Mice/New pet mouse scared, biting
QUESTION: I just bought a little female silky mouse, now at the pet store she was calm and would sit in your hand and the same way when we got home, but shortly after she was too terrified to even be touched. I don't want to frighten her what's the best way to get her used to being handled so she doesn't bite, she bit my finger when I reached to pet her (not hard) and attempted to bite it afterwards also. I don't want to just grab her and stress her out, plus now I am a little afraid to handle her. Why did she change so suddenly? Also I have heard putting my hand flat at the bottom of her cage works but I am afraid of being bit. Any suggestions would be great.
ANSWER: Dear Jessica,
Female mice have to live in groups of two or more. She is partially scared because she doesn't have any mouse friends to make her feel safe. That is the first part of your answer. Get her a couple of girlfriends.
Second, I have put together a list of steps to help to tame a scared or unsocialized mouse:
However, if you are afraid to put your hand near her you have to deal with that as well.
Question: When you say bite, do you mean nipping or breaking the skin? When it comes to nipping, the trick is in your attitude. Not towards her but towards being nipped. Think about it. Did it really hurt all that badly? It was the surprise, right? The fact that it could have hurt. And now the worst thing about it is the anticipation, the uncertainty. It makes you nervous.
But how much did it actually hurt? Compared to the small injuries that we get so often. Really not very much. And after all, you are in her territory. You are threatening her. She has the right to nip.
The secret is to expect it, even invite it. I had a nipper who would always come at me and nip my hand whenever I put it in the cage- picking up another mouse, putting the food dish in- and this is when I discovered this method. Every time I put my hand into the cage I gave her my finger. I was being polite. She would nip it and let me do my thing. She was letting me know who was boss in her house. Over time, she nipped less and less hard until I would offer her my finger and she would not nip at all. I had been a very polite visitor and finally I was completely welcome.
So if she nips once when you put your hand in the cage, you should be fine. If you are really nervous about your fingertips, you can offer her your knuckles. Once she has given you her territorial nip you can continue with the exercises at the link above.
But maybe she nips out of the cage as well? The worst thing you can do (besides never holding her) is to react in any way such as putting her down. Why? because you do not want her to learn that when she wants to get down, nipping is an effective method. If possible, you don't even want to flinch.
Last, if she is actually biting, drawing blood, you do have to protect yourself. A bite from any animal can get infected. But you do exactly the same thing except that you protect yourself. Thin gloves, Bandaids (if she always bites the same place), duct tape, all work well.
Let me know how it goes. Enjoy your new mice (best get two more) and good luck.
---------- FOLLOW-UP ----------
QUESTION: Thank you, we are going out TODAY to get her one of the little females she was with I just wish the pet owners had told me they need companions. Also another question, how long should I wait before trying to get her used to me, because like I said in the pet shop she didn't bite at all, or the first time I held her when we got home. And when she nipped I barely felt it and she didn't even leave a mark. She runs frantically from me if reach for her and cowers in a corner. Do you think adding her little companion will make her not nip? I know when I picked her up at the pet shop she ran but and didn't bite and I held her no biting, same last night I held her fine no biting. But after the first time holding her when I got home she just acted different. I also sent you a friends request on FaceBook so you can see her and maybe you can see her behavior better.
Give her a day with her new friend (when you put them together, put them in a clean cage with REAL vanilla dabbed on their rumps and necks) before you interact with her. Then just do the same with her. And take both out at the same time if you can get them out.
I accepted the friend request; thanks for telling me, since we have no contacts in common.
Best of luck,