African Pygmy Dormice, also known as microsquirrels are fascinating and beautiful animals to own. They are best obtained from a private breeder, who should be able to give you advice on care, habitat and backup should you need to rehome your animals in the future.
They have long lives for a rodent, at around 4-6 years and take a relatively long time to reach sexual maturity. Unlike normal mice, it takes around 6 months before an African Pygmy Dormice can be reliably sexed and for this reason you'll find breeders selling them as unsexed young.
They need a large space to be fully display their abilities, as the microsquirrel label tells you, they are very agile and quick. They can make surprisingly long leaps and jumps, hang upside down to gnaw at wood and easily leap from a shoulder to the floor!
A minimum size for a same sex pair is a 45x45x45cm Exo-terra although ideally you'd have more. Arboreal space is much more important than horizontal, vivexotics do some good arboreal vivariums and these are often available secondhand. You can also spend a little more to get a vivarium custom made, such as the one I have for my main colony that fits neatly on top of a chest of drawers.
Your vivarirum should include a decent substrate, plenty of climbing material and nests. African Pygmy Dormice will need as many nests as you have animals. These can be hung from various branches, using a pet-safe rope such as sisal, fixed to the walls or just simply on the base of the vivarium. At least one must be placed high up, and they do seem to prefer ones with smaller exit holes. Bird boxes such as those for smaller birds like bluetits are ideal. My colony favour wicker and wood over plastic, although the latter is obviously easily to clean.
I prefer my setups to be as natural as possible, using plenty of branches, wood and vines. You can also using sisal rope, parrot toys and items like a wooden garden trellis, play-stix, ladders and ledges.
Diet needs some work, but isn't as complicated as it initially seems and once practiced, will only take a few minutes a night. Do not be fooled by sites that claim you can keep dormice just on gerbil or mouse food! Our responsibility as pet keepers is always to try to replicate the best parts of a wild environment, and with that as varied a diet as possible. Dormice need fresh fruit, nectar, insects and a seed mix. They should also have constant access to clean, fresh water.
They are social, so do much better in groups and should be kept in a minimum of a pair. They do not make a good pet if you got to bed early, typically they are out from around 10pm, with most actitivity at dusk and dawn.
They cannot easily be handled, since they are so quick although can be scooped up during the day whilst they are dopey in order to clean out their vivarium. This must be done with great care, as an escaped dormouse is not easy to capture.
Although they are certainly not pets to play and handle, they are so compelling to watch. They are beautiful, quick and lively and nothing beats watching them catching crickets at night or just racing round their vivarium in play! They make a wide variety of sounds, a lot of which could be mistaken for birds or insects.
They are not beginner pets, and certainly not for you if handling your animals is important to you, but if you would like something amazing, beautiful and interesting then you won't be disappointed with keeping these!
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