QUESTION: Last night, my mouse gave birth to 5 pinkies. Today I went in a few times to feed them and check on them but when I was doing that, I noticed that the mother was moving the babies out of the nest and handling them to what I asse to be roughly. She lives currently with another female and I got these mice from school for a project so I don't know much about them. I'm hoping to know what the mother mouse is doing and what I should do. Please help ASAP! I'm very worried.
ANSWER: Hi Erin,
I am not sure I understand - are they back in the nest now? It's best to bother momma as little as possible while she's focusing on her new pups, just make sure there is always food in the cage and plenty of water available at all times. Mommas carry their babies by the backs of their necks when they move them. This usually does not hurt the pups, but if she is trying to hurt them you will see blood and the pups will be in obvious pain.
Sometimes mommas have litters that are too big for them to comfortably feed, and they will move the pups around as they feed some, then feed others. They may also want to adjust the nest a little bit and then bring everyone back in. Afterward, all the pups should be back in the nest with momma.
Some other mommas have pups with physical problems that may not survive, or simply too many, and will throw some out of the nest for good. A pup that is out of the nest for over an hour with no attention is in danger of freezing or starving. That is an emergency and you may need to raise those pups by hand, or find someone who can help you do so right away.
Finally, some mommas do not know how to take care of their pups, or something may be wrong with them and they decide to abandon or kill them. If she is handling them roughly enough to draw blood it is a big emergency, and if an injured pup has any chance of survival you will need to get it medical help immediately. If there is an exotic vet or a vet who works with pocket pets in your area, a wildlife rehabilitator who works with small mammals, or an animal rescue that works with exotics, you should phone them as soon as you see an injured pup and get hands on help right away.
If the pups are not hurt, just being moved around, we would want to interfere as little as possible. Most mommas know what they are doing! So in the end, the signs to look for that tell you it's time to get immediate help from a professional are:
-pups who have been left out of the nest for over an hour (put a heating pad on its lowest setting underneath that half of the cage and call for help before removing him)
-pups who have been injured by mom and are bleeding or that you think may be attacked (remove the pup immediately, place it in its own enclosure and that enclosure on a heating pad on its lowest setting, then call for help)
These are worst case scenarios, and I hope it's just a matter of momma cycling through her pups as they nurse! That would be totally normal and nothing to worry about, as long as she is paying attention to and feeding all of them. However, in case you need it, this link is a wonderful resource on handraising orphaned mice and rats, so you can be prepared JUST IN CASE:
Best of luck, and congratulations on your new litter!
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QUESTION: She left the babies out and they passed away :(. But I just checked on her and she seemed to be carrying the dead bodies back to the nest and sitting on them like they're still alive. What does this mean?
ANSWER: She may be confused. Sometimes first-time mommas don't really understand what is happening when they have their litter. If you are SURE they are dead (cold, stiff) you can remove them and dispose of them. Please be careful!! Live pups can still stay very still and look dead but really just be waiting for momma to come back. Unless you are POSITIVE they are definitely deceased do not remove them from the cage! Additionally, only remove confirmed deceased pups from the nest if momma is not with them - it will stress her out a great deal otherwise and could endanger any remaining pups.
Are there any survivors in her nest?
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QUESTION: All the babies were dead this morning other than one. It looked like it was dying so I removed it and put it with some warmth since it was turning a blue-ish color. It died in my hands. I triple checked all the babies before burying them. They were all a blue/gray color and stiff and didn't respond to be gently touched, liquid on their mouths, nor warmth. Honestly, after this experience, I never want mice again. That was probably the saddest thing I've ever experienced. Thank you for trying to help, but unfortunately, I wasn't good or fast enough to save the babies.
I'm so sorry to hear that, Erin. It's always hard to lose a pet, let alone a whole litter of them. I hope in the future you have a better experience, should you decide to own mice again, and I hope your momma mouse is doing well. She may need your help grieving, so be sure to give her a little extra love in the coming days.
Baby mice are very sensitive, and a lot can go wrong, including genetic problems that she may have known about that you couldn't have predicted. This wasn't your fault, or even hers. It's always good to have an emergency phone number on hand just in case, especially if a litter is expected.
Again, I am so sorry for your loss.