What Do Mice Eat?

Written by Patrick Sather
Updated: August 5, 2022
Image Credit Rudmer Zwerver/Shutterstock.com
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Mice often get a bad rap. Many people think of mice as pests and go to extreme lengths to try to get rid of them. Some people develop a strong phobia of mice, all without knowing anything about these tiny creatures. Mice belong to the order Rodentia, which comprises nearly 40% of all mammal species on Earth. When most people think of mice, they think of the typical mice in the genus Mus, and specifically the common house mouse. You can find house mice on every continent except Antarctica and in nearly every type of environment. They get their name from their proximity to human settlements and habit of building their dwellings inside people’s homes. You’ve likely seen a mouse scurrying across your yard or in your basement or attic at some point. However, do you know the answer to the question, “what do mice eat?”

Today, we’ll attempt to clear up some of the confusion surrounding mice by discussing what they eat. We’ll start off by talking about some foods that mice like to eat. Then, we’ll discuss how mice hunt and forage for food. Next, we’ll compare what mice eat in the wild versus what they eat as pets. Finally, we’ll end with a brief overview of what baby mice eat. With that said, let’s get started answering the question, “what do mice eat?”

What Do Mice Like to Eat?

What Do Mice Eat
Mice eat a variety of foods including seeds, grains, fruits, and meats.

A-Z-Animals.com

If you got all your information from cartoons, you’d likely think that all mice eat is cheese. While it’s true that mice will eat a block of cheese if it’s set in front of them, there are other foods that mice will likely gravitate towards given the choice. Mice are omnivores, meaning that they eat both plant and animal matter. That said, their diet is largely herbivorous and made up mostly of foods like seeds, grains, and fruit. Due to their eating habits, many people consider mice to be a threat to crops and gardens. They aren’t picky eaters, and will readily eat whatever they can get their paws on. However, overall, they tend to prefer foods that are higher in carbohydrates, as these foods provide them with the energy they need. As such, we’ve identified ten foods that mice like to eat. These foods include: 

  • Nuts
  • Seeds
  • Fruits
  • Grains
  • Vegetables
  • Insects
  • Meat
  • Eggs
  • Trash
  • Pet Food

How Do Mice Hunt and Forage for Food? 

Pet Mice
Mice use their keen sense of smell and touch to find food.

Rudmer Zwerver/Shutterstock.com

Mice possess many of the same senses as humans, and use sight, sound, taste, smell, and touch to find food. While they have good eyesight, they cannot see as many colors as humans. Additionally, as they are nocturnal, their vision is normally relatively limited. Smell and touch are by far the two most important senses for mice when it comes to finding food. Their sense of smell is quite keen and helps them to locate pungent odors from far away. Additionally, mice can detect objects and movement with their whiskers. This helps them to navigate their environment, especially in low light or no light conditions. Meanwhile, despite their broad hearing range, mice rely only marginally on their hearing to find food. That said, it comes in handy when avoiding predators or threats. Finally, they rely little on their sense of taste, which explains why they’ll eat almost anything. 

As nocturnal animals, mice usually come out of their dens at night to search for food. They rely on their sensitive noses and whiskers to help them navigate their environment and find something to eat. When searching for a meal, a mouse will scurry around, sniffing and dragging its whiskers across surfaces. Once it detects a scent, it will follow its nose to the source. Generally speaking, mice only ever travel a short distance from their nests to find food. If necessary, they can go for several days without eating. Mice are predominantly foragers and scavengers, preferring to go after plants, grains, and fruits. That said, they will also hunt for insects, and also eat the eggs of birds. They love to raid trash cans for leftover scraps. Additionally, mice have been known to cannibalize other mice and to eat baby birds or other small animals.   

What Do Mice Eat in the Wild?

Animals that Sing-mouse
Mice will eat pretty much anything they can find.

iStock.com/CreativeNature_nl

In the wild, mice will eat pretty much anything that they can find. Depending on where they live, the foods available to a mouse can change according to the season. That said, they do not hibernate, and need to search for food year-round. Overall, grains, fruits, and seeds make up the majority of a mouse’s diet. High-carb foods are their favorites, and they’ll seek out cereals like oats or fruits such as berries when available. If these foods are not available, they will also eat grasses, roots, and even tree bark. Mice that live in close proximity to humans often raid trash cans for discarded scraps of food. Occasionally, mice will prey on insects such as caterpillars, grasshoppers, and beetles. They may also raid bird’s nests for their eggs and may kill and eat baby birds or other small mammals. 

What Do Pet Mice Eat?

Have you ever used the phrase "quiet as a mouse?" Welcome to the world of animal analogies!
Many pet owners choose to find their mouse a special rodent supplement.

Szasz-Fabian Jozsef/Shutterstock.com

Many people keep mice as pets, as they’re relatively easy to care for and quite playful. If you decide to keep a mouse as a pet, you’ll want to make sure you feed it a well-balanced diet. Most people with pet mice opt to feed their mouse a specially formulated mouse food supplement. You can find many commercially sold options at your local pet store, which mostly contain a mix of cereals, grains, and seeds. You can also feed your pet mouse fresh fruits and vegetables. Safe fruits include berries, apples, pears, melons, and bananas. As for vegetables, good options include carrots, broccoli, cucumber, and peas. On occasion, it’s alright to feed your mouse treats such as cooked egg, mealworms, or lean meats. 

However, there are certain foods you should avoid feeding your pet mouse. Generally speaking, you’ll want to avoid overly processed foods or things that can upset your mouse’s stomach. Foods that you should not feed a mouse include: 

  • Chips
  • Candy
  • Chocolate
  • Walnuts
  • Raw beans
  • Onions
  • Raisins
  • Lettuce
  • Corn
  • Wheat
  • Spicy foods

 What Do Baby Mice Eat?

Northern Grasshopper Mouse babies in nest (Onychomys leucogaster)
Baby mice are born hairless and blind.

Liz Weber/Shutterstock.com

Baby mice, or pups, are also known as pinkies due to their pink coloring at birth. They are born blind and hairless and must rely on their mother to survive. Around 2 weeks old, baby mice will begin to develop fur and become more mobile. The babies will subsist on their mother’s milk until they are ready to leave the nest, which takes around two and a half weeks. Once they’re old enough to fend for themselves, baby mice will eat the same foods as adult mice. If you’re taking care of a baby mouse, you’ll want to feed it regularly and often to keep it healthy. Unlike many other baby animals, baby mice can drink just about any type of milk. This includes cow milk, goat milk, and even some plant-based milk like almond milk. Before introducing new food to your pet mouse, you’ll want to consult with a veterinarian. 

Mouse
Bernard and Miss Bianca, both mice, are the two leading characters in Disney's The Rescuers.
Rudmer Zwerver/Shutterstock.com
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