Tarantulas are carnivorous invertebrates that survive by catching and eating other animals. In nature tarantulas most commonly eat suitably-sized insects, however they are known to eat almost anything that comes within range and is small enough to subdue. This can sometimes include lizards and baby birds if the opportunity arises. But do tarantulas eat mice?
Tarantulas Eating Mammals
A large and hungry tarantula is perfectly capable of catching and eating a mouse if the opportunity arises. However this is a risky meal. Mice have sharp teeth and claws, and so can pose a real danger to a tarantula. A cricket is a far safer potential meal, having far less ability to fight back.
Probably the best answer to the question “do tarantulas eat mice?” is therefore that they can but generally don’t.
But this is in nature. So what about pet tarantulas?
Do Pet Tarantulas Eat Mice?
Most tarantula owners feed their pet a range of feeder insects, such as cockroaches, crickets and morio worms. These feeder insects contain all the nutrition needed by a pet tarantula, and most thrive on an insect-only diet.
A small handful of owners however do feed mice to their tarantulas. The theory goes that a mouse is a large and nutrient-packed meal for a tarantula. Some keepers believe this helps a tarantula to grow more rapidly (though there is no scientific evidence this is the case). Furthermore mouse-feeders claim it can be useful for “fattening up” an underweight tarantula – such as one that has recently laid eggs or molted.
Feeding mice to tarantulas is certainly not required, but it is a possibility if you so desire. Before you nip off to your local pet store, however, you should read the hints and tips below so you understand fully what you could be letting yourself in for…
Pros and Cons of Feeding Mice to Tarantulas
Feeding a mouse to your pet tarantula may sound “cool” but there are a number of things you should be aware of.
Mice Can Be Dangerous to Tarantulas
The biggest concern when feeding mice to tarantulas is that they can harm the spider. Even relatively small rodents have teeth and claws and for obvious reason will fight to avoid getting eaten. This has the potential to harm or even kill even a large tarantula. Feeding mice therefore comes with significant risk.
However the danger doesn’t stop there. If your tarantula isn’t hungry, or decides that the mouse isn’t worth the effort, then the mouse may instead nip at the spider. You certainly don’t want the tables to turn, with the mouse eating your pet tarantula rather than the other way around.
Dead and Thawed, Not Live
The risk that live mice pose to tarantulas means that only dead mice should be fed to tarantulas. In this way they will be unable to fight back and endanger your pet.
Fortunately it’s simplicity itself to buy dead mice from most reptile stores. Purchase them frozen, then simply thaw them out at home before offering one to your spider.
Dead Mice Stink
One great reason not to feed mice to your pet tarantula is that they can stink. Honestly, it’s revolting, and can completely take over a room.
It is also important to appreciate that tarantulas are not snakes. While a snake will swallow a mouse whole, tarantulas have an entirely different way of eating. They inject venom and digestive enzymes into their prey, squish it all up in their fangs and then suck out the juices.
Not only does this way of feeding really help to release the full odour of the mouse, but it also means there is a good chance of literal blood and guts spilling over the inside of your tarantula cage. Not really the most pleasant thing to watch, even for the most passionate tarantula keeper.
Prepare to Clean the Cage
A tarantula that eats a mouse will normally make a whole load of mess. And this mess, as discussed, can stink. It therefore means you’ll almost-certainly have to clean your tarantula’s cage soon after feeding it a mouse.
Clearly routine feeding of mice simply isn’t practical or you’d be constantly having to scrub out your tarantula cage – or simply get used to the disgusting smell and mess in the cage.
How to Feed Mice to a Pet Tarantula
As should be clear by now, while tarantulas are capable of eating mice, it’s probably best not to bother. If your mind’s made up, however, here are some handy hints based on my own experience of feeding mice to tarantulas:
The bigger the mouse you feed your tarantula the more mess will be produced. If you’re just dabbling in feeding mice to your tarantula then consider starting with a small specimen, such as a pinkie or fuzzy mouse. I wouldn’t go straight into offering a full-size mouse. You can always scale up in the future once you see how your spider handles the experience.
Thaw the Mouse Out
Sorry to state the obvious, but just to be clear, any mice fed to tarantulas should be (a) dead and (b) defrosted. There are two main ways to do this – either leave the mouse carcass out on the side at ambient temperatures or place it into a plastic bag and suspend it in warm water.
Warm the Mouse Up
While some tarantulas will happily scavenge for food in their cage, a “warm” mouse may be more appealing for some tarantulas. Placing the dead mouse into warm water for a few minutes is probably the easiest way to do this.
Consider Tong Feeding
Every minute that a dead mouse is left in a warm tarantula cage can add to the decomposition, and hence the smell. You may therefore want to consider tong-feeding your tarantula.
Using long forceps or suchlike, gently move the mouse around in front of your tarantula, trying to elicit a hunting mechanism from it.
Once your spider has grabbed the mouse then you’re over the first hurdle.
Use a Food Bowl
An alternative to tong feeding, if you have an aggressive or fast-moving tarantula for example, is to place the dead mouse into a food bowl of some type.
Placing the mouse onto the tarantula’s substrate is best avoided, as liquids can leach out leading to additional cleaning.
Also, if your tarantula doesn’t eat the mouse it’s a lot easier to remove in a food bowl than trying to pick up with your fingers or tweezers.
Watch for the Discarded Corpse
Assuming your tarantula does accept the dead mouse it is likely that a fair amount of mess will be created. It’s worth therefore keeping a regular eye on your tarantula so you can remove the discarded body when your tarantula has had their fill.
Lastly be prepared to give your tarantula cage a thorough clean as necessary. At the very least remove any tainted substrate and wipe and blood off the sides of the tank. A larger meal may mean you have to pretty much clean out the entire cage. Ignore this at your own risk, as the smells that permeate can be quite potent, especially in warm weather.
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