Fancy Mouse

Mus musculus domestica

Last updated: April 13, 2023
Verified by: AZ Animals Staff
© Emilia Stasiak/Shutterstock.com

Fancy mice are beloved pets with a history of domestication spanning thousands of years!


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Fancy Mouse Scientific Classification

Kingdom
Animalia
Phylum
Chordata
Class
Mammalia
Order
Rodentia
Family
Muridae
Genus
Mus
Scientific Name
Mus musculus domestica

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Fancy Mouse Conservation Status


Fancy Mouse Facts

Name Of Young
Pups
Group Behavior
  • Social
Fun Fact
Fancy mice are beloved pets with a history of domestication spanning thousands of years!
Biggest Threat
Accidental release or improper care
Most Distinctive Feature
Wide variety of coat types, colors, and patterns
Gestation Period
21 days
Temperament
Docile
Age Of Independence
4 weeks
Litter Size
Average 10 to 12
Habitat
Fully domesticated artificial habitat
Predators
None in captivity; Many if released in the wild, including cats, owls, hawks, raccoons, foxes, rats, and dogs
Diet
Omnivore
Lifestyle
  • Nocturnal
Favorite Food
Grains, but should be fed these sparingly. Fancy mice eat mostly commercial pellets.
Origin
Originally domesticated probably in China and Japan
Number Of Species
1
Location
Worldwide
Average Clutch Size
1

Fancy Mouse Physical Characteristics

Color
  • Brown
  • Grey
  • Fawn
  • Red
  • Blue
  • Black
  • White
  • Tan
  • Albino
  • Cream
  • Silver
  • Lilac
  • Tawny
  • Beige
  • Light Grey
  • Dark Grey
  • White-Brown
  • Multi-colored
  • Golden
  • Blonde
  • Light-Brown
Skin Type
Fur
Top Speed
8 mph
Lifespan
18 to 30 months
Weight
1 ounce to 4.6 ounces
Length
2 to 3 inches from nose to base of tail.
Age of Sexual Maturity
6 to 8 weeks, but sometimes as little as 4 weeks
Age of Weaning
3 to 4 weeks
Venomous
No
Aggression
Low

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Fancy mice are beloved pets with a history of domestication spanning thousands of years!

The fancy mouse is the domesticated subspecies of the house mouse, which is found all over the world. Fancy mice have been selectively bred by humans for hundreds, perhaps even thousands of years. These small rodents are relatively easy to keep as pets and can be bred for different colors, coat patterns, and more. Fancy mice can be purchased for just a few dollars at almost any pet store. Their naturally short life span makes fancy mice an attractive pet for families that want to avoid long commitments.

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Incredible Fancy Mouse Facts

  • People have kept pet mice since as early as 1,100 B.C.
  • Fancy mice have been popular pets in Europe since the 1600s.
  • With all the recognized coat types, colors, and markings, there are hundreds of selectively bred combinations of fancy mice.
  • Fancy mice derived from the common house mouse, but they now differ in many ways.
  • A fancy mouse can fit through tiny crevices because it has no collar bones.
  • Fancy mice drink very little each day. They can get most of their moisture through fresh fruits and vegetables.

Where to Find Fancy Mice

Fancy mice are kept and sold in pet stores all over the world. They are the domesticated subspecies of the house mouse, which originated in the Palaearctic region, but has since spread across the globe thanks to its close association with humans. Today, fancy mice are as likely to be found in a cage in a child’s bedroom as they are in the home of a breeder and collector. 

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Fancy Mouse Habitat

Fancy mice have been bred for generations to live in captivity. They are a thoroughly domesticated subspecies, and they cannot survive long in the wild. Therefore, the fancy mouse habitat is a purely artificial one, provided and maintained by humans.

A fancy mouse doesn’t need a lot of space. A typical enclosure for a pair of fancy mice may be a simple 12-inch by 12-inch wire cage with a plastic or metal bottom. Tanks and terrariums can be suitable enclosures as long as they are large enough to provide plenty of ventilation. A pair of fancy mice would need at least a 10 to 15 gallon terrarium, placed in a well-ventilated area. Of course, mice do fine with an even larger enclosure, as long as it is secure, so that they cannot squeeze between bars or rails and escape. And the more mice a keeper has, the larger the enclosure needs to be.



The cage materials must be non-porous so they do not absorb urine and can be easily cleaned. Fancy mice require bedding in their enclosure, made of paper or suitable wood chips, that can be changed regularly. Some cages come with tubes, tunnels, and towers that can provide exercise and entertainment. Fancy mice definitely need hiding places, a wheel to run on, food bowls, and toys, especially ones they can chew on.

Scientific Name

The fancy mouse’s scientific name is Mus musculus domestica. The name is pretty simple. Mus is Latin for mouse, and musculus means essentially, small mouse. The subspecies identifier, domestica, refers to the fact that the fancy mouse is domesticated. Fancy mice are a domesticated subset of the wild species, Mus musculus, or the common house mouse.

Health and Entertainment for your Fancy Mouse

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Appearance

Fancy mice are undeniably cute, with their small bodies, large rounded ears, and tiny, whiskered snouts. However, some people do find their twitching noses, beady eyes, and long, nearly naked tails a bit frightening. Fancy mice are measured from their nose to the base of their tail where it joins to their body. They average between 2 and 3 inches in length, although show mice may be just slightly larger. Most fancy mice kept as pets weigh between about 1 and 1.6 ounces. Show mice can be considerably larger, weighing up to 4.6 ounces. This is due to selective breeding for larger size, not just obesity. The tails of show mice can be 5 to 6 inches long.

Gray and white fancy mouse on a white background.

Close-up shot of a gray and white fancy mouse.

©Emilia Stasiak/Shutterstock.com

When it comes to coloration and coat types, there is wide variety among fancy mice. The American Fancy Rat and Mouse Association currently lists eight coat varieties, meaning the type of hair a mouse has. These include the following:

  • Standard – a short and sleek coat
  • Satin – Same as Standard, but with a lustrous sheen
  • Long Hair – long, fine, thick, and silky hair
  • Long Hair Satin – Same as Long Hair, but with a Satin sheen
  • Frizzie – Very dense, tightly waved or frizzed hair over entire body; Curly whiskers
  • Frizzie Satin – Same as Frizzie, but with a Satin sheen; Curly whiskers
  • Hairless – Pink, thin, bright, translucent skin, free of scars or pimples; No hair
  • Frizzled – Short, dense, tightly curled coat resembling the soft side of Velcro

So Many Colors and Patterns

A wide array of colors and markings are recognized as well. Fancy mice that are one solid uniform color are recognized by the AFRMA in the following shades: Beige, Black, Blue, Champagne, Chocolate, Coffee, Cream, Dove, Fawn, Gold, Ivory, Lilac, Orange, Red, Silver, and White.

Multicolored varieties include Tan and Fox, which can be any color on top, and either tan in the Tan variety, or white in the Fox variety on the bottom. Other recognized markings include Banded, Broken Marked, Broken Merle, Dutch, Even Marked, Hereford, Rump White, Spotted Tans, and Variegated.

Fancy mice with individual hairs that are two or more colors may be categorized as Any Other Color (AOC), which includes the Agouti, Argente, Blue Agouti, Chinchilla, Cinnamon, Pearl, Silver Black, Silver Blue, Silver Chocolate, and Silver Grey varieties. Those with two or more colors, other than white, that make up a recognized pattern may be categorized as Any Other Color Pattern (AOCP). These include such varieties as Blue Point Himalayan, Blue Point Siamese, Brindle, Himalayan, Merle, Reverse Siamese, Roan, Seal Point Siamese, Siamese Sable, and Splashed.

Behavior

Anyone who wants to acquire a fancy mouse as a pet should know these two very important facts. First, fancy mice are mostly nocturnal. That means they will be awake and moving around, running on their wheel, climbing in their tunnels, and gnawing on anything they can chew throughout the night. That’s something to consider when deciding where in your house you will place their enclosure.

The second point is that they are very social. Experts recommend that fancy mice should not be kept alone, because they are highly social animals. However, when keeping more than one fancy mouse you have to remember that an unneutered male and a female will breed, so if you aren’t planning on raising lots of them, don’t put mixed sexes in the same enclosure. Also, be careful housing two or more unneutered males together, as they will likely show aggression toward one another, and your mice can end up injured or worse.

Fancy mice are naturally curious little creatures. They like to explore their habitat, forage for food, burrow into their bedding, and cozy up in their hiding places. They also need to gnaw in order to wear down their ever-growing front teeth.

Generally, fancy mice are docile and sociable animals. They tend to adjust well to being handled, although it can take a little time and patience. They can be skittish and shy, or curious and adventuresome. Owners should be careful when removing fancy mice from their enclosures because they are fast and can scurry quickly into very small spaces. Also, extra care should be taken when allowing children to handle these little creatures, as they are fragile and can be injured or overly stressed.  

Diet

Because fancy mice are domesticated, they eat the foods that their humans provide. A healthy diet would include mainly commercial mouse feed in the form of pellets. This should comprise the majority, about 75 percent, of their diet.

A fancy mouse should also be given a variety of fresh vegetables, fruits, and other foods, but not more than about 25 percent of their daily feed. These supplemental foods can be scattered around the mouse’s enclosure to help encourage their foraging instinct. However, any uneaten fresh fruits and vegetables should be removed after no more than six hours to prevent microbial growth and decay.

A few appropriate vegetables for a fancy mouse might include peas, carrots, kale, cucumbers, zucchini, broccoli, celery, and snow peas. Pieces of pears, apples, bananas, peaches, and melons are also good. Beans, legumes, lentils, and chickpeas are also good additions to their regular diet.

Special Treats

Fancy mice love foods like grains, seeds, cereal, pasta, and raw, unsalted nuts, bits of bread, and cheese. However, these foods should be reserved as occasional treats since they can quickly lead to obesity.

Foods to Avoid

Some foods to avoid include highly processed foods and those that contain high levels of fats and sugar. Lettuce should be avoided due to the tendency to give fancy mice diarrhea. Citrus fruits are not appropriate because they are too acidic. Also, according to the RSPCA, the following foods are toxic to mice and should never be given: grapes, raisins, chocolate, avocados, garlic, onions, rhubarb, and walnuts. Beverages such as coffee, tea, alcohol should also be avoided.

Don’t Forget the Water

Fancy mice need access to clean water at all times. Most owners prefer water bottles over bowls, because they are much cleaner. Bowls are not recommended because these rodents burrow, and bowls quickly collect bedding along with fecal matter and any other debris that may be on the floor of the enclosure. The water in a bottle stays clean, but the nozzle must be checked at each feeding to make sure it has not become clogged. Don’t worry if it seems that fancy mice don’t drink much. As long as they are being properly fed, they get a lot of their hydration through the fresh fruits and vegetables they eat.

Reproduction

How fast do fancy mice reproduce? Their gestation period averages just three weeks, and males can impregnate a female again almost immediately after she gives birth. Females can have up to 15 litters per year. However, responsible breeders recommend that females be given several weeks to recover before breeding again, which would reduce the number of litters each year.

Infant fancy mice are called pups. They are born naked and pink with closed eyes and their ears plastered to their heads. They are often referred to as pinkies. Within days, they start growing hair, and then their ears open up, followed by their eyes. By the time they are 2 weeks old, the pups look like tiny adults and begin exploring their habitat. By the age of 4 weeks, some precocious males can already impregnate females, and by 6 to 8 weeks, all the pups reach sexual maturity.

Fancy mice can produce a lot of pups. They average 10 to 12 pups, but some give birth to as many as 30 in a single litter. Unfortunately, not all those pups can survive. Females have 10 nipples, which means that it is impossible for a female that gives birth to many more than 10 pups to feed them all. The female may take care of the problem herself, by eating some of the weaker pups, or human breeders can remove excess pups, leaving a manageable number.     

Predators

If kept in a secure habitat, fancy mice need not worry about predators. In the wild, however, this tiny rodent would be a potential meal for just about every predator that eats small animals. Rats, cats, dogs, snakes, hawks, owls, raccoons, and foxes are just a few of the predators that might gobble up a fancy mouse if it escaped or was released into the outdoors. If you should happen to adopt one, plan to keep it safe throughout its lifespan, because these domesticated mice are not adapted for life in the wild.

Lifespan

Fancy mice live about 18 months to 2 years. Their lifespan is a bit shorter, on average, than wild Mus musculus individuals, which have lived up to 5 years in captivity. Their shorter lifespan is thought by some to be attributed to the highly selective breeding they have endured.

Also Known as Feeder Mice

Fancy mice are common pets, and they are kept as show animals around the world, but they have another use. These mice are also known as feeder mice. The pinkies, pups and full-grown adults that people buy and breed to feed reptiles and other animals are the same Mus musculus domestica, or domesticated house mouse, as those labeled fancy mice. Thanks to the rapid reproduction cycle and relatively easy care of these mice, they are a reliable food source for captive snakes, lizards and other animals. In fact, many reptile owners breed their own feeder mice, rather than perpetually buying them at pet stores, because it is cheaper and more convenient.

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About the Author

Tavia Fuller Armstrong is a writer at A-Z Animals where her primary focus is on birds, mammals, reptiles, and chemistry. Tavia has been researching and writing about animals for approximately 30 years, since she completed an internship with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Tavia holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Biology with a wildlife emphasis from the University of Central Oklahoma. A resident of Oklahoma, Tavia has worked at the federal, state, and local level to educate hundreds of young people about science, wildlife, and endangered species.

Fancy Mouse FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions) 

What do fancy mice look like?

Fancy mice are small, measuring only about 2 to 3 inches from nose to the base of their tail. They have pointy noses with whiskers and large, round ears. They are relatively slender, although show varieties can be heavier. They come in a wide variety of coat types, colors and patterns.

How big are fancy mice?

Fancy mice average 2 to 3 inches from nose to the base of the tail. The tails of show mice can be another 5 to 6 inches long. They range in weight from about 1 ounce to 4.6 ounces, with show mice being heavier than typical pet mice.

How many varieties of fancy mouse exist?

All fancy mice belong to the subspecies, Mus musculus domestica. There are many recognized varieties, literally hundreds of possible combinations, based on coat types, colors and patterns.

What makes the fancy mouse special?

The fancy mouse is a beloved pet with a history of domestication spanning thousands of years.

Where do fancy mice live?

Fancy mice live all over the world, but only in domesticated habitats.

What do fancy mice eat?

Fancy mice eat mostly commercial pellets, supplemented by fresh fruits, vegetables, beans and legumes, along with occasional treats such as grains, seeds, cereal, pasta and cheese.

How many babies do fancy mice have?

Fancy mice average 10 to 12 pups per litter, but sometimes many more. Excess pups do not survive, as the female has only 10 nipples. They can have up to 15 litters per year, although this rate of breeding is not recommended for the female’s health.

When are fancy mice weaned?

Fancy mice are born naked, with their eyes closed and ears stuck down. They mature quickly and are able to explore their surroundings by the time they are 2 weeks old. They are fully weaned by 3 to 4 weeks of age.

How long do fancy mice live?

Fancy mice usually live between 18 months and 2 years.

Thank you for reading! Have some feedback for us? Contact the AZ Animals editorial team.

Sources
  1. American Fancy Rat & Mouse Association, Available here: https://www.afrma.org/fancymice.htm
  2. RSPCA KnowledgeBase, Available here: https://kb.rspca.org.au/knowledge-base/what-should-i-feed-my-mice/

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