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Your Questions: Are wheels dangerous for pet mice?

Q. I've recently bought a new pet mouse. He is lovely and enjoys running around in his cage. When a friend came to visit she told me that his wheel is dangerous. Is this true and if so how else can I give him exercise? Benjamin, via e-mail

A. There is much controversy about the dangers of exercise wheels and pocket pets. There used to be a theory that the wire wheels were very harmful, which I think is true, the reason being that some horrific injuries can be caused by these cage toys. The most common injury which these tiny rodents tend to suffer from is having their tail caught in the wheel – sometimes they even lose it completely.

Now, some owners are reporting that the plastic wheels can be a cause for concern as well. Some of them have found their furry pet trapped between the plastic and the cage, or squashed underneath it. And yet, pet shops will automatically recommend the wheel.

My suggestion is to go online. There are a whole host of mice toys available on the internet and you might even want to consider investing in one of the large, specialised cages, which are full of tubes and tunnels and different levels to keep your mouse occupied. You've got your pet as a companion – so enjoy him.

If you don't want to spend money, you could build him a safe exercise area. Mice are not very good at climbing up vertical plastic surfaces so if you get a large box and fill it with old newspaper, toilet rolls and plastic piping, you will have made him a fun playing area that he can enjoy for hours.

But beware. Do not leave him unsupervised for too long because you never know ... he might be able to chew through the plastic.

Remember that if an animal shows signs of distress or discomfort an early visit to the vet is always recommended