This law is called the Animal Welfare Act. The Animal Welfare Act says that your animal has five groups of welfare needs. These are five groups of things that animals need to be healthy and happy. These five welfare needs are called the Five Freedoms.
Under the Animal Welfare Act all animal guardians (owners) need to provide these five groups of things for their animals. One of these Five Freedoms is: Freedom from Pain, Injury or Disease. In this section you will learn about this freedom and how you can make sure your mice receive the right medical care to be free from pain, suffering and disease.
Just like you have a family doctor that you see when you are unwell, your mice need their own doctor too – a veterinarian is an animal doctor.
It’s a good idea for your family to find out which veterinarian they plan on using before you get your mice. Ask your friends that are mouse owners which veterinarians they recommend. If possible, visit the clinic beforehand and look around. Ask yourself: Is the waiting area clean? Are the staff helpful? Find out the opening hours and if they handle emergencies after hours as well.
Mice feel pain in the same way as other animals, including people, but they are not very good at showing outward signs of pain and may be suffering a great deal before you notice anything is wrong.
A change in the way your mouse normally behaves can be an early sign he or she is ill or in pain. If your mouse is not eating or is more quiet than usual, it is highly likely to be ill, or in pain. You should talk to your veterinarian immediately.
If any of your mice show any signs of injury or ill health, you must take them to their veterinarian immediately. If it is late at night or on the weekend and your veterinary clinic is closed, there are great after-hours clinics available for emergencies. Make sure your family know where your closest after-hours veterinary clinic is.
Mice find being caught and handled stressful, but it’s important to check their health and welfare regularly – a good balance should be reached. Ask your parent or caregiver to help you handle your mice for signs of illness or injury.
Make sure this is done by someone else if you are away.
Consult your mouse’s veterinarian immediately if you suspect your mouse is in pain, ill or injured.
When mice get sick, they can get very unwell very quickly. They often only show subtle signs of being in pain or distress or that they are suffering, until it is very severe.
Take your mice to their veterinarian immediately if any of them show any of the following signs:
The first thing to remember when you are picking up or holding your mouse is this – you are much, much bigger than he or she is! A frightened mouse can be very difficult to pick up. They will run zigzags all over their enclosure in an attempt to elude the unknown giant hand coming to scoop them up. Although this is normal at first, the best way to pick up your mouse is to teach it not to be afraid of you. A properly trained mouse will walk right into your hand as soon as you put it in the enclosure.
Mice should be allowed to investigate your hands in their own time.
Cupped hands technique
To pick up your mouse using the cupped hand technique, scoop them on one or both open hands and allow them to sit or walk over your hands without physically restraining them. If you find that your mouse attempts to escape by jumping off your hands the first time you try to pick them up, gently close your cupped hands loosely around them until their attempts to escape start to decrease (for a maximum of 30 seconds). You can then open your hands and allow them to sit or walk around on your hands unrestrained. This closed cupping should not be necessary after the first handling session.
Tunnel handling technique
A home enclosure tunnel can also be used in combination with the cupped hand technique, to aid the picking up of a mouse. To pick up your mouse in this way, gently guide them into a home enclosure tunnel (one that is usually available in their enclosure and which has their enclosure scent on it) as you bring the tunnel forward. You can then allow them to crawl from the tunnel onto your cupped hands.
If you find that on the first time you handle your mouse, they attempt to escape by jumping out of the tunnel, close your hands loosely around the tunnel ends until their attempts to escape start to decrease (for a maximum of 30 seconds). You can then open your hands and allow them to crawl out of the tunnel onto your cupped hands. Covering the ends of the tunnel in this way should not be necessary after the first day or two of handling.
If you have to pick up a frightened mouse, the safest way to do so is by softly holding the base of the tail (the part closest to their body) and lifting up the mouse just enough to slide your hand under his or her body. Keep gently holding the tail, even when the mouse is in your palm to prevent it from jumping out of your hand. Mice typically will not jump on to anything if the fall is more than about 30cm, but frightened animals are unpredictable and may jump from heights sufficient to hurt themselves.
You should not squeeze the body of a mouse from the sides or try to scoop it up from their enclosure, as you could easily hurt them (remember, mice are tiny and it doesn’t take much to hurt them). Picking them up like this also frightens them so it’s best to stick to the methods mentioned above. You may have seen people pick up mice by their tails and lifting them up. While this doesn’t really hurt the mouse, it is an uncomfortable position for them and you run a much higher risk of damaging their tails. How would you like it if a giant carried you around upside-down by your leg?