How to Care for Baby Mice
How I Found Myself Taking Care of Three Blind Mice
I once worked for a great company called Novedge that sells computer graphic and CAD software online. One day my boss took our Italian intern and me to a secluded beach so that the intern could enjoy the Pacific ocean, and so I could have a break from work.
We had a great time frolicking around and investigating the beach. There was a lot to see and do. There were old sea shells to scrutinize (they were chiseled into the cliff in a cave), bristling cold water to run into and out of, the squawk of gulls overhead, the salty air and biting sand, beautiful views of ocean and clouds and sun, and, as the hours whiled away and we were leaving happy and exhausted.
There were three blind mice sprawled helplessly on the sand.
What Would We Do With the Mice?
The gulls threatened. The cold air was rushing in. There was no nest in sight. No mother, no food. These little guys were helpless on a vast beach, weary and cold, blind and vulnerable. If they did not become bird food, they would simply die from exposure. Where did they come from? The most we could tell was they might've fallen from holes in the cliff.
A soft spot in my heart tugged.
"Let's go," said the others. They wanted to leave and thought getting involved with helping the mice not worthy of much thought.
I made a sudden and decisive decision. "I'm taking these guys home," I said.
That decision having been made, I fit all three little guys into my coat pocket. They were small, and their eyes were sealed shut. They were babies.
My coworker and boss were surprised, to say the least, but they humored me. I had no idea what I was going to do or what I was getting myself into, but I had committed.
I wanted these little guys to have a better chance at life than certain destruction.
Research Is Important
As soon as I got home I did a Google cram session. What should I feed the mice? How should I care for them? Was this safe?
I worried about Hantavirus. I was worried they would die. I did the research and here is what I found out.
Precautions You Should Take and How to Feed Them
The mice I would now care for were baby mice. They were days old, and their eyes had yet to open. The risk of Hantavirus, a very dangerous virus that could be caught from wild mice was likely small because of my location, although I did not rule that out and took precautions by washing my hands after handling them and avoiding getting them or my hands while handling them near my face.
The best thing to feed them at this early stage, I found out, is human baby soy formula. This formula is closest to the correct balance of protein and other nutrients that their bodies need.
At first, I fed them using an eye dropper. The drops of formula were too big for their little mouths, and they would sneeze and cough when the liquid went down the wrong pipe. So I would dribble a little pool of formula on my hand, and they would lap it up. This was a little messy, but it worked. I worried they were not getting enough formula this way. I invested in some pipettes, which are very small plastic tubes with bubbles at the end. You can draw up a little bit of liquid and then dribble it in tiny droplets. This worked a little better for getting the mice more quantity of formula, although I had to be very careful with one of them because even the tiny pipette tube was too big!
That first night I had to wake up every two hours to feed the mice. Being very passionate about saving them, I didn't mind. It encouraged me that soon after they had the formula, they became much more active. At the first feedings, the way they went after the formula made me happy that I had rescued them, instead of leaving their survival to the harsh circumstances of the beach where I'd found them.
For quite a few days I fed them every few hours. They got plumper and more active. They looked like healthy blind mice. Before I knew it, I was able to resume a regular sleep schedule. Overall, the time that the interruption in my sleep cycle lasted was so short, I hardly remember it now.
Give the Mice a Temporary Home and Later, a Habitat
When I first got the mice, I simply put them in a shoe box. It was all I could find. I included some tissue paper to keep them warm.
I got all into taking care of them though. That's my nature. I went to the pet store and invested in a carrying cage for them that was clear plastic with ventilation on top. I soon invested in a 10-gallon mouse aquarium, which included a vented top and a water bottle. I bought soft hamster padding for them and some toys and a wooden bedding which acted as a little nest for them.
Later I would learn not to purchase that type of wooden nest. There could be mice mites in the wood, and that's what happened. Luckily these mites do not transfer to humans, but they cause the mice hell. My mice hid from me and scratched so much their fur was missing in spots. I became very concerned and researched what I could do to help the mice.
I got rid of the wooden nest and instead bought a little plastic home for them. I treated them all every day with a mite killer that was made for dogs and cats until the mice stopped scratching themselves. I couldn't find a mite killer for rats or mice, but the dog/cat mite killer worked. I had to put a bit on my finger and rub it into their fur. I worried because they would start to lick it off, but it was the best I could do to kill those mites. I also cleaned out their cage bedding regularly and disinfected their cage with a mixture of mostly water and bleach. Soon the mite problem was a thing of the past.
Another thing I invested in were mouse wheels. The mice loved them. Wild mice run around 7 miles or so every day so not purchasing a little mouse wheel for them would have been a bit cruel in my mind. Since I had three mice, I bought two mouse wheels for them to share. I also put items for the mice to climb up in their cage and empty toilet paper rolls for the mice to crawl into and through.
Because mice need to chew to keep their teeth in good shape, I included little wood blocks that I purchased at the pet store. These might have been treated with something, I think, and didn't pose the threat of harboring any mice mites breeding in them. As the mice grew and were able to eat real food, I also included carrots in their food bowl so they could nibble on those too.
What Did I Feed the Mice as They Got Older?
Once the mice's eyes opened and they were able to eat regular mouse food, I decided to go the healthy route with them. During the transition period, I made sure the human baby soy formula was also available to them, but I provided what became their regular diet. I fed them vegetables, fruits, seeds, and greens in a little bowl in their mouse aquarium. I tried to keep their diet varied and included such things as (uncooked) kale, carrots, broccoli, cauliflower, chickpeas, apples, corn, (raw uncooked) sweet potato, (cooked) brown rice, sunflower seeds, and a bird seed mix. There is rodent food you can purchase at pet stores, but I didn't bother as I'd read it's better for them to eat fresh real food. Since I am a vegan and eat a lot of fresh veggies, grains, and starches myself, it was easy for me to share my food with the mice.
The Mice Grow Bigger
My mice were a pleasure to watch. I delighted in them. Let me tell you, if you haven't seen a baby mouse yawn, you haven't lived. I found them more entertaining than television. I enjoyed caring for them and learned as much as I could during my time with them. However, even though I loved the mice I cared for, I am not sure I would call them ideal pets. For one thing, they require a lot of care, as I've described above. They are also small, so you must take a lot of precautions, or you may end up with a lost mouse in your house which could end up meaning a mouse problem! One or two mice in a cage are fine, but I'm sure you don't want your home run over with mice.
That was the other problem which led to some changes in the little mice arrangement I had going.
I had three blind baby mice to start with, and I named them Gray Guy, Thimble, and Minnette. Gray Guy was the "alpha" male—larger than Thimble (the other male) and of a gregarious, spirited nature. Thimble was slender and more of a regular mouse guy. Minnette was her own joyful personality, as feisty and strong-willed as a little female mouse is want to be. Yes, all three little mice had their own separate personalities, and that made caring for them an enjoyable experience.
However, there came the day—I knew it would happen—when the "birds and the bees" came to visit my mice. They were still so young, but I saw it happen ~ Gray Guy attempted to mount Minnette!
Oh dear. Taking care of three mice was an exhilarating experience, a labor of love. But there was no way I was going to take to care of more than three.
A Short Few Weeks Later
No sooner had I gotten used to the mice's nocturnal hours, running on their little wheels and galavanting about their aquarium, and the endless cleaning regime, than I knew I had to do something quick before I ended up with a little pregnant Minnette mouse. I quickly purchased another whole mouse aquarium for Minnette alone, and separated her from the boy mice. I included all these attractive mice toys and tried to make the habitat as lovely for her as her first home.
But I quickly saw something was wrong. Minnette hated me. She hid in her little plastic home and actually hissed at me! She didn't like being alone. After some quick research, I realized the problem. Mice are social creatures and used to living with other mice. They develop little mice relationships that are just as dear to their little hearts as my friendships and loves are to me. Just as it would be cruel to force another person to live in isolation, it was cruel of me to put an end to Minnette's natural inclinations. I felt very bad for interrupting Minnette's social life and soon also realized, sadly, that introducing a little "domestic" female friend mouse from the pet store to stay with her would not be the best idea either. Just as cats from different litters can live in the same home but never become friendly, so to with mice.
This, along with all the work required to care for the mice—the regular cage cleanings, the worry about mice mites and Hantavirus, the feeling that these wild mice deserved to explore the wider world—led me to the decision to release them into the wild.
As they did not have a mouse mother to help them learn the ropes I felt badly about releasing them, but I also felt it would be unfair to them to keep them caged. It was a decision I struggled with but which I finally decided would be the best thing for them and for me. They required so much work to take care of, and I was still worried about Hantavirus. It is too bad there is such a thing as Hantavirus. I am lucky I never got sick because of the mice. To this day I cannot be sure that they did not have it because of my location out of the Hantavirus hotspots or if I was just lucky. I think if I lived in an area where Hantavirus is more common in wild mice, I wouldn't risk taking care of them in the way that I did.
I took them to the wild section of a park nearby and spread all the birdseed and food around quite an area. I tipped over the cage to release Minnette first. She ran away with a skip in her step! Good riddance to me I guess. Thimble and Gray Guy were scared. I coaxed them out and eventually, Thimble began exploring. Gray Guy was in so many ways terrified. I expected him to be the brave one. I had not played much with these mice in my hands out of fear for the Hantavirus. I pet him with a finger and we crouched looking at each other. It really broke my heart to do this to him, but I didn't want him to lead a life alone in a cage and never have the opportunity to mate or explore the world. For a very long time we were frozen and then I stood and went away. I came back to check later and all the mice were gone. It made me cry but I felt I did the best thing.
I am glad I saved the mice. I learned a lot. I think the thing that stays with me the most is how much life there was in them, despite their small size. They did so many cute and adorable things that it made me appreciate how precious life is. Even a tiny little creature wants to clean its face, curl up to sleep, or play with others. Taking care of the little mice was a wondrous experience.
This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. It is not meant to substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, or formal and individualized advice from a veterinary medical professional. Animals exhibiting signs and symptoms of distress should be seen by a veterinarian immediately.
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© 2012 carozy