Frozen thawed mice are a common food source for many reptiles, birds, and other animals kept as pets or in zoos and aquariums. However, there are some important guidelines to follow when thawing and using previously frozen feeder mice, especially when it comes to how long they can safely be kept thawed before use.
Can you refreeze thawed mice?
In general, it is not recommended to refreeze mice or other frozen feeders once they have been thawed. Refreezing can allow ice crystals to form in the tissues, damaging cell structures and creating an environment where bacteria can more readily grow. This makes the feeder unsafe for consumption. For this reason, only thaw as many mice as will be used within a safe timeframe.
How long do thawed mice last refrigerated?
According to most sources, thawed mice that have been properly stored in the refrigerator are good for approximately 7-10 days before needing to be discarded. The key is proper refrigeration at temperatures between 32-40°F as soon as possible after thawing.
It is important to keep thawed mice tightly wrapped or in sealed containers during refrigerated storage. This prevents them from drying out. Drying will cause the tissues to harden, making the mice less palatable as a food source. An intact, soft mouse is ideal.
Tips for refrigerating thawed mice
- Thaw frozen mice gradually in the refrigerator rather than at room temperature.
- Once thawed, transfer the mice to sealable plastic bags or containers.
- Remove as much air as possible and seal the container.
- Place the sealed mice on a shelf near the back of the refrigerator, not in the door.
- Use thawed mice within 7-10 days for best quality.
Can you freeze thawed mice again?
As mentioned above, refreezing thawed feeder mice is not recommended. The ice crystals that form during a second freeze will damage the cell structure, creating an ideal environment for bacterial growth after thawing again. This can make the mice unsafe for consumption.
What happens if you give a reptile a bad mouse?
Feeding reptiles and other pets mice that have spoiled or gone bad can cause serious health issues. Signs that a thawed mouse has spoiled and should not be fed include:
- Foul, rotten smell
- Slimy texture
- Visible mold
Consequences of feeding spoiled mice can include:
- Gastrointestinal upset like vomiting or diarrhea
- Food poisoning
- Bacterial infection
- Rejection of food/loss of appetite
- Death in severe cases
Never take chances with feeder mice that seem questionable. When in doubt, throw it out.
Storing feeder mice long term
For long term storage, feeder mice should be kept frozen. Place mice intended for later use in plastic bags, press out excess air, and seal before placing in the freezer. Properly packaged, frozen feeder mice can be kept for up to 1 year before quality begins to decline.
Chest freezers that maintain a temperature of 0°F or below are ideal for long term feeder mouse storage. Avoid repeated thawing and refreezing whenever possible.
Purchasing frozen mice in bulk
For those with a large number of reptiles or other feeder mouse eaters to care for, buying feeder mice in bulk quantities can save money. Opt for frozen over live mice when purchasing in bulk, as live mice sold in large numbers tend to have higher mortality rates.
When buying frozen mice in bulk:
- Look for reputable, established suppliers with high standards for health and humane care.
- Inspect packaging for intact seals and no signs of frost burn.
- Store bulk mice properly sealed and consistently frozen.
- Limit time in thawed state before feeding.
- Discard any with signs of spoilage.
Thawing best practices
To safely thaw frozen feeder mice:
- Refrigerator thawing – Place frozen mice in a sealed bag or container in the refrigerator 1-2 days before needed.
- Cold water thawing – Seal mice in a plastic bag then submerge in cold tap water, changing the water every 30 minutes until thawed.
- Do not thaw at room temperature or use hot water.
Once thawed, use mice within 7-10 days when properly refrigerated. For immediate use, thawed mice can be warmed to no more than 100°F before feeding.
Mice as feeders vs. pinkies and fuzzies
Frozen mice intended as reptile or pet food are often classified by age/size:
- Pinkies – Newborn mice, furless and eyes closed
- Fuzzies – Mouse pups, just developing fur
- Mice – Weaned mice, furred with eyes open
- Weaned mice are the largest size category typically used as feeders
The age categories make it easier to select the appropriate sized feeder for different animals. Use pinkies and fuzzies for juveniles or smaller species. Adult mice work for larger reptiles, amphibians, and other carnivorous pets. Check Typical Prey Sizes charts for guidance.
Nutritional composition of mice
Whole mice provide a complete, nutritionally balanced diet for carnivorous and omnivorous exotic pets. The nutritional composition of feeder mice includes:
- 60-70% moisture
- 18-25% crude protein
- 9-15% fat
- 1-2% crude fiber
- Calcium, phosphorus, and other essential vitamins/minerals
This nutrient profile supports the dietary requirements of snakes, lizards, turtles, amphibians, and insect-eating pets. Mice have high bioavailability and digestibility for most species.
Benefits of feeding whole prey
Feeding whole prey like mice to pets has benefits compared to processed diets or ground meats. Benefits include:
- Convenience – Easy to thaw, warm, and feed out.
- Natural feeding behavior – Allows pet to express hunting/stalking instincts.
- Dental health – Chewing exercises teeth and jaws.
- Psychological health – Prevents boredom from lack of activity.
- Nutritional balance – Provides complete nourishment in natural proportions.
Risks of live vs. frozen mice
While live mice elicit natural feeding responses in many pets, there are risks to using live prey including:
- Danger of pet being bitten or scratched
- Possibility of mouse escaping into home
- Increased humaneness issues
- Higher cost than frozen
Frozen feeder mice present much lower risk and are recommended as a best practice by most experts. Thawing them to room temperature before feeding can help elicit natural feeding behavior from the pet.
Are wild caught mice safe feeders?
It’s best to avoid using wild mice caught around the home as feeders. Wild mice can carry parasites, illnesses, or have been exposed to rodenticides or other chemicals that could be passed on to pet reptiles and amphibians. Captive-bred feeder mice from reputable suppliers are safest.
Nutritional composition of mice compared to rats
Both mice and rats can be used as feeders for reptiles, birds, and exotic carnivorous pets. Mice tend to be higher in fat and protein compared to rats. Rats have a higher fiber content. Use appropriately sized mice or rats depending on the animal being fed.
Typical prey sizes for reptiles
|Leopard gecko||Pinkies, fuzzies, hoppers|
|Bearded dragon||Fuzzies, hoppers, adult mice|
|Ball python||Hoppers, weaned mice|
|Corn snake||Fuzzies, hoppers, adult mice|
|Savannah monitor||Adult mice, rat fuzzies|
Consult prey size charts to determine the appropriate mouse size for individual reptiles based on their age, size, and species characteristics. Avoid prey that is too large/small which can lead to health issues.
To summarize, thawed frozen mice are ideal feeders for reptiles, amphibians, and other exotic pets when used properly:
- Thaw only as many mice as needed within a 7-10 day window.
- Refrigerate thawed mice in sealed containers.
- Never refreeze after thawing.
- Discard any with signs of spoilage.
- Select prey size based on animal’s age and species.
- Follow best practices for thawing and storage.
Using high quality frozen feeder mice from reputable suppliers is convenient, nutritious, and safe when guidelines are followed for storage times and conditions. This allows pet owners to tap into natural feeding behaviors while minimizing risks to pet health and safety.