Garden of Fuzz

Friday, May 11, 2007

Trouble in Mouse Paradise

As some of you know, and especially if you have viewed my photos, I have several pet mice; one colony of PEW (pink-eyed white) sisters and one lone wild mouse.

Pink-eyed white mice (also known as lab mice) are prone to disease, having been bred to be especially susceptible to it for the purposes of medical study. Respiratory disease and cancer are the predominant ailments, in my experience. It has been many years since I chose a mouse as a pet; they tend to choose me through various avenues, and when I do chose a mouse, I tend to stay away from PEWs as the heartbreak of losing them only comes sooner. That said, this little colony of sisters has been, for the most part, with me for nearly three years (quite good for mice). We lost one of the sisters, Nimba, to respiratory trouble last summer.

Now it seems I am about to lose both Pilea and Cumula.

Pilea has had two bouts of respiratory trouble in the past four months. Both have cleared up, but often a bout of this kind of trouble means a weakened immune system. I had noticed before leaving for Oslo that she looked and moved "differently" -- hard to explain, but if you've ever had a relative or pet fall ill but not tell you, sometimes you just know because they are different in minute ways.
After arriving home, and being greeted by the mice, I could suddenly see that Pilea had lost weight, and there is now a large lump visible on her left flank/belly. She is in good spirits, but it is only a matter of time.

This being bad enough, while spending time with the Cloud Mice (as we collectively call them) yesterday evening, my husband noticed that Pilea, Strata and Cirra were missing their whiskers and eyebrows! Cumula has barbered them in the past, but usually their regular fur between their eyes (so they look like they are wearing spectacles) or on their cheeks; this is the first time she's trimmed whiskers. Nibbling off whiskers is a common trick a mother cat or mouse will do to her litter to keep them from wandering off when they are too young. Obviously, Cumula for some reason didn't want to be left alone... But why?

This morning, I went downstairs to say good morning and give Pilea her medicine. None of the mice came out of the nest right away, and one of the mice seemed to be having trouble rolling over to walk. She became more distressed, as did I, so I detached their nest pod and opened it up (the other mice had run down for breakfast already).
Sure enough, Cumula is paralysed from her hips down. We thought she was just kind of fat (well, she was), but I believe she also has a tumour pressing on her spine, and last night or the day before it finally pressed down enough to paralyse her. I feel just terrible having thought she was merely a pudgy mouse, and a lazybones yesterday in not getting out of the nest. I have done what I can to make her comfortable today in moving the main nest down to the ground floor, and putting food and water within reach, but she is quite upset and dragging herself about trying to hide. I can only hope that her sisters pile up around her today (as they did with Nimba last year) and groom her frequently (this is how mice show they care about you). We have an appointment this evening with our favourite mouse vet, but there won't be anything he can do of course.

The coming days and weeks will be very difficult. I had hoped this year we would not lose any of our beloved pets.

Today's Earworm: Andvari, by Sigur Rós


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