Lucy’s Diet

Our poor not so little Lucy mouse went to the vet, today.  For the past few weeks, she’s had some patchiness on her face from excessive scratching, and… excuse my graphic-ness… mushy, smelly poo.  She has been acting fine, eating and drinking as she should, and runs the wheel and saucer surprisingly fast for a large mouse.

Lucy at 10 weeks

Lucy at 10 weeks

Key word:  LARGE.

An average mouse weighs around 25 grams.  Lucy is 73 grams.

6 month old Lucy

6 month old Lucy

As soon as the vet saw her, she thought Lucy was pregnant.  She is big, but she is also fat.  Apparently, whatever breeding stock she comes from has a propensity for extra size.  We got Amelia from the same shop as Lucy, while all our normal-to-small size girls have come from a different shop.  Because of this genetic issue, Lucy’s eating habits need to be stricter.  Also, she probably has food allergy causing the digestive and itching issues.

We need to put our mouse on a diet.  Lucy will not be happy.

No more seeds, bits of bread or cracker, peanut butter, or any of the goodies that she enjoys.  We already limit her treats because we realise she is a big girl, but for the next couple of weeks it is ZERO goodies and a strict “essential block” eating plan.

Amelia Pond Mouse at 6 months old

Amelia Pond Mouse at 6 months old

Rule #1 of dieting:  NEVER, ever call it a diet.

It’ll be extra work to accomplish Lucy’s new eating plan.  Isolating her from the colony would not be emotionally healthy for her, so the only option to control her eating is providing only the essential blocks in the house, and taking Lucy out a couple of times a day to play while we put a dish of the mixed food in for the other girls.  (The girls come out for play almost every day, anyway, and on days I cannot bring them out of the house, we interact with them in the house.  She’ll just get a little extra play time.)  The goodies have to be removed before returning Lucy.  It is possible that the girls will hide seeds for later nibbling, and we’ll have to keep close watch for that.

Once the patchiness clears up we will know the allergy issue has subsided, and we can begin introducing fun foods back into Lucy’s diet, one a week, like you’d do with an infant.  If the issues start again, we’ll know which food is causing the problems.  We will still need to limit her treats.  The vet said that if she doesn’t lose weight in the next several weeks, that “their lives are so short, just let her enjoy herself”- as long as she is not in discomfort, of course.

Ruby accompanied Lucy to the vet for moral support and as a size comparison, Ruby being a normal size mouse.  They both did very well.  Our vet had mice when she was a kid, and enjoys small pets.  She’s been great with Amelia and Lucy, as well as our cats.  It was because of how good she was with Amelia that we chose her for the cats, too.  Not all vets know how to handle the “exotics”, especially mice, so we feel fortunate to have found Dr. Kelly.  She appreciates the personalities that even these tiny creatures, who most people think of as pests as opposed to pets, can have.  And our girls definitely have personality!

Dr. Kelly recommends Oxbow and Kaytee foods for mice and rats.  I had figured Kaytee out myself a few months ago.  I am a label reader, whether it be MY food or my pets’.  Kaytee’s Gourmet Fiesta Mix (there are a few different Fiesta mixes, but this link shows the one I use) had the better nutrition, and the mice like the ingredients- even the essential blocks.  However, I do not agree with Kaytee’s assessment of what is best for a pet mouse.

This article has a few flaws.  It may be what is generally thought a pet mouse requires, and the minimum of required care, but it is the BARE minimum and not truly conducive to a healthy, happy, sociable mouse.

"Normal" mouse cage

“Normal” mouse cage

A cage 12″x12″x6″?  What???  No way.  That’s too small even for 1 mouse!  Shocking to myself is the fact that I did not know this for my first 2 mice many years ago.  No, they aren’t picky about their habitat, but they do need more than the plastic igloo and wire mesh wheel that they get in a pet shop.  They need stimulation.  They need room to run.  Mice are intelligent creatures, and like any intelligent being, they need to keep their minds busy.

Normal cage above left; our habitat below right.  Now, which would YOU rather live in?

Ikea Hacked Mouse House #2

Ikea Hacked Mouse House #2

That is why our Ruby had such OCD when we got her.  She’d spent her first 4 months in a pet shop with bright lights, people’s hands grabbing and moving things about without so much care, and a parade of other mice coming and going as each new batch was brought in and subsequently adopted out.  No toys other than the aforementioned igloo and wheel.  Only essential block food.  No treats, no play time, no petting, no talking.  There is no such thing as “just mice”.  They are living creatures!  And smart ones, at that.  We didn’t think we’d ever be able to handle Ruby.  We bought her because I could not fathom the idea of this poor wee creature spending her entire life in a shop.  If nothing else, she would have a warm home with treats and lots of love.  It took a few months, but she has become a wonderful, sweet, funny, personable, well-adjusted mouse who no longer engages in obsessively repetitive behaviours and now enjoys coming out to play.  Even though Ruby is never completely still, she will now linger to be pet around the shoulders and ears.  She is busy keeping track of 4 little girls, cleaning everyone’s ears before bedtime, and building warm cozy nests to house them all.  At 14 months old, she acts and looks like a mouse half her age.  Why?  She has purpose.  Ruby needs purpose.  Being a person with OCD, I understand Ruby.  I can relate.

** NOTE:  In my post introducing Ruby, I promised The Brit she would be our last one.  Oops!  It’s his fault, though.  He keeps taking me to the pet store!  Also, we later found out that she was a lavender, not a silver.

Contrary to Kaytee’s claims, pet mice do need human interaction.  They love it.  And it is most rewarding for the humans.  Why have a pet if you’re not going to interact with it?

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