Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Man or Mouse?



The family snake has not been eating again. He is the pet that the kids promised 'to take care of forever' that has basically become another responsibility for me.  Ball pythons, the most peaceful, gentle, and small of the python family make excellent pets. Cecil has a good disposition. Except for one fault, which is common to his breed: he is picky when it comes to food.

Many of the 'rat series' of blog posts were because the rats he didn't eat seemed lonely. I promised 'never to feed them to snake again', and they began to breed. It was wonderful seeing new life. And knowing that our snake liked mice and not rats, for rats are highly intelligent. When Mama Rat began to bite, she was adopted along with the rest of the litter to a rescue place instead of a pet store.

Well the mice had babies. These were the ones I had promised 'never to feed to snake' because they had been in with him too many times.  And just when I was starting to wonder when to wean, she had another litter. The pregnancies were 'back to back'.

I found an incredible resource in this website: http://www.thefunmouse.com/info/breeding2.cfm

Here are some interesting facts about the life cycle of mice that are vastly different from ours:

  • Mice wean at 28 days, although a second litter may be born at 20 days.
  • This last week is important because this is when mom 'socializes' the pups.
  • At 29 days, the mice are 'fertile' and you might have a population explosion on your hands.
  • The size of a litter can be anywhere from 9 to 25 pups.
  • Pups are sized as 'normal', 'runt' and 'peanut'. The 'peanut' will never make it to adulthood.
  • Mother mice 'cull' their babies as a survival instinct. She kills them with her teeth and you will find parts of them all over the cage, and hear the little ones scream as she 'culls' them.
  • She kills them if her 'mouse reasons' thinks they will not survive and does not wish them to suffer long term. (for example, if there are more pups than milk)
  • Father mouse can impregnate mom in less than one second.
  • A male mouse, if left in the cage at the time of birth, will take advantage of the 'post-partum estrus' and impregnate mom the minute the pups are born, leading to back-to-back pregancy.
  • Breeders say this is not good for mom's health or the pups.
  • Mother mice must be left alone with the newborns for 48 hours, so don't peek, or she will feel threatened and kill the entire litter.
  • Male mice cannot share a cage. They fight. To the death. It takes less than one second for a 'buck' to kill.
  • A newborn pup will have a heart rate in the 200's.
  • An adult mouse will have a heart rate in the 600's and a respiratory rate of 200 breaths per minute. (ed - human pulse is 70 and respiratory rate 20)
  • Mice are picked up by the base of the tail. If a mouse is holding on, it has a good grip. Don't pull hard because then the skin will come off the tail. 
  • Pet shop mice are not to be bred in captivity because a good breeder starts with 'good stock' and breeds for 'temperament' as well as 'attractiveness'.
  • Contrary to popular belief, 'bucks' are good parents. I watched him help with the litter. The 'bucks' are actually MORE attentive than a female 'nanny' mouse.
  • This is only if the pups are 'his'. Bucks have a little 'clock' in their head, and 'know' when conception was, and if the 'kid is not my son'. 
I felt so guilty! I had no idea any of this was possible. I enjoy taking care of animals, and I was surprised at how little I knew about mice!

Conversely, if you have an infestation in the home, better act on it quick. If those 25 babies hit day 29 of life, 20 days later your house will be overrun with mice!

The lifespan of a mouse is about six months, but in captivity a wild mouse can live about five years. A breeder mouse only two to three. That is the power of natural selection.

The 'buck' is out of the cage, before the second litter was born. Mom is busy 'hiding' the new ones and 'socializing' the older ones. Because they are poor candidates for adoption (not socialized and also pet shop stock) they will be given to my local pet shop. And I shall do this promptly with all of the other mice that Cecil does not eat.

I am so thankful for the lesson in joy and in humility I learned from this family of mice.

Namaste,

Reiki Doc

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