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The litter
The litter  
QUESTION: Hello Natasha! My name is Gabrielle and I have a few questions to ask if it's ok. Let me explain what's happening first. I work at a pet store in my area. We sell feeder mice, this is the first time working in an environment that I am required to care for many different kinds of animals. I have had several animals in my lifetime and am equipped with a fairly large arsenal of basic animal care knowledge. With that being said, when the feeder mice randomly starting spouting out litters I was the first one in the store for the animal care associates to run to. So far around 200 babies were born, as soon as the mice came in they were sexed and separated. The mating must have taken place before they got to us. Needless to say we were over run with feeder mice and adopted a bunch out as pets to employees, friends and family. I myself took a very special Mother mouse and her 16 adopted babies (Mommy mouse had her ears bitten off by another mouse sadly, so now she has nubs on her head and resembles a tiny bear). I say Adopted babies because another female mouse gave birth to a litter of 15, she ate 3 babies and 2 died from not being fed. The mother never stayed still long enough to let the babies feed and neglected to even clean them up after birth. She never nested and pushed the babies into an area that she defecated in. We removed the living babies and tried to see if our Momma Bear would take them. She accepted them immediately, cleaned them and started nursing. We had a similar situation happened and Momma bear got 6 others from a different litter who survived the same situation with a different female mouse. Momma bear has had her adopted babies for about 3 weeks now. As the babies started developing, we immediately noticed issues. Here is what I need help with...The 10 babies from the first reject litter have developed hair on their heads, and paws but not on the rest of their bodies. I will be posting pictures as reference. Their skin is rough and wrinkled, it almost looks like they have too much skin. Before they developed hair on their heads and feet their skin was flaking and dry. They had scab like peices of dead skin on the bottoms of their feet as well. The 6 from the other litter have all of their hair, but it's growing in and looks greasy. I have bathed them all twice in warm water and dried them with a gentle soft cloth. The only thing I can think of, is that it is winter and the air is dry. When our appt is too cold I have a heating pad wrapped in a towel on the lowest setting underneath of their tank. The babies have the tank, then an inch of carefresh bedding, then a piece of my bandana underneath of them so their skin doesn't come in direct contact with the pad. So my question is, what am I doing wrong? Or is it even something I did, could the mothers milk be not enough? Before this litter she had her own litter of 10 that have all reached full maturity by now. She was the only mouse to accept these babies so we let her. It's better then starvation or being eaten, at least we thought. I think it best to mention that a baby died last night which was unsettling as well. We have never had a baby die at this stage. His head appeared to be blueish, and he was gasping for air and twitching. I rubbed his and tried to blow air gently into his mouth. I even isolated him and Momma bear. She cleaned him and even tried to attach him to her nipple to feed, but he died with her. She mourned him, she buried the body in the bedding and was noticeably depressed. She is a good mom, I don't want her to lose these guys, she has been trying so hard.

ANSWER: Dear Gabrielle,

You have just found out firsthand the difference between mice bred to be pets and those bred to be feeders. Pet mice are bred for health, longevity, and parenting skills  as well as temperament and color. Feeder mice are bred to pump out as many feeder babies as possible. That being said, your supplier is horrible. If this is happening to such a high percentage of their stock, then there must be an awful lot of mice being born and suffering and not even making it to the feeder stage, not to mention the poor moms. Besides, the sexes should be separated to prevent pregnancy.

I have to say I hate the idea of feeder mice at all - and, since in the UK it is illegal to live feed, obviously any animal can learn to eat frozen; not only is it cruel to the mice to feed live, it is also quite dangerous for the snakes, etc, who can get bitten and die of the infection.  However, I am not going to be able to talk your pet store out of selling  live feeders, so let me just beg of your employers that they find a better supplier.  It is best to go with a supplier which breeds all their mice to be healthy, selling the same mice as feeders and as pets. It may seem mean to feed pretty, healthy, and tame mice to snakes- but for the mouse, it is just a little critter who wants as happy a life as possible; if it breaks your heart for one then it ought to break your heart for the other.

As for the poor, poor babies, there is one possibility for the half bald ones. Maybe they are a variety called patchwork, where the fur comes and goes in various places on their bodies. Let's hope so. Patchwork mice are actually pretty special.

Please make sure NONE of these mice or their babies are ever bred again, even if you have patchworks. It can only cause pain and suffering. Please try to get your employers to change breeders. The one you have is extremely unethical.

And give Mama Bear lots of love. What a little trouper. I am glad you wrote. Maybe it will do some good, if your employers take me up on this suggestion.

Squeaks,

Natasha


---------- FOLLOW-UP ----------

A single baby mouse
A single baby mouse  
QUESTION: Thank you so much for such a quick response! None of these babies will ever be bred I can promise that :) I hope to adopt them out as pets to friends, I have two little girls from one of the first litters to spring up and they are socialized enough that they know the sound of my voice and can even do little tricks for treats! All the babies and mothers who I have taken into my care are socialized with several different friends and co-workers, so they get used to humans. The babies currently sleep on pieces of a bandana I used to wear to familiarize with my scent. I never meant to try and domesticate them, this situation just kind of fell into my lap.

I hate that my store sells feeders and we actually gave all the mothers and babies (in their own isolated tanks) to a local rat and mouse rescue. We currently have no live feeders in the store and are switching suppliers. We had offers from customers to buy the babies and mothers and food and turned every single one away. It is a cruel, cruel practice I whole heartedly agree! The snakes in the store for sale are trained to only eat frozen feeder mice. I have had first hand expeirence with a bloody altercation between a python and a live feeder *sigh* so I couldn't agree more. I am enclosing a picture of a single baby with the skin issue, to give you a better look.

I researched some pictures of Patchwork mice, and they definately have very similiar hair growth patterns. I hope they are special and not sick *crosses fingers*. These little babies may have been poorly bred, and dealt a bad hand but they are sweet and love people. So they hold so much potential for a better life then what could have been. I would just like to thank you for your help and compassion in the matter :) Mama bear is definately going to have a happy, healthy life as far as I am concerned. She is far too special and sweet to part with ^_^ From day one, she climbed right into our hands. It's like she knew we would save her :)

I want to keep them as healthy and happy as possible and all advice is appreciated. Right now I am feeding Mama bear fresh spinach and kale as well as some fruits and veggies. I am hoping this will help with her calcium level. I saw that I could also soak bread in milk and give it to her? I got powdered goats milk, as well as a tube of bene-bac and a syringe to feed the babies. Would this benefit them? I also wanted to ask if carefresh was a good option as far as bedding. I noticed when I put it in there can be some dust like fragments. Would you have any suggestions that might be better? Or is what I am using fine? I look forward to hearing back from you! Thanks again!

Answer
Hi,

Just thought I'd answer this super quick on my phone. The baby is cute anyway; I hope they are fine. Send me a photo when they are a little older! Carefresh and aspen bedding are the two most common litters for mice. Make sure your store does NOT sell cedar or pine for rodents! Also, since you all obviously care, do not sell "rat and mouse" seed mixes to rat owners at all. They are extremely inappropriate. A major pet peeve of mine. Literally!

For Mama Bear, the best thing to give her is scrambled egg, for protein. To supplement the babies, mix kitten formula half and half with pedialyte.

I think I answered everything...

Squeaks n giggles,

Natasha

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Natasha

Expertise

I can answer questions about raising mice and caring for them as pets, with knowledge from my 38 years of having fancy mice as pets. I have NO MEDICAL TRAINING and you should take a sick mouse to the vet; but if you simply can't, I will try to help you. I LOVE PHOTOS!!! I ALSO LOVE UPDATES! Let me know how the little tyke is doing later on, for better or worse, especially orphans. It also helps me to help the next person. Please first search first: use 'Natasha Mice Mouse' with whatever else your question includes. Or check out these links: **** YOUR FIRST MOUSE (my video; rough draft): http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RNK4uqNZTbA&feature=share **** TEN VIDEOS ON RAISING ORPHANS: http://www.youtube.com/user/CreekValleyCritters/videos?query=raising **** SEXING MICE: http://www.thefunmouse.com/info/sexing.cfm **** And some GREAT MOUSE INFO SITES: http://thefunmouse.com/info/index.cfm http://www.rmca.org/Resources/mousefaq.htm

Experience

I have had mice for 40 years (since I was 5!). I raised them when I was a child but now I keep all females, and never fewer than three so that if one dies the others are not devastated, because they have each other.

Organizations
I run Rats and Mice are Awesome on Facebook. The official name is Rats are Awesome.

Education/Credentials
B.A., M.A., M.A. in Linguistics: Yale University and University of Connecticut

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