African Pygmy Mouse


African Pygmy Mouse

Mus minutoides

By Heritage Pets


The African Pygmy Mice (commonly referred to as the Pygmy Mouse) are certainly the smallest of all Pygmy mice and possibly the smallest of all known rodents. In the wild they are found south of the Sahara, in Africa. They live in pairs or small colonies in grassy areas located close to rivers lakes and ponds and are commonly found in close proximity to cultivated areas. They are by no means a desert species.  


Being that they are social by nature, as long as they have been used to being interacted with by the breeder, African Pygmy mice make entertaining pets. However they are not really the type of pet you can hold. When startled they will bounce around and they can jump very high, considering their size. They make great pets for people who enjoy caring for animals but who are not necessarily looking for a pet to cuddle. They are extremely active and frighten easily. They are quite clean in the toilet habits and because of their diminutive size, they do not really have offensive odor.


In captivity and when cared for properly, the African Pygmy mouse has been known to live up to three years, but in most cases they live, one and two years. They are most active during the early part of the day and again early evening.  A full grown African Pygmy Mouse has a stunning brick red coat on top and a white belly. It is 5-7 cm long including tail, with their body measuring 2 -2 .5 cm long and their tail measuring an additional 1 -1.5 times the length of it’s’ body.  Usually the females grow slightly larger than the male but you would have to see them side by side to notice any difference.


African Pygmy mice should never be housed alone; they are very social and depend on one another for comfort and social interaction. Same sex pairs can be housed together when raised together from an early age. A 10-20 gallon aquarium with a tight fitting lid is suitable for housing African Pygmy Mice. I suggest no more that a pair or trio per ten gallon tank as they do need a lot of cage furnishing to keep them entertained and active. I do not recommend keeping them in small cages because they can fir through the wires on most small animal cages. Glass tanks or terrariums made to house retiles are the only way to go. For the floor substrate a number of adsorbent bedding products can be used. Pine or aspen shavings, a thick layer of good quality hay, corn cob or recycled paper all are convenient choices. Because I like to view these animals in a as natural a setting as possible, I use different types of mosses, branches rocks and plants that not only beautify their environment but  seems to keep them stimulated and entertained.

 “Half the fun in keeping any small exotic pet, is in keeping their environment new and exciting” 


Which ever way you choose to set up you tank be sure that it is escape proof and that you do provide them with a lot of climbing branches and a hideaway place where they can escape to, for sleeping and for raising a family and a lot of little things they can carry to block the entrance to their nest. They like to block the nest entrance using small pebbles and other little things they can find.


Water must be available at all times.  Comparatively to their size, they drink an enormous amount of water. Their diet is fairly simple, a good quality Finch, Canary and budgie seed mixed together along with spray millet and  a rodent block or two should be available at all times.  It is also, necessary to supplement their diet with animal protein.  To do this small insects or a bit of crushed cat food should be provided at least once of twice a week. If you do not provide animal protein it is a good possibility that they will start to become a bit cannibalistic and start nibbling on each others ears and tails. In addition to their dry food they do need small amounts of fresh greens and fruit on a regular basis but be sure to remove all of the left over wet foods before they start to spoil. As a treat, a few slightly larger seeds, like safflower, the odd sunflower seed, and a piece of hardened (well dried) bread should be offered on a regular basis.   As a way of providing extra protein, calcium and minerals I sprinkle a bit of Skim milk powder over their seed. 


African Pygmy mice become sexually mature at a very young age. If you don’t want to breed then it is better to house your pets in same sex groupings. A female is capable of breeding as early as 4-6 weeks of age and can produce a litter of 1-6 babies every 19-20 days.  This type of breeding should be avoided as it will significantly reduce the life expectancy of the breeding female.  After a 19-20 Gestation period the young are born naked, blind and helpless. They will start to grow hair around 7 days old and their eyes will start opening on the twelfth day. When the young are 16- 18 days old they start to leave the nest for short walks but will quickly return to the nest at the slightest noise/movement. To avoid future litters, the young should be separated by four weeks of age.


Inbreeding is to be avoided at all costs; it seems to have more of a negative impact on African Pygmy Mice than it does on some of the similar rodent species. It has been noted to cause bald spots, poor skin and coat condition, aggression and a number of less desirable traits.


In recent years there have been a few colour mutations reported but these colours have not yet been established in the North American Pet Market.

African pygmy mice are becoming increasingly rare in captivity. It is a shame really; they are not expensive to keep and they make such entertaining little pets. They range in price from about 30.00-50.00 per pair, depending on availability.

Pygmy mice are not much bigger than a nickel


They can easily sit atop a Dandelion Flower

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