Mice/Pregnant mouse and babies - how to
QUESTION: I want to visit my family in another state for the winter holiday (about 2 weeks) and had a dorm mate take care of my mice. When I returned they seem to be a afraid of me and hide when I try to feed to pet them. If I take them out, they just shake like crazy. Do you know how I get them to not be afraid of me again?
ANSWER: Dear Dash,
That doesn't sound right. I am wondering if something may have happened to them. Mice are pretty psychologically delicate. I have never had a mouse act scared when I hadn't seen it in a long time. In fact, the last time I was away for 5 weeks, when I got home the rabbit, the rats, and the dwarf rats ignored me when I said "I'm back!" but the mice came out to say hello. And they had probably only been handled once or twice-- though they were in a familiar setting.
In any case, it is time to make friends as though they were not tame and didn't know you. There is nothing you can do to help them to remember you other than talking to them, if they are scared of being handled. You start by putting your hand in the cage when the mice are awake and leaving it there, which will eventually make them want to sniff it. Then you put a very tantalizing treat on your fingers and wait till they are bold enough to check it out. And go from there, with the treat farther on your palm so they have to walk on you. When you do take them out, if they are too scared when you use your hands, use a toilet paper roll which you can encourage them to go into, then put your two hands over the two sides and pick it up. Once you have them out, a way to get them comfortable with your smell is to fold up the bottom of your Tshirt as you lie on the bed, with them in it, and gently keep them in it till they relax. Then lots of quiet talking and kissing if they stay calm.
I don't know of it will help you to know what happened, but you might as well ask.
I hope they calm down quickly. It must be hard to have them scared of you when they used to love you.
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QUESTION: Okay I think I might know what happened. The larger one Heisenberg who I had longer seems to be the one that is afraid of me. I had that one longer and I believe its about a week or so older than the smaller one Pinkman and still looks larger. I had both of them for about a month now, and took a two week winter break so they were in the care of someone else. The place I got them at sold them as breeders, I asked for females but they only sold males they told me, so I assumed both were male and I even tried sexing them to make sure. Now that they are both older I can clearly see that Heisenberg has nipples, so she has to be a female. When I got back 10 days ago and Heisenberg was afraid of me, after finding out she was female I thought she might be pregnant so I removed Pinkman and put him in a cage close by so they can talk, since they appear very close. Yet it has been a month since I got the two of them, and she still doesn't appear to be pregnant, maybe she ate them, or might she have babies soon? Even still she is still afraid. So I am wondering if that could factor in to why she is afraid.
ANSWER: Dear Dash,
Does she look fat? The latest she would have babies would be just over three weeks after you separated them. It would be unusual for them not to mate given the time they were together, once they reached six weeks of age. And certainly pregnant mice can get bitchy. They have the same confused hormones as people do; you never know what they are going to feel like.
Another question is, is she nesting? Give her lots of materials (even Kleenex) to tear up to make a nest with. And give her some extra protein, such as scrambled eggs or nuts (no raw peanuts).
The fact that her nipples are now easy to see is also pretty likely to mean she is pregnant.
Once she begins to look quite round, clean the cage for the last time until the babies are a week old. You will be able to switch out litter in the corners of the cage if it gets smelly. When the babies are born you will hear tiny squeaky sounds. Then you should leave them alone for a week. Once they have developed a little fur at a week, you can pick them up. Always take mom out of the cage first, and put her someplace safe, until the babies are back in the nest.
Take them all out together and keep them together except for picking up one pup at a time and handling it for a few minutes. As they get older, you can handle them for longer. It is best to do this twice a day. At two weeks their eyes will open and within a day or so they will enter the "flea stage " or "popcorn phase." They weigh nothing and their legs are strong, and they can jump two feet into the air. The way you will handle them if they are jumpy, is to hold the base of their tails by their rumps with your left thumb and forefinger, and cup them in your closed right hand, with the pup on your palm. You can slowly open your hand and handle the mouse. But as long as it is jumpy, hang onto the base of that tail! It is easier to do this in the bathroom, even in the bathtub, with towels blocking all holes and under the door. Your mice may or not be this crazy; you should just be prepared.
Separate the sexes at 4 weeks, just in case. Sometimes they can mate at 4-1/2 weeks. Start finding homes for the males as soon as you are sure she is pregnant. Males often have to live alone, and the pet store attendant should have told you that. Pet stores are unfortunately a terrible source of useful or correct information. Get yourself a mouse care book, which can help answer some of your questions.
Let me know if you have any other questions.
Squeaks n giggles,
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QUESTION: Thanks for the quick response. The thing is she doesn't look fat at all, and just hides in the corner or under the bedding most of the time. Sometimes she shakes if I open the cage and will sometimes bite if I put my fingers close. Does doesn't appear round, yet she has been with the male for almost 3 weeks together, so I assume they should have mated around that time. Perhaps she did have babies but ate them before I saw them. Right now I am feeding her more protein just in case and adding extra nesting material in her cage. She has been building nest a lot lately, but if I put any things with my scent in her cage for her nest (like a piece of clothing or sock) she will push them away.
They may have been too young to mate when you got them. Males are often only ready to mate at six weeks. She is in heat every 3-5 days, so let's say she wasn't in heat until he was almost seven weeks. Then give him a little time to be clumsy! Although boys can rarely be virile and get it "right" at 4-1/2 weeks, it can also take longer. You won't be absolutely sure until they have been separated for three weeks- since if she only has a few babies, she may not show much.
The nesting is certainly a sign.
Squeaks n giggles