Genus: 9 genera of dormice
Species: 28 species
Dormice are common in Europe, some species also live in Asia and Africa. Only one species of dormouse is native to the British Isles, so in English language the word “dormouse” refers to this particular species.
Most species are arboreal. Some of them hardly ever go down. They build nests and make hollows in trees. But even terrestrial dormice don’t go far from trees and dig holes near the roots or under fallen stems. Garden dormice are considered to be a pest due to their love for various fruit trees.
Dormice, as the name suggests, look like mice. They have round ears and big eyes that give them cute look. They have very sharp claws that make them such good climbers. Some species lack a claw on one of the hind feet toe. If you take a dormouse, you will feel its rough feet soles. Their coat is long and soft, but not very fluffy; usually it is yellow-gray. Their tail can reach up to 17 cm. In winter dormice hibernate.
They have quite long life span compared to other rodents. In the wild they can live up to 5 years, and in captivity they seldom make it to 3 years old.
Dormice are very calm and easy to keep. You can keep several of them in one cage or pen.
It is recommended to keep dormice in a pen. Small cages don’t provide enough space for exercises and dormice tend to gain extra weight. It is recommended to create environment that reminds of their natural habitat. Put some sphagnum or turf on the bottom and place there thick branches, stubs, driftwood. You can also plant edible bushes, grass, oat and put there pots with gooseberry and currant.
The main thing you will have to take care of is to create a shelter where your dormice can hibernate in winter. A tube put in a hole and ending with a nest will do. For nest you can use a box with hay and dried grass inside.
If you keep a dormouse in a cage, the requirements to it are the same as for other rodents. You will need a tray, wood cuttings for bedding, food bowls, water bottle, toys. Also dormice need a nest. These small builders adore fidgeting with it. You can use a wooden box hung to the cage. It has to contain “construction materials”: hay, tree branches and other suitable plants.
Dormice mostly live on trees, so they eat whatever they can find on them: nuts, fruit, seeds, small insects. They also take birds’ nests in order to eat eggs. Terrestrial species like dandelion, clover and nettle. Also these small animals tend to eat other smaller rodents.
In captivity it is best to provide your dormouse with plant feed: grain, seeds, nuts and some fruit. Sometimes you can offer your pet a treat: some bread and carrots. But the dormouse’s menu has to contain some animal feed: boiled eggs, meat, milk and cottage cheese. However, for some species (African and garden dormice) animal feed should be the staple of the diet with some supplement of plant feed. These dormice eat eggs and small plants. Some owners breed mealworm for their pets. For vitamins you can add to the food some fish oil.
Dormice are agile, active and skittish animals. It can be very difficult to catch an escaped animal and get it back to the cage.
Dormice have quite strong specific smell, so you will have to clean the cage often. They do not make suitable pets for people suffering from allergic reactions.
Dormice require live feed.
They have fragile tails, so never try to grab your dormouse by the tail: they can drop it.
Under proper care dormice hardly ever get ill. They need warm draught-free environment.