Mice/Clicker training mouse to do tricks
QUESTION: Hey Natasha,
I have 2 questions, firstly:
I sent you a question a couple of weeks ago, asking about my pet mouse Poppy (finally named her) being pregnant, and since then she's been getting bigger and bigger but she just won't have any babies, i highly doubt that she's fat, because she's in a cage with another mouse Smudge, and Smudge is quite small still. I'll try and attach a photo of Poppy and she's been that size for almost over half a week now. I'm so excited for the babies but she just won't have them.
In a seperate cage i have 2 other mice, Minnie and Whisper. Minnie ever since i got her has been sneezing. She still bruxes and trills, so she never grew out of that phase and it's so adorable, she's the only vocal one out of my 4 mice. But she's constantly sneezing. Whisper doesn't sneeze at all, and is still herself, not lethargic or anything, but Minnie sneezes every time she's awake, and it doesn't happen while she's sleeping. She hasn't had any red discharge around her eyes or nose, and she doesn't really make a clicking sound while she breaths other than the bruxing when she's happy and being pet. Do you think she could have a respiratory infection or an allergy to something? For the cage floor i have Hemp, which i bought and it is designed for rodents and for bedding i have shredded paper which i bought from the RSPCA. So i doubt she has an allergy to that. I can't really afford to take her to the vet because we just took our kitten to save her life and spent thousands of dollars on her, so i was wondering if there's anything i can do to help out Minnie without possibly going to the vet. I'll take her if you think it is necesary though.
Thanks, Claire (:
ANSWER: Dear Claire,
If you have had Poppy for less than 24 days (21 is normal) then she is about to give you a lovely large litter of babies. Cute fat pretty girl! When I was a kid there were no white mice with black eyes. The only white mice were albinos! I will not be surprised if there are no pure white pups. Genetically she has spots.
If it has been longer than that, then there are several possibilities. If she is definitely not just fat, it could be a late aborted pregnancy, in which case she will either absorb them or expel dead pups in some form; or it is a false pregnancy, which will end eventually on its own; or it is, rarely, an internal tumor. Since there would be nothing to do about a tumor, and they are rare, I wouldn't worry about it. Just give her time.
As for Minnie, she is likely sick, and maybe very sick. Even besides the sneezing, any noise she makes, besides bruxing, no matter how cute, is suspect. She should really go to the vet. I understand about vet bills-- we did not expect to pay $1500 to treat our rat for cancer recently either (but he is cured, so it was so worth it!). But because she might be quite sick, I would rather you bring her there than try to treat her at home. She may need to be treated with two kinds of antibiotics, both for myco (probably Baytril), and for a secondary infection (probably amoxicillin). I can send you to a pet store to get a weaker, OTC antibiotic formulated for fish, but as you can guess, the treatment is not nearly as good. Still, here are directions for that:
Go to the FISH section of a pet store, or an aquarium store, and get tetracycline, sometimes called Fish Cycline.
You are going to put some in her water bottle and try to get an initial dose inside her.
If you have the capsules, empty one capsule into a large water bottle or one half into a small one. Shake extremely well. If you have the powder, 1/4 flat teaspoon measure is the same as 1 capsule. If you have the tablets, completely crush them into fine powder with the back of a spoon and use as powder. This should be her only water source. It's fine for any other mice to drink the water too, unless they are pregnant or nursing, so it is good that you have two separate cages. Cover the water bottle with tin foil, because the medication is sensitive to light. They may chew on the tin foil, because some mice love it. Don't worry about that. It's great for their teeth! Clean the bottle and change the water every few days for 10-14 days.
Next, take another capsule worth and mix it with one drop of water. This will make a paste about the consistency of mustard. You have plenty to play with, so if the mixture is too watery, try again. Now pick up the mouse by the scruff of the neck. This is the skin just behind her head. This does not hurt her-- it's how her mama used to carry her-- but she will struggle valiantly. Holding her gently but firmly, quickly place a small amount, maybe 1/4 pea size, into her now open mouth. This is hard. Be careful of her nose! Wipe a bit more onto her whiskers and chin. She will ingest that when she washes herself. If you couldn't get any inside her at all, wipe some more on her head and sides. Put her back into her cage so she will wash herself. Keep any other mouse from washing her, if necessary removing the other mouse for an hour.
Again, if you can get her to a vet at all, please do. The vet will probably give her Baytril and possibly also amoxicillin. If you can get peanut butter flavored Baytril, she may lap it off of your finger; otherwise you are going to have to dose her twice a day for ten days. I actually recommend 14 days.
Although mice with untreated URIs (upper respiratory infections) can get sick and die quickly, antibiotic treatment is the miracle it seemed when penicillin was invented. It almost always cures them.
If, after you try antibiotics, she is still sneezing, the quickest way to test for allergies is to wash her cage with just water and put her on paper towels, with just oats or cooked brown rice to eat. If the sneezing stops, introduce each change to get her back to normal gradually, as in one change every two days, to see when she starts up again.
Best of luck to both of them!
---------- FOLLOW-UP ----------
QUESTION: Hey Natasha,
I love how fast you reply, it's amazing. Thank you (:
I managed to convince mum to let me take Minnie to the vet and we are taking her this Saturday, and if Poppy hasn't had her babies by Saturday we are taking her too, but in a separate container to be extra careful.
I counted back the days, and I got Poppy on the 15th of October and today (the 8th) is the 24th day I have had her for. I'm hoping she's going to have a nice big litter (: Is there any way for me to know if she isn't going to have them or if it was a false pregnancy?
On a side note, I want to train my mice a bit, they're quite young so it shouldn't be too hard, and I bought a clicker but I'm waiting for it to come in the mail. I can't seem to find any information on how to use it, so I was wondering if you might be able to help me please? I've heard it's very effective.
Your message came in between my being in the other room and knowing I have one question to answer, and coming into this room ten yards away and seeing I have two : ). So I can be even quicker this time!
You won't know what is going to happen till it happens. A friend of mine recently told me she had a mouse go 28 days but that would be unbelievably rare. No one else I talked to has ever seen more than 24. Still, it is the unusual cases where people write to me, so it isn't that surprising if I get outliers. If you bring her to the vet, the vet can do an X ray and you will know exactly what is happening.
There is a very cute video on YouTube called something like "the world's smartest mouse" where a mouse was taught to run an obstacle course. I believe there is either a companion video that explains how the owner did it; or there is an explanation. I remember that they trained it backwards: trained him to do the last obstacle, then the second to last followed by the last, etc.
What you do with the clicker is you first teach the mouse that the clicker means a treat. Some mice are very food oriented, and they are the easiest to train. When you have them out, you give them something yummy and as soon as they take it or eat it (soy yogurt, butter, or a smear of PB on your finger work great; or a crumb of something yummy), you click the clicker. Some people actually prefer not to use their finger, because if they put the treat on the end of a stick it is far easier to give it to the mouse without the other kinds of interactions that a hand may lead to. In any case, once you have clicked a bunch of times while the mouse was eating, start clicking a brief time before you give them the food, so they wait for it. Only a split second at first. In a while, they will realize the click means they are *going to* get a treat if they wait a sec. You can make this pause longer until she will be able to respond to the click as a reward, because she knows she is about to get a treat.
Next you target the behavior you want. The mouse isn't going to simply do what you are hoping for, so you can give her the treat. You have to try to reward her when she comes close. Say, she turns the right direction. More and more you will teach her which behaviors are rewarded. The other way you can do it is by physically "shaping" the behavior. You or someone else puts her physically though the motion and then give her the click and the treat. You never, until much later, want to click without an almost immediate treat.
You can figure it out from there. But be forewarned- some mice just aren't motivated by food, and are thus difficult or impossible to train. Never starve her to make her want to eat the treat; but you can certainly give her just blocks or pellets in her cage and use yummies just for training.
Have fun, and if you train them, send me a video!
Squeaks n giggles,