the enclosure. Wood absorbs and retains odors and liquids like urine, so it quickly becomes smelly with male mouse scent-marking.
If you can, provide plastic and ceramic hides instead. You can also treat wooden items with a pet-safe sealant like Plasti-Kote. However, your mice will likely chew through this over time.
You can regularly boil or bake wooden items to decrease built-up smells, as well.
First, it’s important to spot-clean the enclosure every day. This means removing visibly soiled bedding and droppings (make sure to check the corners, which is where mice prefer to urinate) and wiping down toys and surfaces.
One of the most important things to clean every day (if not multiple times a day) is your mice’s wheel. This gets soiled very quickly and can contribute a lot to the smell of your mice’s cage or tank.
Use a vinegar-water solution or a pet-safe cage cleaner to safely remove odors from the wheel, toys, and surfaces in the enclosure.
Fully clean less often
It may seem counterintuitive, but another way to reduce your mice’s smell is by cleaning out their enclosure less frequently. When you fully replace your mice’s bedding, your mice can feel an increased need to scent-mark, leading to more smell.
We recommend cleaning out the enclosure fully once per week. When you do replace the bedding, include a handful of your mice’s old bedding or his nesting so that some of his smell transfers over. This can help your mice feel less of a need to scent-mark their territory.
Add a coco coir dig box
Adding some natural substrates to your mouse enclosure can help naturally balance your mouse’s smells and fill the area with earthy, fresh smells instead. Our favorite substrate for this is coco coir.
Use a flower pot or a box to give your mice a place to dig around in coco coir. This may also encourage your mice to use this area as their bathroom, which can help keep smells down and make spot-cleaning easier.
Consider neutering your male mouse
If you have a male mouse, neutering him can resolve the musky smell that he might be creating. Male mice produce their distinctive smell due to their hormones, which means that neutering typically solves the problem.
Neutering your male mouse also opens up the possibility of introducing him to female mice so that he can live socially.
Learn more: Controversial Topic: Can Male Mice Live Alone?
What Not to Do for Pet Mouse Smell
There are some measures that some mouse owners take to eliminate smells that are actually harmful to your pet. These include the following:
- Placing a layer of baking soda underneath your mouse’s bedding. Mice are burrowers, so your mouse will end up burrowing down to the baking soda at the bottom. Powders like this can be extremely detrimental to a mouse’s delicate respiratory system.
- Using scented candles or incense. Scented candles and incense emit smoke and fumes into the air, which can also harm your mouse’s respiratory system.
- Spraying air freshener. Again, this is harmful to a mouse’s respiratory system, even if the spray is natural or unscented.
- Leaving a window open. It’s OK to air out the room where your mice live occasionally, but this should always be done carefully and with supervision so the temperature doesn’t fluctuate too much.
Do Pet Fancy Mice Smell? Minimizing Pet Mouse Odors
In the end, responsible pet ownership involves striking a balance between maintaining a clean and comfortable living space for your mice while respecting their natural behaviors. By following these guidelines and avoiding harmful practices, you can enjoy the companionship of your beloved pet mice without being overwhelmed by unwanted odors.