Monday, September 27, 2004

"All Creatures Great and SMALL..."

Someone loved a little one for a short while, but it was a good while, while it lasted...

Venturing out

The pups are at that fun age when their eyes have opened, their legs are beginning to work right (I meant to do that...!) and they're venturing outside the nest to investigate the entire home area in the 10-gallon acquarium Mom Puddin' and Aunty Belle and the pups all live in. We've seen some try the wheel, having to go halfway up the side before their little weight has affect and then it spins and they hang on for dear life. I get a big laugh out of it because they look like they're having the time of their life discovering all the neat stuff they can play on. Some are starting to nibble on grownup food, trying to find out what the deal is with this stuff Mom eats. We're starting to handle them more, and are beginning to know them as little individuals. Soon it will be time to name them. One name I will be handing out is Reepicheep, one of my all-time heros of literature, a very special mouse from C.S. Lewis' Chronicles of Narnia...

Friday, September 24, 2004

Mice Birth Control

I wrote to one of the scientists that originally developed the virus that was created to sterilize mice*...
From: Trish Lewis
Sent: Friday, 24 September 2004 13:00
To: Hinds, Lyn (CSE, Gungahlin)
Subject: Mouse Contraceptive

Dear Dr. Hinds:

I have read with interest about a 'contraceptive' virus in development for mice in Australia. It begs the question, however, that couldn't this lead to the extinction of mice?

Trish Lewis
Fargo, North Dakota (USA)

Subject: RE: Mouse Contraceptive
Date: Fri, 24 Sep 2004 14:18:31 +1000

Dear Trish

We are still in the process of developing this agent for the management of mouse plagues in Australia. However, even when we have done the research and have permission to use it in the field, we do not expect that it will be so successful that it will eradicate wild house mice here. What we want to achieve is a reduction in the impact of mice - that is, have the mouse population maintained at low numbers and certainly below a level where they are causing economic damage. The contraceptive is targeted only at the introduced house mouse, Mus domesticus, and not other Mus or other rodent species.


Dr Lyn A. Hinds
Tropical Landscapes Program
CSIRO Sustainable Sustainable Ecosystems
GPO Box 284
Canberra, ACT, 2601 AUSTRALIA
My second email to Dr. Hinds asked her for her opinion on the viability of a chemical/biological contraceptive for mice. Her answer is encouraging...

From: Trish Lewis
Sent: Friday, 24 September 2004 15:45
To: Hinds, Lyn (CSE, Gungahlin)
Subject: Possible applications

Dear Dr. Hinds:

Thank you for your reply. I have one final question...

I keep domestic mice as pets. Many pet mouse owners ask if there might be an effective mouse contraceptive developed someday so we would not have to house males separately from females. Normally that is not that big of an issue, but you might be surprised, also (maybe not) that we find that many pairs come to care for one another, get along well, and some males even make great parents to pups, but there's always that problem of another pregnancy. Neutering them is too costly for the average pet owner. An afforable chemical/biological means would be wonderful. Do you see that as a real possibility someday in the not-too-distance future? Thanks...

Trish Lewis
Fargo, North Dakota (USA)

Hello Trish

There are a few products being developed for long-term immunocontraception of cats and dogs which could have potential for use on smaller animals if the dose was worked out. There are already steroid implants available for dogs and cats, and gonadotrophin releasing hormone agonists (which affect the hypothalamus in the brain)
are being fine tuned.

So maybe in a few years time mice and rat owners will have a choice other than expensive surgery to control the fertility of their pets


Dr Lyn A. Hinds
Tropical Landscapes Program
CSIRO Sustainable Sustainable Ecosystems
GPO Box 284
Canberra, ACT, 2601 AUSTRALIA

* The method was developed in direct response to the need to control mice overpopulation in Australia. In recent years, the traditional 7 year cycle of 'mice plagues' has been lowered to every 2-3 years, having devastating effects on agriculture...

Thursday, September 23, 2004

Mouse Love

Puddin' had her second litter of pups almost two weeks ago now. The day she had them, it had been 3 weeks and 5 days since we figured she had been impregnated by Mabel. We were getting concerned since she was 'overdue'. I just learned today that, "Pregnancy lasts an average of 3 weeks but can be extended as much as 10 days longer if the pregnant female is suckling a previous litter." So it makes sense now - she was still nursing the first litter!

A member of a mouse list I belong to queried the group today about if mice purr. Another member answered, "Deer mice purr, or maybe more appropriately sing." Another member, commenting on the same thread, shared "I have read that Mice talk all the time but at a range that we can't hear. I've read there are incidents where Mice have learned something new in a laboratory in California; within hours the mice learned the same trick in China. Kind of makes you wonder about the 'Mice Drum'." Mouse Drum, eh? Makes you wonder about all that we're missing in the audio ranges we can't hear!

An unfortunate consequence of mice's extraordinary reproductive proficiency is that when you keep domesticated mice as pets, you must house males separately from females unless you want to spend a tidy sum neutering each male. To state the obvious, that is wouldn't be practical for most people, is to say the least. Many of us who own mice notice that there are deep bonds that form between pairs, and it's a shame to have to separate them, but a necessity nonetheless. We wonder, in this day and age, might not some entrepreneurial chemist come up with a mouse contraceptive that could be put in their water, or sprayed on food, or...? Not a priority with the pharmaceutical companies, I'm sure!*

Currently, there is a different angle to the 'mouse contraceptive problem' in development in Australia. The problem with that one is, if it's truly effective, it could spell extinction for mus musculus...

* But wait! There is hope...!

Sunday, September 19, 2004

Backup Mom

Mobbed Posted by Hello

Belle is mobbed by the wee ones. Belle is the backup Mommy to Puddin', the biological Mom. Belle and Puddin' have been cage mates for as long as I've known them, even in the pet shop. They get along well, with Puddin' normally the alpha female, but ever since she became a mother, she's mellowed and has welcomed the support of her friend Belle in nursing and caring for the pups. As any mother knows, it's great having a backup!

Wednesday, September 15, 2004

Geek Mice

I must have this!!

Sunday, September 12, 2004

NEW Baby Mice!

Yesterday, while we were gone shopping between 4-8pm, Puddin' had her second litter of pups [baby mice are called pups, we've learned...] This is also a back-to-back litter for her, since she just weaned her first litter; this is stressful on the mouse, as you can imagine. We were too slow on getting Daddy out of the cage the first time she dropped, and he took full advantage. We're learning fast that mice are almost always in heat, and can become pregnant virtually right after having a litter. Poor Puddin'. Mabel is not ashamed, despite me telling him he should have given her a break!! He's just doing what a boy mouse does.

We weren't sure if Puddin' was pregnant, fat, or ill. Christopher kept worrying it might be tumors. We did a little research and found that the most common tumors mice have don't usually manifest themselves in a manner that would be indicated by her weight gain. We palpated her tummy gently to see if we could detect the pups, but inexperienced as we are, we couldn't tell. I found out that some mice are genetically predisposed to obesity, and it can look much like we were seeing in her, on the bottom half of her body with the upper body thin. Well, it turned out it was babies, and there are now eight more little ones in the house, just like the first time! Both Puddin' and Belle are once again taking turns nursing and watching over the wee ones. They make a great team those two. That will help Puddin' not be so overburdened...

The older pups are now in their own cages. We were having a devil of a time sexing them, but thankfully, that became very apparent this week! Since there are new pups, we got the girls their own place, too. So now we have 4 mice cages/tanks, plus Agatha the budgie. It's getting to be a regular Dr. Doolittle around here!

I'm thinking if I can't find good homes for this litter, maybe I'll form a mouse circus. What a hoot that would be...!!

Friday, September 10, 2004

Mabel mouse

You may have heard that Mabel mouse, the super-duper alpha mouse of the family, the oh PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE pick me up and play with me mouse, is a little spoiled.

This may be true.

It began shortly after his littermate, Hanna, died. I was determined to spoil him rotten. Even after two more mice, females named Belle and Pudding, were brought in, I still focused my attention on Mabel. And then one day after picking him up and expecting him to do his usual fussing about, he just tucked in his paws and tail and sat in the palm of my hand, looking up at me with mousey goo-goo eyes. From then on I figured that we were buddies.

Mabel and I have a routine of sitting together in the morning, afternoon and evenings. I attend to his food needs, check to see if anything in his cage needs to be changed, and then I pick him up. Mabel will fuss a few seconds, especially if I have handled any of the other mice before him, checking out my fingers and sniffing up in my face or even touching his nose to mine if he his close enough. And then he will settle in, tucking his limbs in and letting his tail relax.

Originally when we did this he would more or less take a dump in my hand while sitting there and appear to think nothing off it. But, one time I found him trying to roll the dung off my hand with his nose. And there have been a few times when I noticed he does what I refer to as "projectile pooping." That is, he will literally set his back end off the edge of my hand and then with a quick twitch send it flying. Now I have noticed is he "really has to go" he will get all twitchy, even chirping at me, as if it were a warning. That I when put him back in his cage so he can do his duty.

Alas, the girl mouse who turned out to be a boy has had a good life so far.

Bachelor Pad

Tonight we separated the boy mice from the girl mice, from the August 15th litter, and put them in a new cage. When you can see prominent little testicles, smell them laying down territory, and see them harrassing the girls around the cage, it's time. They are only 3.5 weeks old, but the little buggers are teenagers already. Hormones are rushing through their bodies and they'll be no stopping their instincts soon. Time to nip it in the bud!

To figure things out, we had to (once again) sex the mice. Thank heavens it's gotten a bit more obvious this week. Still, there were a couple of sneaky boys who had retracted their testicles within their bodies, but I quickly learned that if you held them by the base of the tail, picked them up, and held their little bums towards a warm light, they would come peaking out and viola, they confirmed themselves BOYS!

Now the question is, is Puddin' (one of the mothers) just getting really fat, really quick...or is she about to drop another litter? I think the latter. Mabel was a baaaad boy right after the first litter. I told him so tonight, and he just stared at me...!

Hannah mouse

Hannah was the mouse we got when we got Mabel. She was the smaller, meeker of the two. I noticed right away she seemed a bit on the frail side and needed to be prompted or encouraged to eat and drink. Mabel seemed to be taking care of her (even though later we found out Mabel was actually a boy) and would often groom her and huddle with her. I would often take Hannah out and hold her in the palm of my hand and talk to her while stroking her fur between her ears and over her shoulder and back.

As the week went on I begin to notice Hannah begin to falter. She would fall over when she would try to drink from the water bottle and became more and more disinterested in activity. Her fur was becoming more and more dry and un-kept looking and she was obviously becoming more and more lethargic. When she sat in my hand she would just cuddle inwardly, her eyes closed and slip off to sleep.

The morning Hannah died Trish woke me up to say there was something wrong with the mice. I looked in and found Mabel maniacally running around the cage while Hannah lay in the middle. Hannah's breathing was extremely labored and every few seconds she would have whole-body spasms. I held her in my hand, trying to hold back my own selfish sobbing and weeping while trying to get her to drink from a water bottle. Hannah eagerly lapped at the the water and appeared to come around, becoming alive and perking up a little as she tried to crawl around in my hand. I held her for a while and then put her back in the cage. Hannah crawled for a few inched, but then was seized by another whole-body spasm and fell over. I picked her up again, gently blowing on her face and rubbing her fur as I tried to get her to respond to any stimuli. Hannah's body convulsed one more time and then relaxed, her mouth dropping open and her limbs falling limp. I looked at Trish and said, "I think she is dead now."

Hannah had been around for only a week. It may be silly to be so attached to such a little thing, but, I most of the day when Hannah died I would find myself sobbing and to this day I still feel sad when I look at her pictures.

Mabel noticed Hannah was gone. The first time I took him out from the cage after Hanna died, Mabel chattered pathetically, looking all around my hand for some sign of her. Since then I take Mabel out at least twice a day, letting him sit in my hand as I gently stroke his fur and talk to him. In the beginning Mabel was not my favorite mouse, but, has become since Hannah's death one spoiled little rodent.


Mouse House - Pups taking a nap... Posted by Hello


We've been noticing how each little mouse has their own personality. Seriously! Some are outgoing, some are shy. Some are laid back, and others are skittish. Some are curious, where others could care less.

We were lucky with our first litter of pups. They were all born healthy and have all survived to week 3 and going strong. We have many types - body types, colors, and both genders.

So far, this is what we know:

"Scamp" - Grey long/curly hair (Male)
"Patootie" - Dark brown long/curly hair with white tipped tail (Male)
"Quimby" - Brindle colored (Female)
"Buttons" - Dark brown satin with black button eyes (Male)
"Curly" - Dark brown long/curly hair with all dark tail (Female)
"Ignatz"/"Pixie" & "Dixie" - Triplets, all cream/light tan short hairs (1 Male and 2 Females)

"Scamp" is a wheel maniac, for instance. He will run like a speed demon on that thing! He even runs and jumps onto it, grabbing the edge with his paws to get it going and then runs to the inside. He's sort of like a skateboarder mouse. He just loves that thing!

"Quimby" has proportionately lovely large ears, and is highly energetic, exploring all over. She's a hard one to catch to hold, but after you hold her in your hand for awhile, she'll calm down and let you gently pet her between her ears, just like her Daddy "Mabel", who she takes after in color as well as temperment.

Thursday, September 02, 2004

Tiny, but powerful

My mice have become very powerful in my life. I wake up to them, hear their squeaks as I go to bed, and have come to love the musky smell of their nests. You can easily spend hours watching their antics, and if you befriend a mouse, they are your friend for life. A very brief life, mind you, since they only live on average two years. But they are precious years that will change your life forever...