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Mice can be excellent pets: they are intelligent, they can be affectionate and are highly sociable. Unfortunately, they also don't live very long. Because of this, they don't always make the best pets for young children who would have trouble understanding why their friend is gone so fast. While their lifespan is short, mice can live longer in captivity if you make an effort to keep them healthy.
The life expectancy of a pet mouse is 1 to 2 years old, according to the Sydney Exotics Rabbit Vets. This is shorter than the life expectancy of other small rodents, such as pet rats and hamsters -- both of which can live up to 3 years.
Wild mice live longer than pet mice, but not by much. That is, they live longer in captivity, because in the wild, their average life expectancy is barely 12 months. That's because predators, poisoning, lack of food and other dangers severely decrease their chances of making it. In captivity, wild mice can live up to 5 years.
Captive mice -- both pet mice and wild mice -- can develop a number of health conditions that will shorten their lifespans. Paying attention to their health is important, as is going to the vet as soon as you notice anything out of the ordinary, such as lack of activity, loss of appetite or weight loss. Common illnesses that affect mice include respiratory conditions, cancer, skin infections and malnutrition.
Stress can play a big part in how long a captive mouse lives. For example, a cage that has no hiding places will leave the mouse feeling exposed and can affect his sleeping patterns and increase his stress levels. The same is true if you have predators at home, such as cats or small hunting dogs -- especially if they spend lots of time watching the mouse or around the cage. Because mice are social animals, isolation can also play a part in their health, so consider getting two to share the cage -- just make sure they're of the same sex and preferably same litter, to avoid fights and reproduction.
- Fancy Mice: How Long Do Mice Live?
- American Fancy Rat and Mouse Association: The General Care of Pet Rats and Mice
- Sydney Exotic Rabbits Vet: Pet Mouse Care
- Burke's Backyard: Mice
- SmallAnimalChannel.com: Common Mouse Health Issues
- JSPCA: Hamster Fact Sheet
- RMCA Resources: Rats Life Span
- The Virtual Nature Trail at Penn State New Kensington: The Deer Mouse
- David De Lossy/Photodisc/Getty Images