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African Dormouse


African Dormice

(Graphiurus murinus)

By Heritage Pets


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 species. 


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.








In the wild Dormice are known to go into a state of Torpor (which is similar to hibernating)  when the temperature drops below 70 degrees. Captive animals are usually not conditioned to hibernate and if they go into hibernation it can be dangerous. Keeping their tank at a comfortable 72 degrees should keep them from wanting to hibernate.


Sexual maturity is reached at about 4-5 months of age. Breeding cycles are self regulated and are usually dependant on the availability and supply of good foods. Some females will go into estrus continually throughout the year with small rest periods in between litters while others will not estrus until conditions become more favorable. Gestation last 25-28 days and the litter size is usually 3-4 but 1 to 6 are not that uncommon. Babies are started to be weaned at 6 weeks of age and are fully independant around 8-9 weeks of age.


If you live in Canada and keep Dormice as pets or if you know someone else who keeps them , we would enjoy hearing from you.  Please email us at the address below. 

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