From Pinkie to Mouse: How I Did It
It was about a month after my nineteenth birthday and I was standing around, bored out of my mind, in yet another pet store waiting for my mom to get what she needed for her guinea pigs. I wandered over to the rodent section to take a peek at the hamsters (I had one at home already, but they were always funny to watch) and that's when I saw them... pinkie mice.
I was intrigued by them. They were about the size of a shelled peanut, pink, and slightly slimy. As if they had just popped out of their mother! Which seemed fairly likely since the mother was nearby, wringing her hands and looking worried.
I was about to pass them by, but a woman with a snake walked up to the tank and was looking at them with a little TOO much interest if you know what I mean. I know that snakes gotta eat too (circle of life and all that), but I just couldn't stand it--especially with the pinkies' mother RIGHT THERE watching! I immediately turned to the nearby store boy and told him that "I'll take two!"
I ended up with a female and a male. The female died the next night. The male, Nipper, lived a very happy life. This is his story.
(Photo credit for the pinkies goes to Wikipedia. All other pictures are personal photos of my Nipper. That first night I was too busy taking care of him to stop and take baby pictures, but this Wiki pic is pretty darn close to what he and his sibling looked like that first night)
The First Night
AKA: How I Went Temporarily Insane
The first night was the hardest. It was also one of the most physically demanding/exhausting nights of my life (and I have a black belt!). I would NOT want to be a mouse. Turns out mamma mice are pretty hardcore.
Fortunately, I had all the right tools for the job:
*Pedialyte or filtered/bottled water (NOT tap water)
*Kitten formula (which I watered down with bottled water)
*A thin soft-tipped syringe (you can apparently also use a CLEAN paintbrush--I would get a NEW paintbrush for this; not one that you'd been painting with)
*A glass tank with lots of bedding
*A heat lamp or pad (at the lowest setting--you want to keep your baby warm, but you don't wanna cook him!)
*A very loud alarm clock
That last item might seem puzzling, but stick with me. The reason you need an alarm clock is because that first night, baby mice like to eat about EVERY HALF AN HOUR! Meaning, every half an hour, you'll have to wake up, feed it, and rub it's tummy. Why rub its tummy? Because its digestive tract isn't fully formed yet and it needs "mom" to manually stroke the food downward for it to become poops/pee. Neat, huh?
Fortunately, after the first night, they ease up a bit on being little hunger monsters and start taking their meals every hour and then every two hours once they get to be about 4-5 days old. And after they become Fuzzies (as in, they start getting a little bit of hair), you'll be able to sleep more or less regularly again.
(Note: This pic of Nipper isn't from the first night--as I said, I was too busy to take pictures!--but it does show my syringe...and how cute he was as a Fuzzy!)
Powdered Kitten Formula - Nipper's Baby Food of Choice
I preferred to use the powder formula for Nipper because it kept longer than the liquid. (Liquid formula, once opened, goes bad pretty quickly).
Just be sure to add 2X the recommended dose of water to the mix! It'll look a little funny, but trust me--it's for the best. You don't want your pinkie to get "clogged."
Pinkie Feeding in Action - Yep... That's What It Looks Like
This video isn't of Nipper, but I thought it was a pretty good example of what it was like to feed a Pinkie mouse by hand. Plus it's adorable. Enjoy!
Cleaning Your Pinkie
AKA: My Biggest Mistake
As I mentioned in my introduction, I originally bought TWO Pinkie mice. One of them died within 24 hours. Here's why:
I knew that I needed to stimulate their digestion/poops; however, I didn't know that it was up to ME to wipe off their lil bottoms once they'd done the deed. I feel awful/guilty about it, even now (almost a decade later), but I was a teenager and just...didn't know. The female pinkie ended up getting poop dried to her anus and it got stuck... Eventually, I could see a line of poop going through her system, but it had no way to get out (because the way out was blocked). She died because she was clogged with poop. Because I didn't know to wipe her bottom.
It just never occurred to me. I had had mice before, but they were all fully grown when I got them. Full grown mice clean themselves off like crazy! I was stupid not to realize that a baby mouse wouldn't be able to do that, but, as I said, I was young and I hadn't been around very many babies of ANY kind.
Fortunately, I figured out what was up before the same horrible fate took Nipper!
For cleaning, I would recommend:
*Lukewarm water (Not cold, but not hot either)
Mice have pretty fast metabolisms, so you shouldn't have to wait very long between feeding and pooping. Once your Pinkie has done his "business," take a Q-tip soaked in lukewarm water and use it to "lick" the Pinkie's "area" as if you were its real mom. Be very, very gentle. It may take a while to get your baby fully cleaned, but, trust me, it's worth it.
To be honest, the "Weaning Stage" of Nipper's life is a bit of a blur for me. The transition from formula to solid food went by pretty quickly...
At about two weeks old, your mouse should be ready to start being weaned.
Basically, you use some form of grain or seed mash mixed with formula or filtered water. Keep it mostly liquid at first, but keep adding more and more "food" to it every day. Eventually, the solid food will outweigh the liquid and--voila!!--your mouse will be weaned!
Weaning: An Instructional Video
I didn't make this video, but I thought it was EXCELLENT at demonstrating the weaning process.
All Grown Up
Nipper was a truly magical pet. He was the kind of mouse that you DREAM about having.
Raising a mouse from Pinkie into adulthood forms a very special bond between the mouse and its owner. It's a wonderful thing.
Nipper came when he was called, he loved to be held, and was just the all-around perfect pet. I loved him very much.
If you're up to the task of hand-raising a mouse--and you succeed--you will end up with a pet you will NEVER forget.
A Place to Call Home
Nipper had to have a special set up due to health issues (which I detail in a section below), but my other mice (Zak and Carl) and my dwarf hamster (Bug) LOVED these habitats. And they're surprisingly easy to clean!
Nipper: Rest In Peace
AKA: Why I'll Never Have Another Mouse
The maximum lifespan for a mouse is about 2 years. My other mice, Zak and Carl, made it past that mark. Unfortunately, Nipper only lasted about nine months.
Nipper was riddled with health issues. He was a NOD (non-obese Diabetic) mouse. He was also hyperactive. And blind. I found all this out from a vet when I took Nipper in for a check-up (he wasn't acting like a "normal" mouse would act). Nipper was put on a special diet for his blood sugar (which I could relate to on a highly personal level as I have blood sugar issues myself) and his habitat had to be made "safe" for him (as his being blind tended to make him prone to falling off of ledges).
Nipper having so many troubles was challenging...but also made me feel that much closer to him.
When he died, I was absolutely crushed.
I'm happy I knew him, but I can't imagine going through that pain again. I will never, ever, have another mouse, especially not one that I raised by hand.
"One is a Genius, the Other's Insane"
I might not hang out with real mice anymore, but I can always enjoy them in cartoons. :)