mice as mums

October 28, 2006

SilverTiger has an engaging post entitled My animals and other family (Part 1)  about cats and tortoises which brought to mind a cautionary tale  from my past about mice. When I was knee high to a rather tall grasshopper we had two mice, Millie and Minnie (characters from Beatrix Potter?)  I made the mistake of trying to keep mice as pets again at the same time as having young children.  All went well until one of the mice gave birth to some babies. A few days later I heard my wife say “Oh, isn’t that sweet, Mummy’s licking her babies.” Then a scream: “She’s not licking them, she’s eating them!!!” My wife claimed that she had nightmares for a week after that in which she was eating her children so a decision had to be made: keep the wife or the mice. I made the wrong choice.

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3 Responses to “mice as mums”

  1. SilverTiger Says:

    When describing Miou, you wisely sought to avoid any anthropomorphism. I think we do intuitively try to understand animals according to human logic and motivation. As a result, we do them an injustice and also spoil our own chances of really understanding them.

    I don’t know why this mouse decided to eat her babies. Perhaps being in captivity somehow disturbed the normal maternal behaviour pattern. We may never know unless other mouse fans can supply a reason.

    One thing occurs to me: are you sure it was the mother that ate the babies? If it was another mouse, particularly a male who wanted to mate with the female, that would make more sense.

  2. tomeemayeepa Says:

    It seems that mice eating their young is a well-known phenomenon amongst mouse keepers. The usual reasons advanced are that the young are unhealthy and if the bodies are not removed the mother will eat them in order to keep nest area clean. Some also say that it is because conditions are too cramped. I believe that human mothers are normally able to resist these temptations.

  3. SilverTiger Says:

    Infanticide among humans is unfortunately not unknown. There was a case reported in the media recently in which a mother was said to have deliberately set the house on fire with the child inside, knowing the child would perish. The woman escaped a prison sentence because the judge believed that she had been suffering from post-natal depression at the time.

    Certain members of ethnic groups living in Britain have been accused of systematically killing female babies. This is because male children are expected eventually to earn a net profit for the family whereas a female child represents a net loss.


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