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Death to Whitey


  04:02:13 am, by Nimble   , 1162 words  
Categories: Announcements [A]

Death to Whitey

No, we're not talking about any social friction in the US. Whitey was the original male of three mice that spawned my adorable mouse colony.

He passed away yesterday, ostensibly from cancer. Poor guy - at least he had his sons to keep him company.

If you're squeamish about animals eating other animals, pleased stop reading.


Everyone else with me?

Okay :)

My fiance is a science teacher, and she inherited a snake called Glenn a few years back (a Kenyan Sand Boa, for the interested). We gave her live food once she started getting bigger.

I'd never been particularly enamoured of mice, but something happened to change my mind a little.

In the day between moving a growing snake into a bigger cage, we hadn't got a top for it yet. Despite carefully placing as much of the old top over the side as we could, Glenn escaped.

Well, she was missing for ages.

Weeks passed with no sign of Glenn. We thought we'd go get some mice to entice her back.

Well, we had mice, but for another week, still no Glenn.

While running around stores, I saw a really cheap mouse wheel. $4 for entertainment? Sure! So I brought it home, put it in with the mice, and despite never having seen a wheel before (they don't have wheels in the cages at Riverfront), it didn't take them long to figure it out (I've verified this with later generations - mice love wheels :) )

However, later that night, Gaman, the Yorkshire terrier (I've got stories about this too-smart-for-his-britches dog *grin*) didn't come up with us at bedtime; he sat in the dark, growling.

Well, he found Glenn. I don't know whether she was attracted to the squeak of the wheel, or what, but she had made her way under the recycling boxes on the floor. She was sluggish, but we put her in the cage, and she sure enjoyed her mice.

My fiance decided to get more mice for me a while after that. Five mice to start with. They, like most of the mice we got, were generally unfriendly but fun to watch. Two of the mice warmed up to me, to my surprise, but Little Whitey got sick and died. Whitey, however, was the first friendly mouse that stayed with me.

I had millet in a jar by the cage. Whitey would eat millet out of my hand. Cool, I thought.

I found out a while later, once the mice had aged a bit, that they don't separate out the food mice by gender. At this point, I had three mice: Whitey, Spotty and Darkie (that was as specific as I was willing to name them - if you have mice as food, you're going to feel bad if you've given them proper names :) )

I ended up with a first generation of babies. It was cool to watch (although at 10 babies per litter, that's a lot of baby mice) - they look like little shrimps until they finally start getting hair, then finally open their eyes.

I pampered the female mice during their pregnancies. (They must have really appreciated it, because they have been very friendly to me ever since.) We still had a snake to feed, so I basically handed out death sentences according to bad behaviour. Biting, jumping off my hand, constantly running away... all were capital offenses (really, with 20 babies, what are you going to do?).

Well, I ended up with babies that turned into really cool adults. One of the litters, I could only tell the dark babies (it was really Mendelian - exactly half and half light/dark) apart by the patterns on their tails. The two cool adults that survive to this day are Dash-Dot and Dash-Dot-Dot.

Dash-Dot is a really cool mouse.

He's fearless, he's smart, he's energetic, he doesn't bite, he climbs on my shoulder. Even on the occasions he's escaped (little bastard figured out how to open the cage), he will jump back onto my hand. (Dash-Dot-Dot, on the other hand, has escaped into the far corners of the house on a few occasions - I'm no longer willing to leave anything to chance - the cage door is now blocked :) )

We ended up with a second generation of babies, which I have down in the cage right now. Unlike the prior generation, all these babies are well-behaved. Can I really have bred them tame in that few generations? Or am I just better at handling babies?

They're really cute. I need to take pictures. Especially of Patch (okay, I named one), the dwarf fearless baby with tame-horse colouring (a white patch on his forehead and white around all his feet).

It does mean that Glenn has had to go hungry for a while. I wasn't willing to part with any babies.

Then my old friend Whitey, who had been getting suddenly (over the course of a few weeks) more and more obese, whose breathing was starting to become laboured, died. I offered his body up to the snake, but I will miss my old pal.

Comment by Bryan Ewert:

Is there any concern associated with offering a cancerous mouse as food? Does this pose any long-term health threat for Glenn? I suppose not, since you did it. But I would have been leery.

Comment by Ritchie:

Mice are extremely cancer-prone, but it's almost never due to a virus (the only thing that could possibly pass something on, and even then) - they just have short enough lifetimes that it doesn't matter how well they repair their DNA :)

I'm not honestly sure whether Whitey was suffering was cancer, but he did get awfully obese awfully fast.

If it makes you feel any better, Glenn doesn't seem to care for the meal, so Whitey will have a proper burial via the garbage. Rest in peace, li'l buddy.

Comment by Bryan:

So for all these lab tests where they conclude: "This product has been known to cause cancer in laboratory mice..." Just how much caution is warranted by this observation? If mice are susceptible enough to get cancer from their belly button lint, is it truly an omen that, when proffered the latest impotence cure, they enlarged more than what was intended?

Comment by Ritchie:

Well, they seem as likely to die from cancer as from old age, but they don't get cancer quite at the drop of a hat :) I've got about 17 mice, and none of them show signs of cancer. So if five of them got cancer next week, I'd be pretty suspicious :)

That said, the mass-to-body-mass ratio of the things they test are also usually pretty over-the-top for an equivalent in humans regardless. Dividing the high dose doesn't always translate to ten times less toxicity - it's usually better than that. Even the bergamot in Earl Grey tea is a purported carcinogen, as are terpenes from some trees during some seasons, and you don't have a whole lot of people dying from either one (though I'm sure some are!).

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