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Overgrooming cagemate

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Post by Sevensneakingby Sun 23 Jan 2022, 2:18 pm

So I have 3 female mice in a 20 gallon all from different litters but two were living together before I took them in. The two that were living together previously (Stromboli and Rainier) are seeming to be having an issue.
Rainier has been overgrooming Stromboli, she now has some bald and thinning patches on the top of her head and back of her neck and sholders. Everything I've read has either said it's dominance and/or boredom and advise to have more than 2 mice so that the overgrooming can be more distributed. I have 3 mice but Rainier seems to be fixated on just Stromboli and does not bother my older mouse. They get a new cage layout every week and get new toys and chews regularly. Since I noticed the overgrooming I've been giving them extra enrichment which stops her for a day but then she goes right back to it.

I'm not sure what to do at this point, I would hate to have to rehome Rainier or force her to live in solitary. I wanted to see if anyone had any advice. Thank you so much in advance!
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Post by MerciToujoursMaPetiteBoop Thu 27 Jan 2022, 2:24 pm

I don't think rehoming will be necessary, since barbering usually doesn't cause physical damage.  But you may have to put in some effort to try to break the behavior pattern.

If Stromboli is bothered by Rainier's overattention, provide small, one-mouse places to which Stromboli can "escape" to for some peace and quiet and un-bothered napping -- toilet paper tubes, for instance.  But make sure the safety pod has more than one way out so she won't feel trapped inside if Rainier comes sniffing around.

As for Rainier, as I was considering your question and how I might put my answer into words, I started getting the feeling it was something I had seen before.  Then I realized that I was reminding myself of techniques Cesar Millan (The Dog Whisperer) uses.

In particular, if you want to try to do something about the barbering, you have to be active when the barbering is occurring.  You have to break in and stop the behavior you want to modify.  You have to intervene.  And that doesn't mean you have to be angry or harsh -- just intervene.  That could consist of anything from giving Rainier a distracting tap to see if she stops what she's doing, to picking her up and moving her to a different spot in the cage, to moving her temporarily to a "busy box" where you have a wheel and things for her to climb on so she can run off any hyper-energy she may be trying to expend through overgrooming, to letting her SAFELY join you in some of your activities and travels around the house to alleviate any boredom that might be driving her obsessive behavior.

You have to be creative in trying to break Rainier's barbering habit, and you have to be consistent in how you respond to it so she will perceive that the behavior will not be allowed to continue.  Then you have to continue to mind her to make sure she does not turn to some other obsession that might turn out to be more harmful than barbering.

Sure, it sounds like a lot of work, but it also means you will be paying a lot of attention to your mousies and have a great opportunity for observing, learning, and bonding.

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Post by Sevensneakingby Fri 28 Jan 2022, 4:08 pm

Thanks for the advice I reaply apriciate it! We have been separating them when we're home whenever we can and we will continue to do so. A busy box is a great idea we'll definitely implement something like that.

Just as a bit of an update, we have noticed that Rainier has also recently started going for our older mouse (Krakatoa). It's obvious that neither Stromboli or Krakatoa like being groomed by her. Stromboli is very vocal about the pain and discomfort she's being put in and Krakatoa shows pain in her little face and shakes when we get Rainier off of her. We'll be getting a second tank to make a busy box and worst case she will be separated from the other two and we will just be sure to interact with her more so she doesn't get lonely, she loves to be picked up and play. We're going to try our best to break her habit but we also can't be home 100% of the time and it isn't fair to Stromboli or Krakatoa to be uncomfortable or hurt.

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