As reptile owners, we know that our pets have unique needs, especially when it comes to diets. It can come as a shock though when you realize how complex some reptile diets are.
So, what reptiles eat mice?
Tons of pet reptiles are carnivorous and will eat mice in captivity. Most snake species, with some exceptions, eat mice. Some lizards, like monitor lizards and tegus, will also eat mice. Even turtles like box turtles and snapping turtles have been known to happily consume mice.
Before we list all of the reptiles that eat mice, let’s talk about some of the controversy around how mice are fed out to captive animals.
Should You Feed Live Or Frozen Mice To Your Pet Reptile?
Part of the discussion about reptiles that eat mice is talking about how these reptiles consume mice. Live vs. frozen feeding is a real source of controversy in the reptile world. Some people vouch for feeding live prey while others are strongly against this method. In reality, it’s a gray area and you should always choose the option that works best for you and your pet!
Let’s talk about the pros and cons of each method now.
Pros Of Feeding Live Mice
Most people think that owning a snake or another reptile that eats animals means you’ll have to feed live prey.
This isn’t necessarily true. However, there are some benefits to feeding out live prey. As a veterinary technician, I’ve worked with many animals that refuse to eat unless their meal is alive and moving.
Many reptiles have a hunting instinct that needs to be stimulated in order for them to eat. Things like movement and body heat can help to kickstart a reptile’s prey drive. Many wild reptiles eat exclusively live animals and won’t scavenge on frozen ones.
It’s natural that some of these reptiles wouldn’t understand that dead mice are supposed to be food for them in captivity. So, feeding live mice can help encourage “shy” reptiles to eat.
Another pro of feeding live mice is that you can easily assess the health of the mouse you’re feeding out. If the mouse is sick and immobile, you know it’s probably not going to be safe to feed to your pet. This isn’t something that you can evaluate if the prey is already deceased.
Cons Of Feeding Live Mice
Even though feeding live mice can have benefits, there are also drawbacks.
One of the biggest arguments against feeding out live mice is that it’s inhumane. The prey animals have to suffer and experience stress and anxiety shortly before their death. If your pet reptile isn’t a good eater, the hunt can go on for a while and cause minutes to hours of torment for a mouse that would have otherwise been humanely killed for feeding.
Another con of feeding live mice is that they can sometimes fight back. Injuries to reptiles from prey animals aren’t uncommon. The long incisors of a mouse can cause serious tears and puncture wounds in a reptile’s skin.
Pros Of Feeding FrozenMice
If you’re not feeding your pet reptile live mice, you’re probably feeding them frozen and thawed mice.
Overall, feeding frozen and thawed mice is the safest option for you and your pets. These mice have been humanely killed and processed, usually in a lab setting.
Feeding frozen mice is also much more convenient because you can keep a stock of them in a freezer. Once it’s feeding time, you can simply thaw the mouse in hot water until it’s more appetizing.
If you’re worried about the health of your frozen and thawed mice, you can process them further by removing their innards before freezing. Frozen mice are typically much more affordable than live mice and can be purchased in bulk.
Cons Of Feeding Frozen Mice
Of course, there are cons to feeding out frozen mice as opposed to live ones.
Some reptiles just refuse to eat dead prey. Most of the time, they don’t recognize that it’s food and ignore the dead rodents.
Another con of feeding frozen mice is that prey animals can become dehydrated through the freezing and thawing process. There are a few ways to offset this drawback, however.
Thawing your mice in warm water can help them soak up and retain hydration. Or, you can inject water into the thawed mice you’re about to feed out. This injection method is sometimes even used by veterinary professionals looking to help hydrate dehydrated patients.
Do Any Reptiles Only Eat Mice?
There are plenty of reptiles that are strict carnivores and would be happy to eat mice for their entire lives.
But, for the most part, it’s a good idea to rotate the type of protein you feed to your pet. You can get away with feeding many species of snakes just mice for long periods of time. But, adding a few rats into the mix will help give your pet a wider array of nutrients and possibly provide a healthier calcium ratio.
Which Reptiles Eat Mice?
Now that you know the pros and cons of feeding different types of mice, let’s talk about all the pet reptiles that eat them!
Most species of snake eat mice both in captivity and in the wild. Snakes are carnivores that usually only eat animal proteins. Some species of snakes also eat insects and other invertebrates. For the most part, these snakes will also eat mice if they’re famished.
In captivity, some of the most common mice-eating snakes are ball pythons, corn snakes, rosy boas, kingsnakes, western hog-nose snakes, and so many more. Most species of snakes will happily eat and consume mice.
While mice are appropriate for many snakes, they might be either too big or too small to feed out to your pet. A great rule of thumb for snake food is that the diameter of the prey should match the diameter of the snake.
So, if your snake is much thicker than the mice you have, you should probably try finding something larger, like a rat. Or, if your snake is tiny, you’ll probably need to provide them with “pinkies” (baby mice).
In addition to snakes that are just too big or too small to eat mice, there are a few species that don’t naturally consume rodents.
Snakes That Don’t Eat Mice
There are a handful of snakes that just don’t eat mice. That’s typically because mice don’t exist in these snake’s natural environments, or they’re too thin to properly digest them.
Garter snakes and ribbon snakes are very similar small snakes that don’t eat mice. Instead, these snakes can be fed a variety of invertebrates in captivity. These snakes usually eat crickets, earthworms, mealworms, guppies, and tadpoles. Some people will feed these snakes mice in captivity but it’s not ideal.
African egg-eating snakes are a fascinating species of snake that doesn’t eat live prey. Instead, these snakes eat, well, eggs! In captivity, quail eggs are best for this toothless snake species.
Check out the video below to see a cute demonstration of what it looks like when an African egg-eating snake hunts.
Water snakes are snakes that have adapted to live around the water and consume nearby prey. These snakes usually eat things like fish and frogs. Pet water snakes can also eat a variety of insects in captivity.
Rough green snakes are another snake species that don’t eat mice. These slender serpents typically prey on crickets, grasshoppers, snails, slugs, and occasionally frogs.
Lizards have different eating habits than most snakes do. Lizards can be carnivores, insectivores, omnivores, and even herbivores! There is a lot of variety in lizard diets and only a few of them actually eat mice in captivity.
Before we talk about those lizards, we want to mention that even though some lizards may not usually eat mice, they’ll eat them in a pinch. That’s because many lizards are opportunistic feeders in the wild.
An opportunistic feeder is an animal that can adapt to a wide variety of prey and will eat whatever comes its way to survive. So, some lizards might not be fed mice in captivity but would eat a mouse in the wild if it crossed their path.
Monitor lizards are large pet reptiles commonly kept by enthusiasts. These are some of the few pet lizards that require animal protein with every meal.
Monitor lizards will hunt and forage for whatever food is readily available to them. Monitors who spend time in the trees often eat fruits and bugs while water monitors eat fish and tadpoles. Since many monitors live on the ground, they hunt terrestrial species and will sometimes eat carrion.
Monitor lizards eat mice both in the wild and in captivity.
Tegus are another true predatory lizard that will eat mice whenever the opportunity presents itself.
Bay tegus will usually eat a diet of pinky mice until they grow in size. Then, they’ll be able to consume larger, full-grown mice. Tegu aren’t usually as big as monitors and you should always make sure the mouse you’re offering is no larger than the distance between your tegus eyes.
Turtles are the last group of reptiles that eat mice.
Now, let’s be clear, most turtles don’t eat mice. Many species of turtles are aquatic or semi-aquatic and tend to stick to prey found near or in the water. Mice typically don’t cut it. Plus, mice might be too fast for a slow turtle to catch while on land.
But, it might surprise you to find out that a few turtle species are actually able to consume mice.
There are currently 6 species of North American box turtles and even more subspecies than that!
Something interesting about some species of box turtles is their diet. Box turtles are all omnivores that eat both plant and animal matter. All box turtles ingest dark leafy greens, vegetables, and fruits.
Depending on the species, some box turtles may eat bugs in captivity while others eat things like hard-boiled eggs for their animal protein. In rare cases, certain box turtles will consume mice in captivity.
Snapping turtles are generally more aggressive than box turtles and much more likely to catch small prey like a mouse.
Snapping turtles aren’t legal everywhere as pets. But, some people enjoy keeping these large turtles around. Snapping turtles are predators that are opportunistic omnivores. These turtles eat much more animal protein than box turtles do with only about 30% of their diet being made up of plant matter.
Snapping turtles are incredibly fast hunters and shoot out their heads to grab orey. Oftentimes, snapping turtles will eat fish, birds, and even snakes. As you can probably imagine, snapping turtles will also eat mice and other small mammals when the opportunity arises. Unlike box turtles, snapping turtles are regularly fed mice in captivity.
So, not many turtles eat mice but it’s important to mention the rare species that do!
Tortoises aren’t reptiles that eat mice. It’s important to mention that all tortoises are considered herbivores and will never be fed mice while living in captivity.
There are a surprising number of reptiles that eat mice!
Most snakes eat mice, which is something you probably already know. But it’s a surprise that other reptiles like lizards and turtles also consume mice, both in the wild and as pets.
But don’t worry, if you’re trying to avoid a pet that eats mice, there are plenty of reptiles that don’t eat live food. And, you can always try feeding your pet reptile frozen and thawed mice instead of live mice!