Could my mouse’s unusual lethargy and timidness mean he’s ill?

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Could my mouse’s unusual lethargy and timidness mean he’s ill?

Post by tkf0004 on Wed 07 Feb 2018, 1:34 am

Hello! First, a disclaimer: my pet mouse Kirby is not a Fancy Mouse. He is actually a lab mouse that I rescued, along with a female, at just 18 days old (now 3 months).
I’m concerned with Kirby’s behavior. He is extraordinarily inactive— he doesn’t move at all during the day and just sits in the corner of his cage. At night, he does move around, but just to eat and drink. He consumes far less food than my other mice.
After his female companion gave birth about a month ago, I separated them; however, I continue to let them interact under supervision. He is just so terrified of everything and everyone. He is actually so scared of me and the other mice (besides his female companion) that he doesn’t even run out of fear, like other mice might. He just gets in a ball, flattens his ears, and cowers. I can pick him up, but he just shakes.
I thought he might be lonely, so I put his two calmest and sweetest sons in his cage with him. They seemed to like him, but still, he cowered, even though he is more than twice their size.
I keep checking for lumps and/or breathing issues, but he seems healthy! I’ve never seen a pet mouse behave this way (especially one that has had the same owner since they were 18 days old). What do y’all think? Should I be concerned — I’m kinda worried he’s really sick.

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Re: Could my mouse’s unusual lethargy and timidness mean he’s ill?

Post by Peachy on Wed 07 Feb 2018, 1:51 am

He doesn't sound ill from what you've described... What kind of setup do you have? Does he move around normally when he does move? How do you go about handling him? Any daily in-cage or playtime interaction? Sometimes mice just take a bit more time.

If you're concerned you should take him to a vet.

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Re: Could my mouse’s unusual lethargy and timidness mean he’s ill?

Post by pokemonsz on Wed 07 Feb 2018, 9:59 am

I know people that work in mice labs (unavoidable at universities) and I've heard lab mice often have very compromised immune systems, so I would definitely treat him a little differently and with more care than fancy mice bred for pets. Additionally, lab mice live under incredibly stressful conditions so it could just be a behavioral problem and trouble adjusting to life outside of what's expected. Lab mice are often picked up by the skin of their back and try their hardest to avoid human interactions, so it's possible the residue of that remains. Hope this might be helpful although this is secondhand info from friends.

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Re: Could my mouse’s unusual lethargy and timidness mean he’s ill?

Post by CinnamonPearl on Wed 07 Feb 2018, 4:26 pm

What is his cage setup? Does he have a lot of toys and hides and things to crawl under? If the cage is more barren, it'll definitely add to his nerves. I would also remove the other two boys from his cage immediately. Male mice do not naturally live with each other in the wild, and keeping them together could result in injury or death. Being around other males while he's so nervous will definitely make things much worse, as males often get stressed being around each other. Other than that, I would try leaving him alone for a few weeks to see if he can get comfortable being in his cage. Keep him in a quiet area, and cover all the sides of his tank with paper or a background except for the front. If you can get him to be comfortable in his enclosure, then graduate to bathtub taming sessions and go from there.

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Re: Could my mouse’s unusual lethargy and timidness mean he’s ill?

Post by tkf0004 on Thu 08 Feb 2018, 12:23 am

Thanks for the replies!

When I pick Kirby up, I sort of slowly scoop him into my hands, so he never feels like he’s dangling. I pet him and I let him walk around on my bed so he gets used to my scent. When I put him back, I give him a treat (usually an almond, blueberry, broccoli, or peanut) — but he never seems interested in it. I eventually have to take it out of the cage. This hasn’t been working though! I will try the suggestion of leaving him alone for a bit and I may cover his cage with a blanket during the day.
I did remove the males from the tank with him, since he seemed to be scared of them. They were only there for a day.
He is in a pretty standard cage — I think it’s about 2.5 feet by 1 foot, and is about 3 feet high. He has a shelf with a ladder, chewing sticks, an empty paper towel roll, a wheel, and a hammock. He has never used the wheel or the hammock. Nor does he walk up the ladder. He has a little hiding house from petco, but prefers a tiny box that I put in his cage. Often, though, he just sleeps exposed in the corner.
I actually worked in the lab I got Kirby from. We never pick up the mice by the scruffs of their necks! It’s sad that there are labs out there that get away with stuff like that. Anyway, Kirby wasn’t treated poorly, but I did consider it might be the result of the inbreeding done with lab mice. I wonder if it’s not illness causing him to cower (cancer was my fear) could he be genetically predisposed to be nervous? I want him to be happy and comfortable and I know he needs more exercise than he gets. Let me know if I’m doing that could be making the situation worse or if there are other ideas as to how to help him be less terrified all the time.

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Re: Could my mouse’s unusual lethargy and timidness mean he’s ill?

Post by River on Thu 08 Feb 2018, 12:30 am

I'd say its possible! Humans can be genetically predisposed to certain (mental) illnesses or behaviors, mice may very well be the same. I wouldn't rule it out, he sounds very well cared for so I can't imagine trauma playing a part...especially not one that would still affect him on such a level.
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Re: Could my mouse’s unusual lethargy and timidness mean he’s ill?

Post by CallaLily on Thu 08 Feb 2018, 8:24 am

He could just be a nervous mouse. Not all come around to want or enjoy our attention, but most do.  Try providing him with more cover in his home. More hides, less open spaces. Most mice like their house crowded with things to do.  But don't give up just yet. He may still come around. Some mice just take a little longer. Be patient and keep things at a pace that he seems ok with. The way your interacting with him now sounds fine.  The treat afterwards is perfect. You could try different things to find what he likes.  I've never had a mouse turn down a piece of walnut or pumpkin seed or bit of dried banana.  If you do notice any symptoms of illness, a vet trip is a good idea.   Keep it up and good luck. Thumbs Up

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Re: Could my mouse’s unusual lethargy and timidness mean he’s ill?

Post by MerciToujoursMaPetiteBoop on Thu 08 Feb 2018, 9:55 am

A few ideas for consideration, in the interests of overall mousie comfort. Can't guarantee any will help with Kirby, but I might as well mention them, just in case there's a kernel of good.

You can try different lighting. Mice are already predisposed to operating out of the bright light, dusk to dawn, and if they have pink eyes (does he?) you have to be especially considerate of the ambient light level. (Those poor PEWs stuck in those labs with those searing overhead fixtures!!)

Also, in addition to the general noise we humans put up with, consider electronic equipment in the area -- in the room, on the other side of the wall, throughout the house and surroundings. We might not notice the pulsing/buzzing or that high-pitched almost-hissing that comes out of them all the time they're turned on, and even when some of them are turned off but have the "instant on" feature built in, but our little mousie friends can hear that stuff. They can hear things at even higher frequencies that we can't hear no matter how many decibels they're carrying. To them it could be like when the U.S. Army blasted Van Halen at that embassy building to flush out Manuel Noriega.

Consider scent as well. All the time I had little April, I gave up wearing hand lotion (except in extreme emergencies) and perfume, and skipped strong-scented soaps in favor of gentler blends. Mostly I was concerned with some of it getting on her fur, and then she might ingest it during grooming, but I also thought about how much more pungent those scents could be to April's delicate sniffer, and that what might smell absolutely lovely to me (like a dot of Armani Mania or a spritz of Anisia Bella) might be terribly offensive, nauseating, repellent, disturbing, etc. to a wee mousie.

Other than that, is it possible he might have a problem with his vision or hearing? Seems difficult to check out on your own, but maybe you can use your intellect and imagination to come up with some ways of incorporating little tests for such things into his play time with you.

Best of all things to you and your mousie friends.

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