So we got 2 pet mice last January. Apparently they make perfect first pets. They're very portable too. Ella took Polly and Katie with when we went to visit a friend mid-January. She only told me a couple of weeks ago that she dropped one of the mice when she got it out of the cage and the dog got to it before she could. I had no idea, but I did notice that the poor mouse suddenly had paralysed hind legs. A shoe box, some scissors and a running car engine later, we buried the mice in Fiona's garden.
And the a few days later we went to get a new Polly. She was very cute and Katie was over the moon with her new friend.
Fast forward to a few weeks ago. I suddenly noticed that Katie was getting rather fat. And fatter every day until I was convinced that she was indeed pregnant. I was proven right when one morning I discovered a wriggling heap of peanut sized pink baby mice in the top of the cage. I Googled "mice AND pregnant" and learnt that mice are only pregnant for 25 days. Much shorter than the time since the first Polly died. I called the pet shop and left an angry message for the manager regarding being told they sold me a male mouse when I was now stuck with too many baby mice to count. Then I called a vet and asked if they could desex a male mouse. The receptionist laughed at me. The RSPCA was friendlier but could also not help. The 3rd vet practice told me one of their vets was "willing to give it a go". The fee would be 10 times more than what I paid for the mice.
So one Monday morning I took Polly to the vet to have him castrated and prevent more baby mice. Two hours later I got a call from the vet practice. "You brought in Polly the mouse to be castrated? That will be impossible, because she is actually a girl." Everyone at the vet's practice had a good laugh at my expense.
Seriously confused, I booked another appointment and took the whole cage with all the mice in and asked them to tell me how on earth we managed to end up with all these unwanted babies.
The vet checked both adult mice and told me that they were definitely both girls. Apparently both of them were mothers too because there were babies in 2 different sizes.
So the only possible explanation is that a wild mouse got into the cage and wooed our Polly and Katie. And then I remembered that for about a week there was indeed a hole in the top of the cage. Which I hadn't worried about because our mice don't seem very agile and I never believed that they could get out of the cage that way. I blocked the hole when one morning Ella reported finding Katie on her bed. And wild mice are obviously far more agile than our lazy pets.
I put an ad in the classifieds offering the baby mice free to a good home. I had already managed to get reservations for 6 of them. Until they started growing hair and getting more active and I realised that they seemed to have inherited all their dad's genes and few of their mothers. Our pet mice are quite calm and tame. These babies are WILD. They are skittish and they scurry away in all directions at the slightest sound or movement. They jump up and bite when trapped. And they all totally look like the wild mice that poo in our pantry when the cold weather sets in.
We still had to deal with the wild mouse or mice that - I discovered in the meantime - had been helping themselves to our food uninvited: a capital sin at my house! So we got out our mice traps - that got quite a bit of usage the first winter we lived in this house - and set them in the kitchen and Ella's room.
And a couple of nights ago I heard a snap sound in the middle of the night. In the morning I discovered a very dead mouse in the kitchen trap. I left it to deal with later after my first coffee. When I told Ella she went to have a look. Moments later she appeared in my doorway dangling the dead mouse by the tail. She held it up and had a good look at it and said thoughtfully: "So this is the daddy."
I asked the zoo last week if we can bring the - 14 according to Ella - baby mice in. The guy at the reception told me in a low voice: "They will probably end up as food." I wasn't quick enough to reply: "I didn't expect you to give them their own exhibit!".
Ella is a bit sad about it of course. She knows they will get eaten. She's seen the mice in the freezer at Taronga zoo. And I don't believe in telling lies to spare her feelings either.
I think she also understands that there is nothing else we can do with these feral mice. We've had a few escape: mainly because they jumped out of the cage when we opened it or ran over our arms and dropped to the floor. We've managed to find them all back, but it takes an hour of moving everything in Ella's room and tilting shelves. I will be glad when we go back to just Polly and Katie. Who I appreciate more than before now I've witnessed their journey through motherhood. And who appreciate me more too now I've been feeding them all sorts of delicious and nutritious snacks every day, like meal worms and bok choy.
Ella asked me the other day - at bedtime - if she could name the babies. Because of the time of day I told her that that would take way too long because there were too many and anyway, we can't tell them apart. But Ella said: "Oh mum. I'll call this half Lilly and this half Nick."
So next Friday we say goodbye to Lilly and Nick and wish them well on their short adventure at the zoo.