Should I get a pet mouse?
June 28, 2006 3:46 PM   Subscribe

Is it a bad idea to keep a pet mouse in your bedroom? How noisy and/or smelly do they get?

For a while now I've been thinking about getting a small pet. I like the idea of a mouse, but I'm concerned by the fact that she would need to live in a cage in my bedroom. Just how noisy do they get at 3 in the morning? And are they as smelly as everyone thinks they are?

What about other small animals? Are there any better suited this environment? Ideally, I'd like something small, low-maintenence, quiet and non-aromatic. Does such a thing exist? Also, it would help if it's affectionate and intelligent and easy to handle. Oh, and cute. And easy/legal to buy in the UK. Thanks.
posted by afx237vi to Pets & Animals (29 answers total)
Best answer: I had a mouse in my dorm room in college. He made little noise (except when he ran on his wheel, which I had to remove at night), and his cage wasn't stinky because I changed it frequently. However, mice are kind of pea-brained and have little personality. They're super cute though.

I've heard better things about pet rats because they are easy to keep and have more intelligence and personality than a pet mouse. If you look for a pet rat, I would recommend getting a female since the males do tend to have a distinct odor. I have a friend who has had many pet rats, and apparently they can be trained and are quite friendly when handled frequently.

If you want to go the aquatic route, bettas (aka Siamese fighting fish) seem to have a great personality (for a fish, which isn't saying much) and are easy to maintain.
posted by tastybrains at 4:02 PM on June 28, 2006

Ferrets are fun.
posted by necessitas at 4:03 PM on June 28, 2006

( But ferrets smell something awful. )
posted by silusGROK at 4:05 PM on June 28, 2006

I had two female gerbils. They were stinky and they liked to hump and fight all night. They were sweet little buggers, though.

My only worry about getting a single mouse is that it would be lonely. Then you have two, and it turns into a lesbian porn movie. Or a regular porn movie, I guess, and then you have more than two.
posted by sugarfish at 4:05 PM on June 28, 2006

Ferrets are very fun, but stinky and can be destructive (gnawing on wood, getting inside of furniture, etc).
posted by tastybrains at 4:05 PM on June 28, 2006

Best answer: I don't know about mice, but hamsters are nocturnal animals, meaning they're awake while you're trying to sleep. I have to keep my little guy as far away from the bedroom as possible, otherwise the sound of him running at 50 mph on his wheel would keep me awake all night. It's not loud (nothing compared to a wailing cat, barking dog or chirping bird, for example) just annoying.

If a little extra noise at night doesn't bother you however (or you can find a really quiet wheel, and if you do, please let me know!), and you're good at cleaning cages regularly (a MUST to keep the smell at bay) and you're willing to spend a lot of time handling your hamster while he's a baby to get him accustomed to it, then I'd highly recommend a hamster. They're rather friendly, relatively low-maintenance, cheap once you've bought the cage, and cuter than hell if they want to be. Of course, every animal is different, so YMMV.
posted by cgg at 4:07 PM on June 28, 2006

A long time ago I had two mice (M and F). I didn't change the cage material often enough to keep the smell down. Also, when the female got pregnant and gave birth, the male attacked the babies and killed three of them. So I haven't had any more pet mice and can't offer any more advice.
posted by davcoo at 4:07 PM on June 28, 2006

I have two friends; one owns ferrets, the other owns rats. The ferrets STINK. She lives with them in her room, and she can no longer smell them, but to an outside nose -- Peeeew!

The rats on the other hand, don't smell, but perhaps that friend is more diligent at cleaning the cage. This friend sleeps like a rock, but others in the household have mentioned the noise at night -- especially the squeaky wheel.
posted by Robot Johnny at 4:08 PM on June 28, 2006

Best answer: Oh -- on preview, i'll add -- most hamsters (not dwarfs however) are solitary animals, and will pretty mich fight to the death if kept in the same cage with another. So if you only want one, they're a good bet.
posted by cgg at 4:09 PM on June 28, 2006

Mouse pee smells much much worse than rat pee. And rats are more fun if you must have a rodent pet. Better a rodent than a bird though. Keeping birds is horrifyingly cruel, while keeping a rat is somewhat excusable. Vermin!
posted by beerbajay at 4:10 PM on June 28, 2006

I had rats as a kid. They don't make all that much noise, but understand that they are capable of spectacular feats of strength, gnawing, and squishing themselves through small openings. They will probably escape and be in your walls, then you'll have to catch them.
posted by Hildago at 4:26 PM on June 28, 2006

Best answer: Mice stink. Even if you clean them regularly your room will still stink of wood shavings and mustiness. I kept mice for a while and it's a smell I will never forget. When I unpack Ikea furniture I still get flashbacks.

I would recommend a hamster. They need wood shavings in their cage too, but for some reason do not stink as much.
posted by fire&wings at 4:27 PM on June 28, 2006

my apartmentmate had a hamster and eventually the hamster lived on the floor of the dining room just about abandoned except for maintenance. the most depressing thing i've ever seen especially when she'd be running on her squeaky little wheel, going nowhere.

i second the betta fish, they are pretty to look at (but not very affectionate). i've also heard good things about rats. whatever you get make sure it's one or two females.
posted by amethysts at 4:40 PM on June 28, 2006

I have a Hedgehog. They're a little weird, but they are cuter than anything and despite the spines, downright huggable. They aren't stinky, but they are nocturnal, so sometimes they make some noise at night (though mine doesn't seem to).
posted by shanevsevil at 5:02 PM on June 28, 2006

Best answer: Hamsters are lovely lovely animals. The squeaky wheel issue is something I found quite endearing after a while - pretty low maintenance as well, you just clean them out every other day and chuck in a lot of things for them to chew on, run around/through. The smell only occurs when you neglect them.

Just make sure you handle your choice in the shop before you buy. If they are extremely antisocial, they are hell to live with - when I was in my mid-teens, my Mum and I lived with a horrible horrible hamster, waiting for him to die because we knew we couldn't kill or rehome him. That was pretty depressing. And be prepared for the odd bite every once in a while.
posted by saturnine at 5:07 PM on June 28, 2006

Chinchillas are very quiet, not stinky at all, not quite as sociable as rats, but *very* cute. They are definitely more expensive to buy and keep than mice, though, and they require a pretty big cage to keep them happy because they like to jump.
posted by msittig at 6:13 PM on June 28, 2006

Mice are cute but kinda lame to interact with. And they reek.

I had a friend who had a hedgehog. They are really quite cute. And as shanevsevil said, they are actually huggable, the spines sorta feel like straw as I recall.
posted by radioamy at 6:38 PM on June 28, 2006

Mice are cute. I kept mine in an aquarium -- it seemed to be easier to keep clean -- though it helps to have a roommate with stinkier habits (like pot) so you don't feel too guilty. A mouse going down stairs in a hamster ball is all sorts of funny when you need comic relief.
posted by dness2 at 6:46 PM on June 28, 2006

I had gerbils as a kid and it was pretty easy to keep it non-stinky (we used an aquarium, because they chewed through everything else.) I got used to the noise of the wheel and the incestuous gay gerbil humping.

But having played with pet rats of friends, whoa. So much smarter and so much more affectionate.
posted by desuetude at 7:11 PM on June 28, 2006

Best answer: Thirding or fourthing the hamster, but don't give them wood shavings - not only does it smell, but the oils range from "not the best" for the hamster (aspen) to "killer" (cedar). Use paper-based bedding like Carefresh Ultra or KayBee Soft Sorbent for odor-control plus add lots of toilet paper the hamster can use to have fun building nests.

I find that the "Silent Spinner" brand of wheel pretty much lives up to its name, and it's solid so no safety concerns like with the slatted wheels. However, I've had to replace about 25% of my Silent Spinners after six months because they can get noisy as they wear down.

All of my hamsters (I currently have 16 dwarves) are toilet trained (which is how I can have 16). A dish of chinchilla sand (not dust), in addition to being fun, usually gives them the hint. This makes cleanup dead easy when all you have to do is scoop out spots. Rolling in the sand also keeps their coats clean. (Although Syrians - regular hamsters - tend to just dig, not roll.)

My diabetic hams (a somewhat common Russian dwarf issue) don't use the sand as it would be saturated quickly (and ruin happy fun time [self Flickr link]), but they still are used to restricting their peeing to one spot, so I just clean that spot every day or so, with larger habitat cleaning every two weeks. (Which is mostly for the aesthetic appeal of getting rid of lots of seed husks plus eliminating general dust as the smell issue is a non-issue once the urine is gone.)

All that said, if you're not slightly nocturnal yourself and get a regular (not dwarf) hamster, you may find the hamster rather boring. And if you get a dwarf, they're highly social (although it can take time), so be prepared for that. And if you get two dwarves, be willing to separate them down the road if they start fighting and drawing blood, which can start as late as old age. Also, dwarf hams are small and fast, so while they like being handled, whether you can actually do so for any length of time may depend on your reflexes/patience.

Anyway, I like for hamster information. There are several UK hamster societies who also put on shows (yes, hamster shows), so perhaps you ought to visit one of these first?
posted by Liffey at 7:51 PM on June 28, 2006 [1 favorite]

Fifthing the hamster. Had one as a kid and kept it in my room. The only sounds were it shuffling through the torn-up paper in the cage and yes, the wheel. It was never loud enough to bother me, personally. Once it got acclimated (it was a bit freaked out at first, understandably), it was a nice pet. We occaisionally used to seal off the living room and let it run around.
posted by pmurray63 at 8:20 PM on June 28, 2006

Sixthing the hamster!
posted by metaswell at 9:04 PM on June 28, 2006

One word: hedgehog. Unbearably cute and they fit in your pocket.
posted by zia at 9:54 PM on June 28, 2006

My brother used to have a mouse and it smelt something awful. However, somebody recommeded that we use newspaper based cat litter over wood shavings. It helped the smell problem a fair bit.
posted by cholly at 11:08 PM on June 28, 2006

Response by poster: Thanks for all the advice everyone, it was very helpful. I still have a bit to think about, but I am now leaning towards a pet hamster instead of a mouse.

I find it funny that people are recommending hedgehogs though! I doubt many people in the UK would think of them as pets, although they are of course very cute. I actually have a couple that live under a hedge in my garden that come out at night and snuffle around on the lawn looking for stuff to eat. They're cool, but I don't think I'll be getting one as a pet very soon.
posted by afx237vi at 6:05 AM on June 29, 2006

Rodents as pets? The smell aside, what's a little Hantavirus among friends?

I'll second (third, fourth, etc) the hamster, though, if you want a small pet. Not nearly as stinky...and hey, your chances of getting hanta from a pet are...pretty slim, right? I mean, how many kids have hamsters?

Have you looked into sugargliders?
posted by kaseijin at 7:50 AM on June 29, 2006

What about guinea pigs? I'm asking because I'm in the same situation you are, and guinea pigs are one of the options I've been considering. I'd like to get the lowdown from experienced guinea-pig owners, though.
posted by booksandlibretti at 9:06 AM on June 29, 2006

With any rodent, you're going to have to train it to get used to being handled. For the first few weeks, you're going to have to spend a lot of time picking it up and just letting it get used to you/ your smell/ the fact that a giant is carrying it around. If you get a juvenile hamster, it will respond much better to the training and be docile.
Mice stink. I had pet mice for a few years and they definitely are not worth it. Not much fun to interact with (they will pee on you alllll the time), smelly and they have a tendency to try to escape from cages.
posted by blueskiesinside at 2:23 PM on June 29, 2006

Best answer: Guinea pigs are decent little pets. They require socialization and will become sick if left alone for long periods of time. They also cannot create their own vitamin C and require a supplement (usually just a few drops added to their water.) I have heard reports of guinea pigs that are trainable and intelligent, but I have not experienced that in the few that I have owned. I have always thought of them as my lovable little doofuses. They can be very vocal and have a wide range of sounds they make depending on what they want or what is startling them at the moment. It is a nice feeling when you come home and the little buggers start squealing with glee when they see you. I had pocket trained all mine. Pull em out of the cage and show them an open shirt pocket and BAM, Nothing but pig ass sticking out. Eventually they get bored and will switch around to see, but you would be surprised at how long a guinea pig will keep its butt in the air at the bottom of your pocket. Understand though that you pretty much roll the dice with guinea pigs as far as life expectancy goes. I have had them live as long as 2 years and as short as 6 months while a girlfriend had one that lived close to 5 years.

Rats are also a good choice for a small pet. I have only ever owned them in pairs, (of females) so they would have someone to play with when I am not at home. I have always noticed distinct personalities in mine with some that like to be held (lap rats) and those that would rather roam around and get into things. Some let their rats roam the house unsupervised, but I have never been that adventurous. It’s not that I was worried they would get in the walls or not come back (the sound of the food bag rattling was usually enough to get them to come a’runnin) but I was afraid of them chewing on everything. The definitely need something to chew on at all times. Mine loved their wood house, toilet paper tubes, paper, wood blocks, and pretty much anything else they could get their massive incisors around. Just make sure what they are chewing on is non-toxic as far as glues and other chemicals. Rats don’t live terribly long as far as pets go. The longest I have had a pair was around two and a half years or so. Rats are also prone to get fatty tumors. Be prepared to take them to a vet that accepts small pets.

Neither guinea pigs nor rats smell very bad as long as you change their cage often. I second the recommendation for the grey pet bedding stuff. It is cheap, comes in big bails, and absorbs a lot of odor / moisture before getting gross. I have had both in my room and neither was especially loud except for the occasional chewing or the tap tap tap of the water bottle as they drink. My rats always seemed a bit more playful and curious than the pigs, but like I said, I think I just always got the really dumb pigs.
posted by Chickenjack at 2:55 PM on June 29, 2006 [1 favorite]

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