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Home Pets by S.O.Beeton - Published 1843

THE MOUSE (pps 682- )

The picture above illustrates the chapter.

Optical Character Recognition (OCR) software has been run on part of the chapter on "The Mouse" from "Home Pets". The section on "Pet Mice and their Cage" is complete. There are numerous errors in the text (many obvious) which will be corrected as son as possible. Further OCR will be carried out on the remainder of the chapter shortly.

"WHAT next? Pray, Sir, have you not this time made a slight mistake and substituted a pest for a pet; or are we to have in due course instructions how to make the black-beetle happy, how the domestic, spider may be fattened and fondled, and the cockroach rendered comfortable ?"

My mind's ear is conscious of these and many other sarcastic queries from indignant lady-housekeepers, accompanied by a chorus of ten thousand little screams from ten thousand other ladies, old and young, who, though unafflicted by larder cares, axe thrown into as complete a state of panic at the mere whisper of mouse! as men display at the dread mention of "mad dog." Nevertheless are we no way daunted, for replying to the taunts, and the sarcasm, and the little screams, there comes a burst of admiration for the bright-eyed, nimble little mouse, in all its varieties of brown, and mottled, and tawny, and white,-a very Babel of pleadings for it as an amusing and instructive creature, and imploring that it may not be banished from the circle of Home Pets. True the voices raised in favour of the mouse are, as a rule, little voices, whose owners, having no care as to the purchase of the next cheese or box of candles, care nothing as to how the last was consumed, and are seldom affected beyond risibility when cook exhibits to indignant mamma the mutilated stilton, or the loaf tunnelled as neatly as though the tiny operators had studied under Sir Isambard Brunel. Never mind. The careless rogues (the boys, not the mice) will know better some day. Meantime they retain the mouse cage and triumph. Neither are they without a tolerably Bound argument in favour of mouse-keeping. "What satisfaction is it," say they, " to catch a mouse and kill him? That you inflict no punishment on him is certain, as the instant a mouse is a dead mouse there is, as far as he is concerned, no more a blank in mousedom than though he had never lived at all. It must be a more sensible thing to get what you can out of them as some return for what they filch. What can they be made to render? Nothing but amusement. Very well; a very good thing too: and let us exact of them as much of that. commodity as possible."

There is really no telling the extent of the amusement and instruction that may be gathered from close observation of the habits and peculiarities of the common little brown mouse. They have been known to emit musical sounds. I myself can bear witness to this, having heard distinctly, and for as long a time as seemed a minute, a low and continuous strain of mouse music. It was in the middle of the night, and in my bed-room. I was lying awake, when, preceded by a scratching of little paws on the fender, the soft music began. My wife heard it as well as myself. Once we whispered concerning it, but it was not disturbed, but at a second whisper there was an unmusical squeak and a scamper, and the music was at an end.

I find in an edition of the Rev. J. G. Wood's "Natural History" a letter from a clergyman friend of his-the Rev. R. L. Bampfield, of Little Barfield, Essex-giving an account of a singing mouse, or of singing mice, and which in one particular coincides with my experience.

" In a former residence of mine," says he, "some mice took up their abode behind the wainscot in the kitchen. From motives which few housekeepers would appreciate we allowed them to remain undisturbed: and most merry, cheerful little creatures they were. It seemed to us that a young brood was being carefully educated, but they did not learn all their accomplishments from their parents. In the kitchen hung a good singing canary, and by degrees the chirp of the mice changed into an exact imitation of the canary's song; at least, it was so with

684 - 695 remain to be OCR'd.

P696 -

the cat, preserved its life. At the time, Dr. Smee was attached to the offices of the Bank of England, and occupied a room, the floor of which was stone and the walls bare and solid. The mouse escaped, and as Dr. Smee says " as the presence of a wild mouse in the room was undesirable 1 took measures to secure it. There was no hope for him that he would ultimately escape, although there were abundant opportunities for hiding. I set the trap and baited it with a savoury morsel; but day after day no mouse entered. The poor little thing gave unequivocal signs of extreme hunger by gnawing the bladder from some of my chemical bottles. I gradually removed from the room everything he could possibly eat, but still the old proverb, 'Once caught twice shy,' so far applied that he would not enter my trap. After many days, on visiting the apartment, the trap was down and the mouse caught; the pangs of hunger were more intolerable than the terrors of imprisonment. He did not, however, accept the unpleasant alternative of entering the trap until he was so nearly starved that his bones almost protruded through his skin, and he freely took bits of food from my lingers through the bars of his cage."


The keeping and breeding of "fancy" mice is such a simple matter that very few lines will suffice for its treatment.

As to the best sort of mouse to "pet," this much may be said, that whatever colour may be selected, none will be found so docile and so easy to tame as the vulgar little brown mouse. White mice, or grey and white, or cinnamon and grey, may lay claim to greater personal attractions, but they are never so healthy as the common brown mouse, never so tractable, and, according to my experience, never so clever.

Supposing you to be on mouse-breeding bent, first of all prepare the cage. Let it be a large cage in which there are three compartments: a large one, with wire sides and roof; a sleepingroom, with wooden walls and ceiling (the latter sliding in grooves), and by the side of this a spare room, with an entry into the open cage, but so contrived that egress may be stopped at pleasure. This last-mentioned chamber, which should, like the other, be furnished with a sliding roof, is for the temporary imprisonment of the "boar " when his wife brings him a fresh troop of young ones. Sometimes father mouse is amiable and good-natured, 'but sometimes-capital fellow as he may be on ordinary occasions - he will, should mother mouse present him with a litter, fake on himself the behaviour of a ruffian - nay, of a cannibal, and devour them, body and bones, before her eyes. Therefore, when the interesting event is at hand, box him up straight off.

It is a mistake to suppose that the mouse delights in the unpleasant odour his presence in a confined space is sure to generate. You may depend he dislikes it as much as we do, and is very delighted to have his house tidied up, and a fresh bed laid. To ensure proper cleanliness, the entire dwelling should have a double floor, and the upper floor should be drawn out and scraped at least every other day. The perches and tiny brackets round the open cage should be movable, and taken out and cleaned as often as the false bottom. By the bye, it should be mentioned that a goodly number of these perches and bars and brackets should be adjusted in what may be called the mouse's day-room. The little creatures will be found to take full advantage of these accessories to climbing and swinging and leaping, and it is much better exercise for them than struggling and panting and clutching at nothing in a revolving cylinder.

Always be careful, when you remove the bottom of the cage to clean it, that it is perfectly dry before you replace it. As to bedding, almost anything that is soft and easily spread - a little cow-hair or white wadding will do; but there is one thing that will not do, and that is wadding that has been dyed black. Whatever your breed of mice may be, a night's lodging on black wadding will pretty certainly kill them.

Should the reader be induced to avoid the expense of purchasing white or party-coloured mice, and to try his hand on the common brown sort, he has nothing to do but to procure a few mice not more than a month or six weeks old. They will, course be savage enough at first, but a fast of two, or at most three days, will generally reduce them to so tame a condition that they will come to the bars and eat from your hand." Let them, after a moderate meal, fast again for a day, and, when you approach the cage with some such sound as you used when last you fed them, they scramble to the front, and squeak their delight at renewing your acquaintance. If after this you are not friends, do not blame the mice, but set yourself down as an individual unpossessed of the knack of mouse-taming.


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