What should I do with this little mouse prisoner?
May 31, 2011 10:50 PM   Subscribe

I caught a mouse and tried to drown it. It tread water long enough to make me think twice. Can one keep an ordinary house-mouse as a pet?

I don't usually have this problem. I can kill a mouse anytime with ease. But this time I couldn't.

I put him in a can with some water, but when I came back, he was just standing on his rear legs with his nose above the water. So I added more water to the can. Half an hour later she was still alive, so I filled the can almost to the top. Checked back a few minutes later, and it was almost dead. I poured out the water. I saved the little vermin. Why? I don't know, but I can hardly kill it now that I have saved it. I am unmanned.

Can one keep a mouse as a pet? I know about the little mice one can purchase at the pet store, but what about the little buggers that weren't bred in captivity? Too-disease ridden? Can children handle it?
posted by Barry B. Palindromer to Pets & Animals (45 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
First of all, drowning mice? What the... I mean good god, hit it with a hammer or something if you really need to, but drowning it? That's cold. I'm having a real hard time getting around that part of the question.

Supposedly as long as it is not a deer mouse, it can be kept as a pet in a manner similar to other small rodents. YMMV.
posted by Kadin2048 at 10:57 PM on May 31, 2011 [26 favorites]

No, mice give nasty bites find someone who has a snake and give the mouse to them or flush it.
posted by hortense at 10:59 PM on May 31, 2011

It's not going to be a good pet like you could take it out and handle it and such. Odds are it was born withing 100 feet of where you're standing right now so it is unlikely to have the plague or anything.

Personally, I'd take it out to a field somewhere (far from the house) and turn it loose there.
posted by Kid Charlemagne at 11:05 PM on May 31, 2011 [10 favorites]

I wouldn't keep a wild mouse as a pet -- it probably won't be friendly (or happy).

If you want to let it live, take it far from any buildings and set it free. Note that it'll probably get killed and eaten anyway, probably sooner than later; that's what mice do.
posted by vorfeed at 11:05 PM on May 31, 2011

I'm just going to ignore the whole mouse drowning torture thing for a moment and suggest that you take it somewhere (far enough away from your house) and let it go. The mouse gets to live, it will no longer bother you, and there will be no bites or nasty diseases. Everyone wins. Sounds like it's a fighter-- it should at least get a second chance at life after what it's been through!
posted by aldebaran at 11:08 PM on May 31, 2011

Here is a related thread where people discuss how to get rid of a mouse.
posted by aniola at 11:09 PM on May 31, 2011 [1 favorite]

Argh! WTF. Don't drown a mouse. That's...pretty messed up.

No it most likely will not make a good pet. It's probably super high-strung and skittery and unamenable to being touched and petted. It may try to bite you (hell I would) and is lacking in other petlike qualities. Do not let children handle it.

Put the poor thing in a shoebox or something, take it far away from your house to some kind of natural area, open the box near some brush or other shelter, and walk away.

Domesticated, fancy rats and mice can make lovely pets, but wild rats and mice generally can not be tamed.
posted by asynchronous at 11:34 PM on May 31, 2011 [3 favorites]

Why don't you just get a live mouse trap and drop it off in a field somewhere? Is that really too difficult?

If something has a will to live, why would you take its life? That mouse has every right to exist in this world just as you do.

God I'm sick to my stomach thinking of that poor thing fighting for its life.
posted by JeSuisLibre at 11:49 PM on May 31, 2011 [19 favorites]

An animal-loving relative of mine actually kept a wild mouse she caught in her house in a habitrail type hamster enclosure and it seemed relatively content though in no wise tame, it could not be handled, certainly not by children. It eventually escaped and was presumably devoured by a cat, though it may have exited the house and for all I know its strange experience has become a part of Mouse Legend. Although completely useless as a pet it was pretty cute in its little plastic domain.

Personally I would worry about hantavirus, but I guess that depends on your mouse type and geographical region.

I have to mention, as noted in that thread linked above, that this is now at least the 4th time we've had the "what to do with the rodent" discussion
posted by nanojath at 11:49 PM on May 31, 2011

I too am going to pretend I didn't read the drowning thing, and mention that, as the owner of three pet mice:

1) They like to live in groups/colonies/infestations - so one on its own wouldn't be happy.

2) They're stinky, even if you clean them every three days, because they are little stinky indiscriminate pooping and peeing machines and they stink.

3) Unless they've been well-handled before, they are very likely to bite, and especially to bite children who don't handle them well.

3 1/2) The children who say they want a cute little mouse named, say, "Reepicheep" and her little friends "Peepiceek" and "Lilygloves" are lying when they say they'll take care of it.

3 7/8) If it's a female, it could be pregnant and then you'll soon have more than one little mouse and if it's a male, well, you can REALLY tell, and I personally do not like pets who drag their nuts all over me.

4) If you want a pet mouse, go to a pet store and get a healthy one who was raised to be a pet and who's never known the freedom of the great wide world/your house so it doesn't die of grief (Why yes, Hans Christian Andersen's the Daisy was our bedtime story tonight - we almost rescued a grass snake that had been mowed today.) and so you know how old it is and how long it will live.

5) Because a free mouse will cost you a (very secure, because they can get through tiny holes or spaces) cage set-up to pee in and poop on; a water bottle (or bowl to change thrice daily because they poop in it); mouse chow; birdseed that they poop in; fresh veggie scraps that they poop in; a little house to pee on; toilet paper tubes to crawl in chew and pee on; a wheel to run in all night long and pee on and poop in - and they only live a year or two at most. But thankfully, the kids will be so sick of caring for them that there will be few tears and mostly some "nice knowing ya's" rather than true love and devotion.

6) And because wild (and pet) mice can have fleas, lice, mites and parasites.

But mostly, because mice can make good pets, you have to really want them - not have them fall into your lap that way. Ours have been an interesting experiment in pet ownership, but one that nobody in this house cares to repeat, no matter how cute and fuzzy and charming and interesting they can be.

posted by peagood at 11:52 PM on May 31, 2011 [22 favorites]

Huh? What's wrong with drowning? It's a cleaner death than being hit by a hammer... imagine if you missed its head or took several blows to kill it. Yech.

I would wear thick gloves, grasp the mouse firmly and hold it underwater for about a minute and it would be dead. Done. Scientists who work with lab rats apparently know how to kill small animals humanely (something to do with severing the spinal cord) but I don't have such expertise.

But that's all a derail. I've owned an animal or two that wasn't a pet to begin with. They'll be unhappy caged, don't like human contact or attention, it's probably preferable to dying but I'm not sure what kind of life you'd call that. Some ethicists might say that you've taken away the essential "mouseness" of his being a mouse away from him and therefore left him as being less than a mouse, if that makes any sense. I say just kill it. If this mouse got caught it was probably destined to die anyway (Darwinian thinking, generally only the weaker and stupider members get caught and die)
posted by xdvesper at 11:53 PM on May 31, 2011

I meant my post to say, that that is what I did with the captured mice - at least the ones that we managed to get to before our dog did. Again I imagine drowning is no worse than being killed by a dog.
posted by xdvesper at 11:56 PM on May 31, 2011

Yes its possible and I've done it. They tend to be a little shy, and you won't handle it much at all, and just occasionally see it active in its little whatever cage you give it. They also fit through insanely narrow spaces, and will try to do so. You'll likely end up with a mouse on the run.
Another vote for let it go someplace far afield. No drowning.
posted by Namlit at 12:00 AM on June 1, 2011

I personally have seen a crow, racoon, possum and a wild mouse kept as pets, by different people at different times. I have also read of prisoners taming wild rats.

I have also seen my friend get bitten by his pet white mouse he bought from a pet store.

So, yes, you could keep it as a pet, but I haven't noticed that any mice really relate to humans very well. If you like rodents, I would get a rabbit or a rat.
posted by psycho-alchemy at 12:37 AM on June 1, 2011 [1 favorite]

FWIW, drowning mouse traps are pretty common. I say just kill the damn thing. Don't waste your time trying to make it a pet, or setting it free to potentially become someone else's problem.
posted by 2N2222 at 1:08 AM on June 1, 2011

If you want to kill the mouse, take it by the tail, swing towards the corner of a table. Quick and relatively painless for the mouse. As for keeping it, this seems like a bad idea. If you don't want to kill it, just release it far away from your house.
posted by beerbajay at 1:42 AM on June 1, 2011

Your question seems to be: what should I do with this mouse I've had second thoughts about drowning? Count me among the camp that says you should drive it out to a field somewhere and let it go. You don't strike me as a good pet-owning candidate, regardless of the fact that a wild mouse is not the best choice for a pet in the first place.

You may also need to reconsider your mouse-catching strategy. I'm not sure there's any humane way to kill them, but baited traps will at least spare you the distress of trying to drown them. Mice do not drown easily; I doubt any animal does.
posted by londonmark at 2:37 AM on June 1, 2011 [6 favorites]

Generally if I am in the unfortunate position to have to dispatch a mouse, I break its neck by placing a blunt object like a knife handle or a stick at the base of its skull and then press down until it stops moving. The worst part of that is that its eyes start to pop out of its head, but it's over in 20 seconds or so.

Small, fecund, fast reproducing animals are 'designed' to be mostly dead before they reach reproductive age, or if they're lucky, shortly afterwards.
posted by singingfish at 2:39 AM on June 1, 2011

My uncle kept some mice from under his dishwasher as pets. The original mice weren't very tame (although they kept well enough in a cage), but their babies (yes, babies) were rather civil. Before he became a friend to his house mice, he had another method besides drowning: the air balloon method. He stuck one little fellow in a LEGGS egg with some food, taped it tightly shut, and attached him to some balloons with a "if found, please call" note. A week later, someone called (!!). Little guy didn't survive, and my uncle felt guilty. I think that was worse than the drowning...

Anyway, I'd probably let him go out in a field somewhere, but if you really wanted to keep him, I can't really see any reason not to.
posted by I_love_the_rain at 2:41 AM on June 1, 2011 [3 favorites]

I've seen snap traps that failed to kill a mouse immediately, and having seen that, I think drowning may be more humane than a potentially botchable impact trauma. (We now use an electric-shock trap; no more half-dead screaming mice thrashing around in snap traps.)

I've known someone who suggested freezing mice if you can't release them live somewhere, says it's the most humane way to kill them that the average homeowner will have on hand.
posted by galadriel at 4:02 AM on June 1, 2011 [1 favorite]

Download "Taps" on your iPhone, and play it while you flush the mouse down the loo.
posted by DWRoelands at 4:56 AM on June 1, 2011

You got cold feet when it refused to drown in a timely - or even much slower than that - fashion. But do you want a mouse as a pet? I don't see anything in there that says you do. Let it go somewhere in a field or the woods or something that's not right near your house.
posted by J. Wilson at 5:10 AM on June 1, 2011

I certainly wouldn't keep a mouse I tried to drown as a pet. I would have nightmares about it plotting revenge.

Though I understand the urge. You tried to kill it, felt guilty, admired its pluckiness and now want to let it retire in comfort.

Drowning critters isn't the worst way to do it, but it isn't the best either. I think carbon monoxide is the preferred humane way to do it. If you must drown them, do it more quickly. Just chucking them in the bathtub and letting "nature" take its course seems overly cruel. As does any of the banging them on the head methods. That seems like an unbelievably painful and slow way to go, short of using a tiny guillotine.

(Note: This may be illegal in your jurisdiction.)
posted by gjc at 5:34 AM on June 1, 2011

I agree with releasing it in a field. Yes, there is a good chance it will get eaten by something. But think of it this way- had you drowned it then you would have been wasting a good meal for a owl/fox/snake/etc.
posted by Dr-Baa at 5:58 AM on June 1, 2011 [1 favorite]

Just a thought... your real problem was that you have to decide what to do with a mouse, right? Your rep could have been spared by avoiding the whole "I tried to drown it" digression at no cost to the question.

Let it go. Kindly and with compassion. Always try to do the same in the future. Evolve. It's not weak to take the time to be kind.
posted by FauxScot at 6:07 AM on June 1, 2011 [6 favorites]

@gjc - I think a cigar cutter would do pretty well for that.
posted by modernserf at 6:09 AM on June 1, 2011

when I worked in a lab, I cut the heads off mice with scissors. Works best with the bandage/crash scissors that you sometimes see cutting through a penny. Just pick the mouse up with a gloved hand and snip the head off behind the ears. Super fast. Always lethal. Our lab had a tiny murine gas chamber attached to a CO2 tank, but they die very slowly that way and look like they suffer. There are also such things as rat guillotines, but I have not experience with them.
posted by genmonster at 6:18 AM on June 1, 2011 [1 favorite]

FWIW...I've often heard of old timers drowning animals trapped in cages. Most of the time squirrels. So I don't think you are a monster...or at least no more of a monster than the various old timers I've known.

I had a Siberian Dwarf Hamster that I bought on impulse (oh mylanta so cute! he looked like a Hover Ewok). The minute I got him home that little dick clamped down on my fingers HARD. OUCH! At some point we came to an uneasy truce but neither one of us were very happy with the situation. When he eventually expired I am convinced his last dying thought was regret over not getting to bite me more. He is probably waiting in hell for me. (little does he know, in Hell I will have no qualms about biting back)

Point being...you spared the mouse's life. But he won't be grateful and he won't grant you wishes.
posted by ian1977 at 6:31 AM on June 1, 2011 [6 favorites]

When I was a kid, the neighbors had a pair of pet mice. They had been bought for their snake, but the snake was feeling fastidious that day, and the neighbors became attached--and, two pet mice.

I don't think they were thrilled about their decision to keep them as pets. They were stinky, not that friendly, and they died really soon. Actually, they were lucky, because one of them died while I was pet-sitting and so their kids did not have to deal with the bodies. (No, I did. Real nice moment of panic there, thinking I killed the neighbor's pet.) The chances are good that you could invest in all of the equipment you need to take proper care of a mouse only to have it die a month or two later. You have no idea how old this mouse is or what kind of health conditions it might have.

Some people do like mice as pets, but they went out and got mice as pets on purpose; they were prepared for what pet mice are like. And these were mice that had been socialized, so they weren't cringing in terror every time someone came close.

Also: don't drown your mice. If you need to kill anything, choose a method that is fast, please, rather than one that takes a long time of panic beforehand.
posted by Kutsuwamushi at 6:35 AM on June 1, 2011 [1 favorite]

I tried to keep a mouse I "found" at my restaurant after he fell into the big vat of potato soup. I went across the street to the pet store and bought a cage and a wheel and all that good stuff. The cage was not secure (he must've slipped between the bars, didn't see it happen) and I accidentally stepped on (and crushed) him as he made his great escape.

So get your hairy Houdini a good cage, or better yet just let him go.
posted by grog at 6:55 AM on June 1, 2011 [1 favorite]

The one time I released a captured house mouse in a distant location, a crow swooped down and grabbed it less than 30 seconds later. Made it all feel like a waste of time, but I suppose the crow felt differently.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 6:57 AM on June 1, 2011 [1 favorite]

If it's an adult mouse, it probably won't be tamable.

I did, however, raise an abandoned baby house mouse once, who was very sweet and never tried to bite. (She escaped for three weeks and then CAME BACK HOME--to her little habitrail, which we'd left open on the floor--to have five babies. She was a very good mom and never seemed to mind us handling the little ones either.)
posted by dlugoczaj at 7:24 AM on June 1, 2011 [1 favorite]

Take it for a ride and let it go.
posted by holgate at 8:08 AM on June 1, 2011

Just a thought... your real problem was that you have to decide what to do with a mouse, right? Your rep could have been spared by avoiding the whole "I tried to drown it" digression at no cost to the question.

With respect, I strongly disagree FauxScot.

The question is as much about the unexpected emergence of empathy when dealing with an unwanted critter as it is about humane methods of dispatch.

The OP admitted: "I don't usually have this problem. I can kill a mouse anytime with ease. But this time I couldn't."

I'm an animal lover currently dealing with a massive mice invasion (our house is old & cannot easily be made pest-proof). I think it's time to call in the professionals - because I could see myself doing exactly what the OP did. So I'm grateful for his candor (and for the answers about snap-traps not always providing a quick kill).
posted by Jody Tresidder at 8:12 AM on June 1, 2011 [2 favorites]

Just as a data point, drowning is my preferred method of getting rid of caught mice, too (I live in a city, there's no natural habitat nearby to bring it). It's more sanitary than squashing or slitting the throat, as you don't get blood all over.

But mice can be kept like little hamsters, but they're less social and less friendly. Really cute, though.
posted by Jon_Evil at 8:44 AM on June 1, 2011

In my friend's lab, where many mice are ended, one researcher uses carbon monoxide and the other snaps the neck.

But personally I would just release it somewhere far away.
posted by qxntpqbbbqxl at 8:46 AM on June 1, 2011

In high school, the Latin teacher caught a mouse in the school and, after trying to return it to the biology teacher (who swore there had been no escaping mice), kept it at the back of the classroom in a plastic box with some air holes in. It either escaped or died by the end of the school year, I think, though I don't remember. I don't remember it being unfriendly. We never really took it out of the box, but it did get petted a bit. Mice do smell rather bad, at least in the immediate area. (I sat next to the mice-breeding experiment in the biology class that year. They smelled far more than the gerbils that were there as well. On the other hand, the gerbils went insane and tried to kill each other, whereas the mice didn't spill any blood.)

But, yeah, I think I'd n-th the suggestion to let it go. It might make it back, but you won't know it's the same mouse.
posted by hoyland at 10:54 AM on June 1, 2011

Where do you have it now, while you're waiting for the AskMe verdict on your waterboarded mouse?

Wild animals aren't pets. Kill it directly or release it. Then some other animal can kill it.

In the future, if you must drown it, flush the toilet and let it be fully submerged. Otherwise, you can put it in a bag and whack something hard.
posted by klangklangston at 11:31 AM on June 1, 2011

[few comments removed - please leave the drowning derail alone, thanks.]
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 11:32 AM on June 1, 2011

From a MeFite who would prefer to remain anon:
Anonymous(e) here. I'm a lab animal vet with 20+ years of experience. This means I have worked with and euthanized lots and lots of mice, rats, and other rodents. Please, please don't use carbon monoxide unless you, yourself would like to die, too. Carbon dioxide works a treat, but can be hard to come by. If you can get dry ice, put it in a container, then put something plastic with holes over the dry ice for the mouse to stand on. Seal the container. Wait 5-10 minutes. In the right hands, cervical dislocation works well, as described above. It's hard to do right, though. If push comes to shove, take it to a vet and ask for an intraperitoneal injection of pentobarbital (or whatever their euthanasia solution is). Won't take much.

I would NOT keep the mouse as a pet. Why? Salmonella, rat-bite fever, various hantaviruses, LCMV, tapeworms, ringworm, deer ticks. . .I won't go on.
posted by jessamyn at 12:12 PM on June 1, 2011

I've done the bag-whacking thing too. Ziplock, keeps them in place so you can kill them quickly, mercifully.
Also, please no pets for you.
posted by angrycat at 1:22 PM on June 1, 2011

Drown the mouse.

Why I came to that recommendation, and why I would do it if I were in that situation:
- the mouse would die eventually
- the mouse, lacking any sort of complex consciousness, has no significant expectations about it's future self (i.e. by killing it, you are not robbing it of its dreams of retiring with the wife and their 10,000 grandmouselings)
- by killing it now, you prevent the 10,000 grandmouselings, many of which would die before adulthood.
- the mouse likely won't be missed by its mousey family.
- the possible outcomes for the released mouse aren't very bright (being eaten, starvation, disease, death by an inhumane trap)
- a quick and efficient drowning is as painless as a mouse can hope for, excepting it dying as a pet.
- mice are not endangered by any stretch of the imagination, so the loss of one doesn't harm the species.
- Once drowned, the mouse would likely make good snake food, if you know someone with a snake

So if you're looking at this from a utilitarian viewpoint, you have the brief suffering of the drowning mouse, plus your own turmoil from committing the act, against the high probability of it dying in a more painful manner later if you release it, not to mention the offspring that it would likely produce in the interim, which would also likely die in a painful manner as well. The possible offspring would not benefit the rest of the species, and would likely put an increased strain on existing resources of the other mice in the area, resulting in suffering for the other, already existing, mice.
posted by Homo economicus at 3:46 PM on June 1, 2011

Just take the poor guy out to a park or wild area nearby and turn him loose. Much less traumatic for everyone involved.
posted by Death by Ugabooga at 5:24 PM on June 2, 2011

The OP says "I can hardly kill it now that I have saved it." He does not want to kill the mouse. So why are you guys in here talking about how to kill mice? Some of the suggestions like flushing it or beheading it are making me sick. The OP is asking for advice on keeping it or releasing it, not killing it.
posted by IndigoRain at 7:21 PM on June 2, 2011 [3 favorites]

Thanks for all the answers. Lots of good ones.

Here is the follow up: The mouse died before I could take her anywhere to release her. My wife commented that it seemed close to death when we found it. It didn't really try to run, just sat in the corner shivering. We had not caught it in a snap-trap or a glue trap. I picked up with my gloved hands. I wish I hadn't tried to drown it, but I think it's pretty appalling that the preferred method is putting it in a plastic bag and smashing it with a hammer or decapitation. Perhaps there just isn't a good way to do it.

I am not sure releasing it would have been the best decision; it simply would have shifted the decision of whether to kill it or keep it to someone or something else.
posted by Barry B. Palindromer at 12:39 PM on July 18, 2011

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