Please enjoy this information based on our experience.
History of Dormice at Millermeade Farms Critter Connection
- The African Pygmy Dormice (APD) were one of the very first exotics we began to breed here at Millermeade Farms in 1997.
- We found they were fairly easy to breed but rather difficult to determine their gender and even harder to hold onto.
- Our animal adventure began in our basement and I hate to think how many dormice zoomed up my arm and off my shoulder before I could catch them. It is a good thing that as I gained critter knowledge I also gained a greater speed in catching loose critters!
- n June 2001, a monkey pox outbreak triggered the CDC and FDA to put into place a ban and embargo on the importation of all African Rodents and a ban on all movement of six species of African Rodents including the dormice.
- No longer could any dormice be transported (unless to the veterinarian with permission) much less sold, traded, or given away. In the beginning no one knew how long the embargo would be in place.
- Millermeade Farms had the privilege to work in cooperation with a world-renowned virologist at Saint Louis University who studied monkey pox. Our original colony ultimately went to Saint Louis University.
- Thanks to many years of research, the ban on dormice is now lifted and we can once again have dormice as pets.
Types of Dormice
- Dormice are part of the rodent family Gliridae and are related to other rats and mice.
- There are 9 recent genera and 20 species in the dormouse family.
- The fat or edible dormouse (Glis glis) is the largest dormouse species. In ancient Rome, dormice were a delicacy. They were raised in cages and fattened on a diet of chestnuts and acorns. The Glis glis is not commonly found in the exotic pet industry.
- The Graphiurus murinus species is the species most commonly kept as pets. The Woodland Dormouse, African Dormice, African Dwarf Dormouse, African Pygmy Dormice and the Micro Squirrel are all names for the species commonly kept as an exotic pet in the U.S.
Characteristics of the African Pygmy Dormice
- The APD have an approximately three-inch body and three-inch fluffy tail.
- Nocturnal in nature, dormice are most commonly active at dusk and dawn and can be heard making chirping, almost bird like sounds. We like to use a red light at night to watch their activity without disturbing their play.
- They are extremely quick and agile and are arboreal in nature.
- The life expectancy for dormice in captivity is four to six years.
Pros and Cons of Housing Dormice in Colonies
- APD are found in colonies in the wild and some dormouse enthusiast prefer to keep dormice in colonies of various sizes.
- Larger colonies are more interactive with each other and are often more vocal and are entertaining to watch.
- It is critical to have several hides in the enclosure for large colonies. The larger the colony the more hides are necessary. Spontaneous territory fighting can occur ranging from excessive vocalization to fighting to the point of severe injury or death.
- Breeding will naturally occur in a colony setting so one must be intentional in having a breeding plan that includes introducing new bloodlines and for selling excess offspring.
Cage and Equipment Requirements
- For starter cages I use a 10-gallon glass aquarium with a water bottle, water bottle hanger, bedding, a ceramic crock for food, and a tight-fitting lid. A tight-fitting lid is a must because dormice are escape artists.
- Accessories can include various types of hides for nest boxes including PVC tubes, toilet paper tubes, and various types wooden boxes.
- Hamster size wheels are a great addition to a dormouse cage.
- We like to move our dormice into larger cages such as we progress in the bonding process. A 20-gallon tank or larger or a screened cage work well after the bonding process has progressed to the point of easy handling.
- Screen cages designed for chameleons are ideal for allowing plenty of branches and other types of climbing accessories.
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- White pine shavings, corn cob bedding, aspen shavings, aspen pellets, or other commercial bedding is acceptable.
- Never use cedar shavings because the oils and dust from cedar can be harmful to small mammals.
- I feed my dormice a huge variety of food: including Happy Glider sugar glider diet, seeds and nuts, and fresh fruit.
- Many types of bird food and sunflower seeds are acceptable. I have found that the dormice tend to prefer the larger types of seeds such as sunflower and pumpkin but we also offer smaller seeds for finches as well.
- We suggest mixing a variety of quality hamster and bird foods that can be purchased at pet stores by the pound so you can buy small amounts of multiple types of seed mixes.
- Just about any type of fresh fruits are acceptable with the exception of citrus fruits. The acid in citrus fruits tends to make dormice urine more pungent.
- Treats can include meal worms or other insects, hard-boiled egg, scrambled egg, tuna, plain cooked chicken and canned cat food.
- Keep your dormice out of drafts and in a warm location (preferably 70° F and 80° F).
- If you want to discourage breeding, keep the dormice at a lower temperature (60° F to 70° F).
- It is very difficult to determine the sex of very young dormice, so you may be surprised that you have babies when the dormice reach maturity, or you may be disappointed that you do not have a breeding pair.
- If you have more than one dormouse it is very important that you provide many tubes, tunnels and/or places for them to hide. If they cannot get away from each other they may fight to the point of death.
- Dormice love to run in wheels, however if there are more than one dormouse in the same cage you may run the risk of one getting caught in the wheel while another one is running in it.
- Dormice are quick and agile are most active at dusk and dawn so often daytime handling is easier since they are less active.
- We start with gently petting the dormice in their nest box several times throughout the day.
- As the dormice warm up to touch practice picking them up in the cage and as they warm up to more and more handling you can spend longer and longer amounts of time with them outside of the cage.
- Bonding products designed for sugar gliders work well for dormice.