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Mice not in great health, should we risk the stress of downsizing?

edited April 2015 in Health
We have a big group of mice we call the Nuts, the group contains females and neutered males and all but one of the mice are almost definetly closely related. Cancer has hit and a few in the group have lumps, deaths mean the group has decreased in numbers in the time since we put them in their current big cage and severe resp issues in the past have led to some of the mice aging quite early. Altogether over 2/3 of the group aren't in the best of health anymore, they're all happy and still clearly enjoying life but at the moment its basically a big group in a huge cage with a lot of the mice being affected by health issues to some degree or another.

We've seen in the past that sometimes when an animal has untreatable health issues, moving them to a smaller cage can help a bit. It seems to give them less territory to patrol and keep an eye on and it also makes absolutely sure that everything they need is close by. Given the condition most of the Nuts are in now, we feel they may benefit from moving to a smaller cage but the past resp issues complicate things a bit...

The resp issues have affected the group more than once in the past, we have reason to suspect the issues are caused by myco and that they may return in future. Stress may increase the risk of it returning. If it returns now then we are 99% sure one mouse won't survive it and are 75% sure quite a few others won't either. Moving the mice to a smaller cage - even with the same substrate, toys e.t.c may cause them stress. In the past they have taken cage changes quite well but we never figured out why the resp issues have flared up before, we just know it wasn't when mice moved cages.

Despite the risks we do think the group would probably benefit from moving to a smaller cage we have spare. (By smaller I mean 100cm Barney, their current cage is the Elegance with a full shelf in it, they wouldn't be going to a small cage but it would be quite a bit smaller.) The worry is that if we move them and it stresses anyone into resp symptoms we will probably lose the majority of the group in a matter of days. We do have more of the medication that eventually cleared the resp issues before but we'd probably need to speak to the vet who prescribed it before to be sure we got the dose right as we've lost quite a few of the group since the medication was originally prescribed.

In short... We think our big group of mice would benefit from downsizing. If we downsize them and it causes their past resp issues to recur again most of the group won't survive it.
Opinions/advice would help a lot.

I know most probably won't have experience to help with advice, but even if you could think it through and see what you think... Any/all comments/advice about if we should downsize them or not or if you think the risks are worth it e.t.c would be appreciated at the moment.
Currently one of two pet-humans of some hamsters (syrian, roborovski, chinese and russian hybrid), mice, mongolian gerbils and a duprasi :)


  • zany_toonzany_toon Mouse
    Posts: 631
    It's definitely harder when there are issues Kyrill :( I've been in the same situation before, including have a mouse who had hind leg paralysis and wasn't coping with the size of the cage on top of her sisters having resp issues. I never tied this myself at the time, but I have given it some thought since and wondered if instead of moving everything into the new cage, that actually setting up the new cage inside the existing one (base, bars etc) and setting it up so they have access might help. It would mean you could leave it in as part of their toys and things for a few weeks, then move then move them into it. I thought that it would mean they wouldn't be as stressed as they have gotten used to it in their existing environment. The other alternative might be to partition the cage - they wouldn't be exposed to the stress then hopefully as they are still in their existing territory and you could move the partition to where ever you need it.

    As I said though, I haven't tried it myself but I definitely plan to in future. I'm sorry you are in this situation, but I hope the girls are all happy for a while yet.
  • Posts: 529
    Thanks zany. I'm not sure the Barney'd fit inside the Elegance - despite being a lot smaller (100cm long instead of 160cm long) they're both fairly close to 50cm wide and the Barney doors're on the front and the roof so they wouldn't be a huge help if it was inside the Elegance.

    We could split the Elegance though... Its actually designed to be used as two cages or as a single cage so it even came with a divider to stick down the middle - we used it when the group first went in so that they didn't get all of the space at once. The only thing that'll be a problem there is the shelves and now you've said about splitting it we've started thinking of ways around that.

    The only issue we'd have after working out a solution for the shelves'd be that whatever we do they will almost definetly need to leave the cage for a couple of hours. Theres a very slim chance we could do the major renovations needed to split the cage but it'd definetly be a challenge. The Elegance is a great cage... Right up until you need to remove the giant shelves we use to make it safe lol
    Even if we can manage keeping them in there while we change things chances are it'd still be at least an hour total of us fiddling with the cage and rearranging their belongings so even that won't be stress free.

    The other option'd be managing to stick the Barney base in their cage for a while so they could get used to it (and crossing our fingers they didn't demolish it - the Elegance had plastic substrate trays until a certain group of mice decided to demolish them) and then to move them to the Barney and recreate the bit of the Elegance layout that they use most often inside the Barney as accurately as possible. It'd keep things as familiar as possible with less total time moving....

    Dunno, its a real pest of a situation really :( Thanks for your ideas though, its definetly given us more to think about
    Currently one of two pet-humans of some hamsters (syrian, roborovski, chinese and russian hybrid), mice, mongolian gerbils and a duprasi :)
  • NuttySianNuttySian Mouse
    Posts: 214
    Is there anyway you could put them together? Like door to door? 
    Then they could go in and out of both and still have the big one for comfort while getting used to the smaller one, then make the move permanent when they're happy.
  • superwolfsuperwolf Mouse
    Posts: 311
    Could you just block off the whole shelf and have the cage cut in half horizontally?  A picture of the current setup might help.

    It sounds like a really tough decision to make, and I think it's important to remember how much you've improved these mice's lives - it is not your fault if you make a judgement call and it goes wrong for some of the mice, cos it's clear to everyone how much you care about the Nuts.  Wishing you all the best with whatever happens. :)
  • AnnBAnnB Mouse
    Posts: 1,047
    If you do decide to swap cages, is it worth putting them back on the meds for a couple of days before the move?
  • CritteryCrittery Overlord
    Posts: 274
    I think superwolfs made a very good point there, it's going to be a very tricky decision either way - and all you can do is act in their best interest, which is what you are clearly doing.

    For me, I think I'd keep the cage as it is but find a way to partition or give a smaller, more defensive part within it as has already been suggested and only do half-cleanouts so there is always some scent of them around.
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  • edited April 2015 Posts: 529
    Thanks everyone. It does look like partitioning the space in the current cage may be best. Blocking off the shelf is definetly something else to think about.

    We already only do half-cleanouts to minimise stress and whatever we do we're not rushing into this - we're taking our time and making absolutely sure we 100% believe we're making the right call when we do change something.

    You've all given us a lot to think about and a fair few handy ideas. I also really appreciate the reminders that all we can do is make sure we really believe anything we do is in their best interests, it sounds obvious when said but is hard to remember sometimes.

    I'll try and make sure I update here with whatever we do end up deciding to do
    Currently one of two pet-humans of some hamsters (syrian, roborovski, chinese and russian hybrid), mice, mongolian gerbils and a duprasi :)
  • edited May 2015 Posts: 529
    I said I'd try and update and I think we've made a decision, but thats an "I think" and your input could yet affect it. We had been thinking we'd partition their current cage in two stages (removing access to the shelves, then dividing the avaliable space in half) to give them a smaller space, then moving them to a cage of a similar size with the same substrate, setup e.t.c....

    Then today (the day we were due to remove access to the shelves) I realised that for some animals we've owned in the past partitioning their current cage so they had reduced access'd actually upset them more than moving them to a different cage. A recent example was Boo a dwarf hamster, she needed less space but if we'd partitioned her cage she'd have stressed herself senseless trying to get at and defend the partitioned bit, we downsized her to a different cage and she loved it.

    Given how the mice in the group have taken cage moves before, also given the personalities of those in the group... We've realised that whatever we do will stress them and we actually suspect they'll take a move to a new cage better than they'd take losing space. A relevant example is that every mouse in the group has handled moving cages better than gaining too many toys at once in their existing cage. We also suspect (that like in my example of Boo) at least one or two would probably see any sort of divider or barrier as a major challenge to try and get past so they could get back to the bit of the cage it was hiding and would stress about getting past it. Hazel and Heyana in particular are likely to really not appreciate losing parts of the cage they're used to having acess to. In a new cage they'd have the stress of the move but they'd almost definetly at least accept it more quickly.

    We're not planning on doing the move until Wednesday so we still have time to think... But thats where we stand at the moment with it. Whatever we do may be the wrong call but the group continues to shrink, health continues to slowly deteriorate and very soon doing nothing will start to be the wrong call too.

    As ever, opinions, feedback, luck e.t.c is all welcome - I have a nasty feeling we'll be needing the luck but yeah, we have to do something and we think we're making the best choice we can for them and their health now.
    Currently one of two pet-humans of some hamsters (syrian, roborovski, chinese and russian hybrid), mice, mongolian gerbils and a duprasi :)
  • superwolfsuperwolf Mouse
    Posts: 311
    Best of luck - I think your reasoning is sound, and I really do hope the Nuts decide to agree!  :)
  • Posts: 529
    Just thought I'd drop back and say that in the end we downsized them later than planned but they did move cages a few days ago. So far its going good on the resp front. Unfortunately we did lose Wingnut today but I'm not sure it was because of the change, we'd been expecting to lose her any day now since February so it may have just been her time. I'm still amazed how long she was happy and healthy with her lump to be honest.
    We've given them all their favourite things and replicated their favourite 1/4 of the cage as best as we can (including the nest corner), we also delayed a partial clean a bit to make sure everything smelt as familiar as possible and will be doing the partial clean once we're sure they've settled without any issues.
    Heres hoping everyone continues to take the change as well as they seem to have so far :)
    Currently one of two pet-humans of some hamsters (syrian, roborovski, chinese and russian hybrid), mice, mongolian gerbils and a duprasi :)
  • AnnBAnnB Mouse
    Posts: 1,047
    Sad news about Wingnut, it sounds positive for the others though which is great news as I know you've been deliberating on their move.
  • Posts: 529
    We had been, we knew they needed the change but making sure we made the right change was a challenge. It is definetly looking good for those left in the group at the moment though :)
    Currently one of two pet-humans of some hamsters (syrian, roborovski, chinese and russian hybrid), mice, mongolian gerbils and a duprasi :)
  • racingmouseracingmouse Mouse
    Posts: 1,327
    Glad you got things sorted to suit you and the mice kyrill. It`s always a challenge when dynamics change and it`s never easy wondering what the best strategy is. Sad to hear about wee Wingnut though. x
  • zany_toonzany_toon Mouse
    Posts: 631
    I'm sorry you lost Wingnut, Kyrill. I am glad though that the changes have went better for everyone else, and i hope they are enjoying themselves as best they can.
  • Posts: 529
    Thanks both
    Currently one of two pet-humans of some hamsters (syrian, roborovski, chinese and russian hybrid), mice, mongolian gerbils and a duprasi :)
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