Many pet snakes can eat wild mice, but that doesn’t mean that any pet snake should eat wild mice, or that you should be handling wild mice to feed them to your snake.
Here are three reasons why you should not give wild mice to your pet snake.
Live Mice can Injure your Pet Snake
No reputable pet store is going to sell you live mice to feed your snake. It’s an inhumane practice for both the mouse and your snake.
The mouse suffers the stress of being strangled and eaten, and your snake likely will get bitten in the process.
Even a small mouse can inflict a severe bite on your snake. Even a small bite can become severe if it gets infected.
The risk of injury and infection is even higher if you feed live mice to two snakes in the same enclosure at the same time.
Handling Live Mice Exposes You and Your Other Pets to Infections
Handling live mice can make you sick. Simply bringing live mice into your home exposes you to a number of possible infections.
Mice don’t exactly meet human standards for hygiene and cleanliness.
A live mouse, especially an agitated and anxious wild mouse, is going to pee and poop everywhere.
Mice spread the germs that can cause Salmonella, hantavirus infections, and lymphocytic choriomeningitis (LCMV) through their urine and feces, even if you are careful to put on gloves so you don’t touch them.
- Salmonella -Any surface against a mouse drags its tail can become a source of Salmonella. Placing any wild mouse, dead or alive, on any surface where you prepare food can expose your entire family to Salmonella. Placing a mouse, dead or alive, in another pet’s food bowl can infect them with Salmonella.
- Hantavirus – This potentially deadly virus spreads through tiny particles of dried mouse feces or urine that become airborne. If you inhale tiny particles carrying the virus, you can develop aches and pains, chills, and fever. The condition can progress to difficulty breathing, kidney failure, and death.
- Lymphocytic choriomeningitis (LCMV) – This condition can cause serious neurological problems. It is spread through mouse nesting materials, droppings, urine, and saliva.
Mice can also carry parasites that carry diseases.
A tick hitching a ride on the fur of a mouse can transmit Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever or Lyme Disease.
If you catch mice in a part of your backyard that has tall grass, there is a high likelihood they have ticks.
Mice can also transmit infections through fleas. One of the deadliest diseases in human history, bubonic plague, still occurs in the United States.
There are only about half a dozen cases a year, but it’s a real possibility in Texas, California, and the Rocky Mountain States.
This disease is usually transmitted by fleas that live on mice or ducks.
A live mouse or rat will also try to bite you in its struggle to get away.
In addition to staph and strep infections, a mouse bite can transmit the organism that causes rat-bite fever.
And mice still transmit a condition called tularemia to both pets and people.
You just can’t make a wild mouse completely germ-free.
But even if you could, there is another potential problem with feeding them to your snake.
‘Wild’ Mice can be Toxic to Your Snake
If you are trapping mice in your garage, in a garden shed, or around your property to feed your snake, are you sure they haven’t been exposed to poisons?
Although it’s not an optimal method of rodent control, many people still put out mouse and rat poisons with the hope that problem rodents will eat them and then die, but not in some really inconvenient place, like inside your wall.
As anyone who has used rodenticides can tell you, mice and rats don’t necessarily eat enough to die. They just get sick. Or they die in inconvenient places.
Sick mice and rats are easier to catch. It’s the sick mice and rats that will get caught in traps that you can then easily feed to your snake.
But the mouse and rat poison in the mice and rats you catch then goes into your snake.
There is Still Some Controversy About Feeding Live Rodents to Snakes
Even though there are at least these three strong reasons not to feed live mice and rats to snakes, some snake owners feed live rodents anyway.
They feel that feeding live prey to their snakes is just more natural. And they are right about that.
They may not have any problems feeding their snakes live mice and rats they buy at the pet store.
Store-bought live mice and rats may still bite the snakes feed on them, but they won’t be toxic to your snake, and they probably won’t carry any diseases that can cause problems for your snake, your other pets, or you and your family.
The drawback to using store-bought live mice and rats to feed snake pets is that snakes get used to them.
They come to expect to be fed a live rodent every few weeks.
If feeding live mice and rats become inconvenient for you, your snake may refuse to eat them.
There is a better way to feed your snake.
Benefits of Pre-killed Prey
Feeding your snake pre-killed is safer and easier than feeding your snake live rodents, and it’s much easier than feeding your snake live rodents you have to catch yourself.
Using frozen, pre-killed prey lets you stockpile them in the freezer.
You will always have the right size of a mouse or rat your snake needs for its current stage of growth.
You won’t have to run to the pet store to buy live mice and rats and keep them alive until it’s time to feed your snake.
Or, if you were planning to feed wild-caught rodents, you won’t have to monitor your traps.
You won’t risk getting a bite yourself as you take the wild-caught rodents out of their traps, or as you feed them to your snake.
You can’t always count on being able to find the right size of rodent in the wild to feed your snake.
You can always find mice in the right size of development for your snake at a pet supply store.
Will My Pet Snake Eat Frozen Mice from Pet Store?
Unless you caught your snake in the wild and are trying to make it your pet, you can always start feeding your snake store-bought, previously frozen, thawed mice from the very beginning.
When you first get any snake, there may be a few days up to a couple of weeks it just doesn’t want to eat.
If you start off feeding your snake pre-killed, farmed rodents from the very beginning, you won’t have to go through the waiting game again later.
If you are currently feeding your snake live prey, and you want to switch to pre-caught, previously frozen food, it may help to buy pre-scented prey.
These are food animals that the pet food supplier has treated with the scents your snake has come to expect in live prey.
It can also help to dangle the thawed prey in front of your snake to entice them to eat. Always use tongs to do this. Never feed your snake from your hand.
Your snake can think that your hand is part of its meal.
Previously frozen prey animals always have to be completely thawed before they are fed to your snake. Defrost it in the fridge in cold water.
Just as you wouldn’t defrost other frozen meats on your kitchen counter at room temperature, you should never attempt to thaw frozen rodents at room temperature.
This keeps bacterial growth to a minimum. I
It’s also important to never defrost frozen prey in the microwave. It will become too hot for your snake to eat.
Frequently Asked Questions About Feeding Snakes
Q. What about feeding my snake live crickets I catch myself?
A. There are some of the same problems with wild-caught crickets that there are with wild-caught mice. They may have been exposed to insecticides.
If offered to your snake live, they will try to escape. Your snake may find a way out of its enclosure as it tries to catch them.
And only a few kinds of snakes will eat crickets.
Ball pythons will eat them reluctantly. They are best suited to green snakes (both smooth and rough), garter snakes, and ribbon snakes.
You can train these kinds of snakes to eat freeze-dried crickets, which are much easier to feed.
Q. I rehomed a snake that a friend didn’t want anymore. I’m grossed out by the whole idea of feeding it rodents. Is there anything else I can feed my snake?
A. You can always try feeding your snake Reptilinks.
These are sausage-like pieces of meat made from farm-raised rabbit, chicken, frog, quail, and free-range chicken, including the whole animal, inner organs, muscle meat bones, and skin. It helps to add scent to Reptilinks, so your snake will recognize it as food.
The makers of Reptilinks suggest a bait and switch method if your snake is hesitant to try Reptilinks.
Dangle a thawed rodent in front of the snake (with tongs, from a safe distance) and then give it a Reptilink instead.
Or offer your snake a small thawed mouse and follow with a Reptilink as if it were normal food.
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