We bought our first few trios of
Dormice in 1994 and have enjoyed their cute antics ever since. At one time these fluffy tailed little animals were commonly
kept as pets. Now it is hard to find them anywhere in Canada … It is unfortunate as they do make wonderful pets. They are easily cared for, they are a lot of fun to watch and they live longer than many of their similar
This variety of Dormice is sometimes
referred to as the African Dwarf Dormice, African Pygmy Dormice, and Micro Squirrels. Dormice are small cute squirrel-like
animals. They are grey to buff grey with the under-parts being lighter to almost
white. The lower face, chin and feet are all white or grey-white and there are slightly darker patches under the eyes. The
bushy tail is brownish-grey and white-tipped. As an adult their body length is approximately 3-4 inches and they weigh about
24 grams. Their bushy tail is almost as long as their body. They are nocturnal and get quite active at night. African dormice
have a life expectancy of around 6.5 years in captivity. Considered a social
animal, they should be kept in groups of two or more and they usually get along with members of the same sex, as long as they
are raised together from a young age.
Dormice are shy but will easily
become hand tamed, with regular interaction from their keeper. Once they are used to being handled, they usually don’t
like to be held still but they do enjoy climbing on their keeper, always searching for treats.
The Dormouse is an energetic little
creature and is an excellent escape artist. They can find their way through very small openings therefore it is best to keep
them in a glass tank with a tight fitting lid(made of a fine wire mesh). To avoid overcrowding, I keep my little guys in 10
-15 gallon size tanks, to house 2 animals. I use 20 gallon tanks for housing 3 -4 and 35 gallon tanks for keeping 5-6.
I choose not to house more than 6 together as it is harder to keep track of their breeding habits, activity level and health
status. The bottom of the tank is lined with a couple inches of absorbent aspen shavings and I supply lots of ropes, ladders,
branches and toys for them to climb on. To provide them an additional place to exercise, I attach a mouse size running wheel
to the side of the tank. To avoid injuries, it is probably best to use a solid type wheel.
Hide boxes are a must. Dormice
need a place that can provide them with a sense of security and privacy in which to sleep and flee to when they become frightened. Store bought hamster houses, bird nests, etc. work fine and I always add one extra
nest per number of dormice in the colony. (If I have 3 dormice in the colony
I put in 4 nests). Sometimes the group may choose to sleep together but more often they prefer their one little den where
they can be left undisturbed. They do line their nests with soft material such as feathers, grasses and bits of leaves so
be sure to provide them with a constant supply of nesting materials.
In the wild, dormice eat a variety
of foods. Its diet consists of plants (mainly grass seeds) and insects, the latter includes termites, earwigs and dead bees,
and it sometimes eats eggs and nestlings. Dormice do need food and water available to them at all times. Offering a limited
supply of basic seed mix daily complimented by a good variety of fresh fruits and animal protein, such as hard boiled egg,
feeder insects (mealworms, crickets), cooked chicken, and yogurt, seems to be the key to keeping dormice healthy in captivity. Non-tip ceramic dishes should be used for food and water. Some breeders choose to
supply water via small bottles which seems to work fine too, but either way the water should be changed daily. Dormice will
often take food back to their nests where they will enjoy eating it in private but sometimes they will store it there too.
When doing your thorough weekly cage cleaning, be sure to empty and clean their nests and den areas.