Mice Housing & Handling

Evidence-based refinements for mice.

As laboratory animals spend the large majority of their lives in their home enclosure, the design of this area is critical for their health and welfare. Substandard housing can lead to aggression, stereotypes, and anxiety. The best housing should promote key species-specific natural behavior and allow animal choice.

Making changes to current housing standards can be challenging especially because of variations between cabin styles. Work from where you are at for continuous improvements. Also keep in mind that some of the recommendations below (e.g., providing running wheels to mice) can impact some specific experimental models.

Before implementing housing changes, be sure to consult the relevant scientific literature and consider the requirements of your scientific model. Each facility may require an individual approach to increasing housing standards. We recommend considering these implementation tips.

Key Natural Behaviors


  • Stable group housing
  • Water/food at one end
  • Nesting material – a minimum of 8 grams for 3-5 mice. (Transfer clean & dry nesting material during cage change.)
  • Aspen bedding is generally preferable compared to corn cob
  • Tubes & climbing structures
  • Avoid cages being in the direct path of ultrasound when possible (dripping taps, cart wheels, computers)
  • If using individually ventilated cages, monitor for anxiety/discomfort based on high air change rate
  • Running wheels
  • Gnawing sticks
  • Avoid bright light (mice prefer <65 lux) especially covering the top row of cages on a rack
  • Grid space, mouse lofts, or mezzanines
  • Tunnel handling or cupping: see our non-aversive handling page for more tips
  • Training mice to cooperate with procedures (see below)
  • To decrease aggressive interactions, use hiding devices, feed enrichment and nesting materials as enrichment

Training mice to cooperate with procedures

A group at RISE (Research Institutes of Sweden) have unique and effective methods for training mice to cooperate with procedures. Their team focuses on initial handling using gentle techniques and food reinforcements to cooperate with transport, blood sampling, and oral gavage with minimal or even no restraint.

Learn more about their techniques by viewing the video below and reading the blog post with further videos from 2019 NC3Rs IAT Symposium.

A group of researchers in Canada have developed a protocol to reduce stress in mice that combines tunnel handling and other techniques. See here to read more and watch the full video of the sample below.

If you know of other resources that you think should be featured on this page, please contact us at contactus@na3rsc.org.

See Next

How to Pick Up a Mouse:
Non-Aversive Handling