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Half a century ago, Belgian Zoologist Bernard Heuvelmans first codified cryptozoology in his book On the Track of Unknown Animals.

The Centre for Fortean Zoology (CFZ) are still on the track, and have been since 1992. But as if chasing unknown animals wasn't enough, we are involved in education, conservation, and good old-fashioned natural history! We already have three journals, the largest cryptozoological publishing house in the world, CFZtv, and the largest cryptozoological conference in the English-speaking world, but in January 2009 someone suggested that we started a daily online magazine! The CFZ bloggo is a collaborative effort by a coalition of members, friends, and supporters of the CFZ, and covers all the subjects with which we deal, with a smattering of music, high strangeness and surreal humour to make up the mix.

It is edited by CFZ Director Jon Downes, and subbed by the lovely Lizzy Bitakara'mire (formerly Clancy), scourge of improper syntax. The daily newsblog is edited by Corinna Downes, head administratrix of the CFZ, and the indexing is done by Lee Canty and Kathy Imbriani. There is regular news from the CFZ Mystery Cat study group, and regular fortean bird news from 'The Watcher of the Skies'. Regular bloggers include Dr Karl Shuker, Dale Drinnon, Richard Muirhead and Richard Freeman.The CFZ bloggo is updated daily, and there's nothing quite like it anywhere else. Come and join us...

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Saturday, May 16, 2009

EMMA BIDDLE: The Spiny Mouse Saga

Jon gave me 2 lovely little males to look after, and after deciding to call them Chappie and Pal (after dog food because...my hamster is named Whiskas after cat food), I thought it might being interesting to do a blog on them, so here goes....

Scientific name: Acomys cilicicus (acomys comes from two greek words ‘akoke’ meaning sharp point and ‘mus’ meaning mouse
Country: Turkey
Continent: Asia
Diet: Seeds - granivore, grasses - graminivore, insects - insectivore
Food & feeding: Omnivore
Habitats: Temperate forest and woodland, desert and semi-desert
Description: Like the name says, this is a mouse with spines, a series of spiny hairs along its back that make it harder for predators to swallow them. Like many mammals living in hot climates these mice have extra large ears, which may help them keep their blood cool, like a car radiator. Length from head to base of tail is about 10 cm.
Care: Spiny mice are incredibly simple animals to care for, and require no specialized care or maintenance, other than their need to be protected from low temperatures or severe drafts. Being natural desert creatures, Spiny mice do best with a low humidity level and in temperatures ideally no lower than 75 degrees, and certainly no lower than 65 degrees at any time.

Probably the most ideal cage for these mice is a good sized aquarium with a tight fitting lid, and this is especially a good idea if they are being kept in a location where temperature may be a concern, this is what my two mice are in at present, a reptile heater can be attached to the bottom or back of an aquarium to provide radiant heat, or even a heat mat which can sit under neath .The glass sides naturally help to protect against cool draft. Two mice can comfortably live in a 10 gallon, but for any more than that a 20 long aquarium would be a better size. You can, of course, go even larger, just remember that length and width is far more useful than height to them.

These little desert mice have incredibly low waste, smell, and have virtually no odour. As with any rodents though, they DO chew and CAN escape, so extreme care should be taken to secure lids and watch for any holes that might be chewed in plastic tubes or caging which can be helped by providing wooden chew sticks. Typical beddings sold for small animals (NOT cedar!!!) work wonderfully for spiny mice, whether shavings or the pelleted beddings, however I personally prefer Carefresh bedding which is made of recycled paper, has odour control and is heat sanitised and dust extracted.

Under no circumstances should a single spiny mouse be kept as a pet. They are extremely social animals who naturally live in large groups and are very socially interactive. At the very least, two animals can do quite well together and require no more care or space than one would. The added benefit of keeping two or more mice together, beyond their happiness and health, is getting to watch the wide range of fascinating social interactions that take place between them. With their extremely social nature, two males can even be kept together quite comfortably if introduced at a young age, and almost any combination of mice will live happily together if introduced into neutral territory (a clean cage with fresh bedding) and given plenty of space.

In addition to plenty of space, these very busy, curious, and intelligent creatures need things to do. Running on a wheel is almost always a favourite activity, and provides needed exercise. Grass or wood huts, chew blocks, things to climb on, and tubes or tunnels to run through are all good to keep your spiny mice busy and happy. While they can be happy left in their cage with only the companionship of their own kind, spiny mice are very clever, and one of the more easily hand tamed small rodents with regular handling they can learn to enjoy interaction with their human, and even come to recognize certain sounds and perform simple tricks.

NEVER grasp their tail, as it can easily be broken off and will not grow back. It is important to be careful when holding your spiny mouse. They are very fast animals and have no understanding of how high they are or how dangerous a fall could be if they slip from your hands. Not only is there the danger of your mouse escaping and getting lost, a fall to hard floor can easily be deadly, the best way to pick them up is to either scoop them up in your hands or by allowing them to climb onto your hand.

As with most rodents the diet of spiny mice is primarily seeds and grains. I feed mine on hamster/mouse food. Beware a diet too high in nuts and sunflower seeds. Spiny mice suffer from very few health problems, but diabetes can occur in animals who are fed an improper diet too high in sugar and fat. In addition to their main food mix, spineys need extra protein, which can be provided by the occasional addition to their diet of dog or cat kibble that is high in protein and low in fat. They will also enjoy occasional treats of fruit and vegetables which should be given sparingly, Speaking to some spiney owners in various forums, some even give their mice live crickets or meal worms as an occasional treat! Although they are desert animals, spiny mice still need to have fresh, clean water available at all times, and do well drinking from either a bowl or a bottle, but a water bottle will need to be protected or positioned so it is hard for the mice to chew, and a bowl can be kicked full of bedding during play time.

I have only had them since 24 April and my tank for them is not set up the way I wish it to be for them, it was so that i could settle them down with as little stress as possible, but give it a week or two and I will be changing it quite considerably..... so keep checking back for more updates and adventures of Pal and Chappie.

1 comment:

sonia said...

I have 5 spiny mice myself. 2 in one cage and 3 in another. They are cute, but can be rather agressive toward each other. I do feed them crickets on occasion. I'll stay tuned to see how your boys do.
Sonia