A friend just got a pair of fancy mice for her children. They are trying to get the mice accustomed to the humans, and my friend said one mouse already bit her, "but it didn't hurt too much".

I've had mice before and know that they can bite strong enough to draw blood. I also have made the mistake of not teaching a cat to not bite humans when he was tiny and his bites were cute; we couldn't re-educate him as an adult. So, if mice have the ability to learn to not bite, I think it will be in my friend's interest to try to teach them. She told me she is not sure how she should react, but I didn't feel qualified to give advice.

Should my friend try to train them to not bite humans, or is this impossible with mice? If she can train them, what approach can work? If she can't train them, how should she behave? Ignore the bite? Put a distance between herself and the mouse?

She mentioned that the mice are already losing some of their anxiety towards the humans, and she thinks the bite was exploratory behavior, not defense.


2 Answers 2


Luckily it's incredibly easy to 'train' mice not to bite at hands. Although it's not so much of training as it is getting them comfortable with hands.

Small rodents like mice, gerbils, and hamsters, have it pretty rough at the pet store. Children will come into the store and immediately run to see the cute fluffy rodents, banging their hands against the glass. Not to mention all the awful tapping.

This is incredibly stressful on them, and they learn that it's the hands that are the cause of all their stress. So the last thing they want is one of the hands anywhere near them. A light nip is their way of saying "I don't really like this".

So how to fix it?

It's going to be tough on the kids, but the best way to dissociate hands with stressful feelings is to leave them alone for three to four days. The only things you're allowed to do during this time is give them new food and water, and clean their cage as necessary. Absolutely no trying to pick them up or pet them during this time. It's important that they're allowed to get used to their new home, the way it looks and smells, and to forget about their previous experiences with hands. It's easier to show them that hands are good things if you have a fresh start.

After this adjustment period, don't just jump in to grab the mice. The goal is to get them to want to spend time with you. Start by hand-feeding them. Offer them bits of food out of your hand, and little treats every so often (the little pink yogurt treats are a popular favorite I've found, just break them up as they're a bit big for mice).

Just hold the food out to them and wait for them to take it from you. It shouldn't take too long before they start to realize that your hand means food. Once they're comfortable eating out of your hand, you can start petting them as they're eating in your hand to get them used to that feeling. After that you should have no problem picking them up and holding them without having to worry about them nipping at you.


My rat Bella (2 months old) bit me before. I said EEK! when she did. Something with saying EEK! that will make them stop. But you have to do it more than once. I'm still teaching her not to bite. Every time they bite you say EEK! don't be quiet about it tho or they won't think much about it.

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