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Question
Hi!
I just got two new pet mice, and am wanting to make them homemade food.

Here's my plan and questions:

1) I have Oxbow Essentials Adult Rat food. I think that's good as mouse food. Is it?
I'm planning on feeding them half rat food, and half this homemade food:
Feed raw and cooked grains, organic yogurt, organic peanut butter, organic meat,
high quality dog food and cat food, un-salted organic raw nuts (mostly cashews
and almonds), and any table scraps from our meals that I read is safe for mice.

The reason I want to feed half homemade food and half rat food is because I feel the
commercial rodent foods aren't very healthy (they have all non-organic and
some GMO ingredients, and unnatural vitamins; also they aren't much variety),
and yet if I feed only homemade food, the mice are getting high-quality fresh
food (and lots of variety) but probably not nutritionally "balanced" and complete
for mice.

So does my plan sound good for mice?

Answer
Hi Miriam,

Yes, Oxbow looks to me like a pretty decent rodent food.  I like that it has oats near the top of the ingredients, and I see no hazardous ingredients.  I also love that it doesn't prominently feature corn.  This is a good choice, in my opinion.

I will note however that it does have a lower than average protein content, so in addition to fresh fruits and veggies as treats, I would suggest incorporating treats with higher protein content.  Although too much protein is just as unhealthy as too little, a small bump in protein would be beneficial.

Let me first explain why I recommend commercial diets as the foundation for mouse food, and then I'll give some suggestions and links to help you with your homemade supplementation.  The reason I suggest commercial foods is because it is EXTREMELY difficult to strike a healthy balance of trace minerals, crude content, and vitamins which would be present in a wild mouse's diet.  Unless they're running around in your pantry or back yard, they're simply not going to be eating the same thing.  We can try and replicate this, but deficiencies can be serious, and so can overdoing it on vitamins or supplements.  The balance is so precarious and the consequences so serious, that it is nearly impossible to hit that perfect blend at home.  This is why you see "unnatural" ingredients in commercial feeds - they do a lot of tweaking to fine tune that balance.  Keep in mind that most of what they'd be eating in a backyard is also not organic.  Few things in an urban or suburban environment are untouched by chemical involvement, and while we want to provide the best nutrition possible to our mouse buddies, keep in mind that as you're seeing now, it's not always perfectly possible.  I know you came to this same conclusion, but I just wanted to stress how difficult it is to home-mix food for mice, and let you know to keep an eye on them for changes in weight, coat quality, behavior, and other health problems during their life so you can tweak their diet as you need to before potential problems may arise.  Of course, that's common sense for commercial diets, too.  :)

To address the supplemental list you provided:

-Raw and cooked grains are great!  The food you selected also has a number of whole or minimally processed grains incorporated, as well.
-Yogurt is also terrific, but can be high in sugar.  Feed as a treat only, would be my recommendation.
-Peanut butter is a choking hazard with small pets, so be sure when you provide it to spread it very thinly across a cracker or bread like pita.  This is a good high-protein option.  I'd also suggest trying an occasional mealworm or pet shop grown cricket.
-Organic meat is also great and a good protein source.  Because grocery stores will store meats differently, be sure to cook the meat.  I am not sure how this will affect nutritional content for them, but I personally do not recommend raw meats for rodents, with the exception of mealworms or crickets.
-This is going to sound counterintuitive, but for the dog and cat food, lower quality is actually better for mice.  In dogs and cats you want to limit grain content, because it is "filler," however with the exception of corn, grains are terrific for mice!  Higher meat pet food will have higher protein content, and like I mentioned before, protein can be overdone (may lead to obesity in excess, as well as overheating and a greasy coat).  I'd go for a low- or no-corn inexpensive variety.
-Nuts are very high in fat and protein, but don't do much else.  I would also suggest these as a treat only.
-Safe table scraps are excellent, once again, however, I'd suggest once or twice a week.

In the end I would suggest limiting high-protein supplements to 2-3 times a week, same with anything which is very high in sugar such as fruit or yogurt.  You might also consider cheerios, millet sprays, and the occasional pumpkin seed or two!  If I were you, I would keep the Oxbow available 24/7, and remove uneaten supplements from the other foods daily so they don't hide away food that rots later on.  It's my suspicion that they'll give the yummier treats preferential treatment as far as eats go, and get to the Oxbow when peckish later on in the day.  I think this will achieve what you're going for!

I also highly recommend everything on this thread for creating a perfect home-made food, as well as its comprehensive list of things mice love/dislike/shouldn't have:

http://www.fancymicebreeders.com/phpBB3/viewtopic.php?f=16&t=5

In fact, that whole section ("Nutrition") is extremely helpful!  Some of those folks know way more about mouse diets than I do, so I really do recommend checking it out.

All said and done, yes your plan sounds terrific!  I hope my insights help you fine tune a bit, and that you check out the link for more information on high quality homemade diets.

-Tam

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I can answer questions regarding mice as pets, mouse behavior, color and coat genetics, breeding techniques, and general health questions. I can help with caging and setup, nutrition, social issues, and what to do in most mouse emergencies (such as unplanned litters, injuries, fighting, etc.). I can also assist with questions pertaining to orphaned mouse pups, weaning litters, and questions of mating and birthing. I cannot answer questions about exotic or wild varieties of mice such as spiny or pygmy mice. *****FOR EMERGENCIES, anything requiring immediate medical intervention, PLEASE take your mouse to a professional veterinarian or wildlife rehabilitator who works with mice as soon as possible! IMPORTANT RESOURCES: Raising Orphaned Mice: http://www.rmca.org/Articles/orphans.htm Orphaned Mice Videos: http://www.youtube.com/user/CreekValleyCritters/videos?query=raising Natasha's Your First Mouse: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RNK4uqNZTbA&feature=share General Mouse Help: http://www.fancymice.info/ Mouse Info and Exotic Breeds: http://www.hiiret.fi/eng/species/

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I have enjoyed the companionship of mice nonstop since 2004, and spent a year caring for them in a lab where I learned a great deal about their breeding, social needs, and health. I spent a few years breeding them, specifically working with albinos, marked mice, angora mice, and satins. My education never stopped - I am learning something new every day from current and well-established research thanks to the wonderful folks at the Jackson Laboratory, as well as from my wonderful mousey friends online. I also love learning from my terrific questioners here on AllExperts - you folks keep my passion for these amazing animals alive and well!

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Partial University for a B.S. in Microbiology, Partial University for a 2-year degree in Veterinary Technology (RVT cert), C.E. classes in pathogens, aseptic technique, genetics, and applications

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