July 28, 2006
So we have a mouse in the house. No, not the kind we want to trap or hope our cat Pixel finds. In fact the exact opposite. We are hiding the mouse from the cat to protect it's life. But back to why we have a mouse. It's not just any mouse, it's a baby mouse.
A short history on the mouse acquistion: Yesterday I was building another flower bed and I was using some mulch that had just been delivered on Monday morning. I was very lucky to get double the amount I ordered for the same price because some of the bags had tears and rips. I was dumping one of these ripped bags on my garden when I was very startled by a soft gray lump in the mulch. Upon cloesr inspection it turned out to be a baby mouse, a dead baby mouse. This took me by surprise, the kind that lurches in your stomach and makes you kind of queasy. I am afterall concerned about dead rodents carrying disease and all that stuff.... Luckily, I was wearing my gardening gloves. I called the kids over, "don't touch, don't touch", to show them my find. We proceed to discover 3 more except two of these were alive - barely by my estimation. This complicated matters. A dead mouse I know what to do with, but two tiny living mammals who need a mama? My heart went out to these little nurslings (they are still at the nursing stage and I'm very sympathetic to babies needing to nurse). Speaking of the mama, she was nowhere to be found, well not that we really looked but I suspected she wasn't part of the mulch delivery. Either way, these babies were motherless. And really how can you leave a motherless nursing infant out in the cold? You can't.
I'll skip all the little details and get to the point. We are currently housing and caring for a baby mouse. It is kept in a box, in our side porch, with the door closed I should add. But he/she is not going anywhere soon as he/she can barely walk. It's for the mouse's safety (remember our cat) not our own that door is closed. Oh yes, we did have 2 mice as of yesterday afternoon but one died this morning. As I was tucking the kids in bed last night the last thing Laurent said was "I sure hope the mice don't die". So, I was rather concerned how he'd react when we came home from errands this morning to discover one of the mice lying prostrate totally stiff. I needn't of been concerned. His reaction was "Can we give the dead mouse to Pixel to eat?" I choose to believe my son is resilient not cold hearted.
Basic care of a baby mouse: Feeding, warmth and "diaper area" care. Number of feedings really depend on how old they are. We think our little mouse (he/she has remained nameless) is about 2 weeks. This means 4-6 daily feedings, with ironically Kitten Milk Replacement (formula for kittens) and 1-2 nighttime feedings. Yes, I did do a night time feeding last night. For some unknown reason Celine couldn't sleep around 1:30am so her and I got up, prepared formula and fed the mice. For warmth and companionship our little one had a sibling, now that it's dead this may be a tough one. It's very warm here right now but I'll put a hot water bottle under part of the box tonight just in case. Diaper area care; who knew?? Baby mice don't naturally "go potty" (just so you know we do not use this dumbed down language with our children, Brienne is now familiar with examining the "gentle" area of mice) so we've had to help. Don't worry it's not as bad as it sounds. I won't go into the details except to say we use Qtips and cotton balls - all very hygienic. Now is a good time to comment on the whole hygiene issue. Since like a good mother I'm concerned about disease, parasites (Laurent's conjecture as to number one's death) etc the children have not been able to touch the mice. Damien and I have used gloves when handling them and everyone's hands are washed with soap after every exposure to the general mice area. Not sure if any of these precautions will help but we're trying.
What on earth are we going to do with this mouse?? This is a good question. Part of me just wishes he'd curl up and die - literally. Number's one death looked kind of painful. I think fetal position looks more peaceful. The other part of me wants him/her to live. And if he/she lives, then what? Well we're looking into what you need (equipment & food) to keep a mouse. The good news in this scenario is that mice have a short life span so we'd be looking at a 1 - 1.5 year tops time commitment. This is good, just in time for our next major trip to Canada as I'm not sure who would take care of it when we're gone. The other option is try to keep him/her wild by not handling it too much etc.. (despite a major in biology I really know nothing about this) in hopes of release into a more natural setting. Like the farm, where the poor mouse would probably be hunted, played with and killed by the barn cats. Either way, a short life and relatively eminent death awaits this little one. But that doesn't mean we don't show compassion in the meantime, it's just a baby afterall.
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