Environmental enrichment is how an animal’s environment can be changed for its benefit. Environmental enrichment can increase opportunities for natural behaviour such as foraging or digging.
There are five main types of enrichment:
Mice are social creatures and need the company of other mice. Mice kept on their own can become lonely and stressed, potentially leading to over-grooming or self-mutilation. Frequent contact with humans can also be enriching.
Types of groupings:
●Trio/group of female mice
●Neutered male with 2 or more female mice
●Trio of neutered male mice
Cognitive enrichment involves providing opportunities for mental or physical exercise. Mice and other animals are usually motivated to solve puzzles for a food reward.
Training can also provide enrichment for mice. Studies demonstrated that captive animals in barren environments that perform tricks can reduce abnormal behaviours. Wheels also provide a form of enrichment.
Home cages can provide enrichment by providing a varying environment and changing the layout frequently. This can be done by increasing the complexity of the enclosure, adding different levels, new toys, or different types of substrate. For example, adding dust-extracted hay or moss to the enclosure.
Sensory enrichment occurs through visual, auditory, olfactory, and gustatory (nutritional) stimuli. Constant background sound, such as music, has been shown to reduce stress. Classical and reggae music have both been shown to have calming effects on a range of animals. Interestingly, mice exposed to rainforest sounds lived longer.
Mice are dichromats, so only see blue and green light and don’t see red light. Studies have shown mice prefer the colour white. Human companions of mice must consider this when choosing enrichment for them.
In the wild, mice spend most of their time foraging for food. Foraging enrichment can improve an animal’s welfare as it stimulates natural behaviours and reduces boredom. Simply putting their food in a shuffle mat or scatter feeding is great and inexpensive enrichment. You can even make your own snuffle mat.
Another way of enriching their food is by offering them a diet that contains different tastes and textures.
Offering new treats in moderation can also be enriching. Some good treats to try are flax, sprays, malt paste, or dried banana. Providing different chew toys such as pine cones, cuttlefish bones, and apple sticks can also provide enrichment.
If you consider each of these five types of enrichment when setting up your mice enclosure, then you will be able to provide your pet mice with a highly enriching envionment, which is good for their welfare.