In the wild, tarantulas can have a varied diet with some of the larger species eating frogs, lizards, mice, and even one eating a snake has been photographed.
However, if you keep a tarantula as a pet, you have to ask what the best food for them is now that they don’t have to worry about catching their prey in the wild.
Can And Should Tarantulas Eat Mice?
Some tarantulas can and will eat mice even in the wild, but it’s mostly considered a bad idea to feed a tarantula a large mouse or a live mouse. However, thawed pinkies (baby mice) are mostly thought to be alright as a treat every now and then for the larger species of tarantulas.
Although there is a myth still going around (and quite often quoted) that the calcium from a mouse’s bones is extremely bad for a tarantula, this is untrue. There are various other reasons why you wouldn’t want to give your tarantula a mouse to eat and we’ll discuss these below.
1. Your Species Of Tarantula Is Too Small To Eat Mice
Although all tarantulas are large, not all of them are large enough to eat prey as large as mice. Some of the tarantulas that are able to eat mice (including pinkies) include:
- Curly Hair Tarantula (Brachypelma albopilosum)
- Goliath Bird Eater (Theraphosa blondi)
- Burgundy Goliath Bird Eater (Theraphosa stirmi)
- Brazilian Salmon-Pink Bird Eater (Lasidora parahybana)
- King Baboon Spider (Pelinobius muticus)
As you can see, these tarantulas that can eat mice are also mostly those that are more aggressive.
2. Mice Can Bite And Kill Tarantulas
Another reason why you may not want to feed your tarantula a mouse is that mice are able to bite, injure or kill tarantulas. Just as snake owners are warned against feeding their pets live mice, you should also think twice before giving your tarantula a live mouse to eat.
Remember that mice will fight back if they are corners and their lives are in danger. You won’t find a mouse that is easily caught unless it is old and/or sick (which is a whole other ball game and set of problems).
Vets are also (overall) not knowledgeable on treating exotic pets like spiders and anything that goes wrong with your tarantula would need you to take care of.
Getting your tarantula injured in a way that was completely avoidable is not a good thing at all and may lead to your tarantula’s death.
3. It Is Cruel And Inhumane To The Mouse
Besides being a threat to your tarantula, feeding a live mouse to your tarantula is also cruel, as they take a long time to die after being bitten. They can also scream for quite some time after being bitten as the tarantula’s poison takes effect.
Crickets and worms, on the other hand, are killed practically instantly by tarantulas and are not left to suffer such a slow and agonizing death.
The video below shows how a tarantula eats a mouse. Warning, this video shows the natural brutality of this process. It may be disturbing to some viewers. If you don’t want to see it just scroll to the next point – the video will not start by itself, don’t worry.
4. Tarantulas Don’t Need Vertebrates Like Mice In Their Diet To Be Healthy
Even in the wild, mice, frogs, and the like are mostly occasional prey and not the norm. Rather give your tarantula a well-rounded diet by feeding them a variety of properly gut-loaded crickets and superworms.
5. Live Mice Can Carry Diseases
Live mice — unlike their frozen counterparts — may carry various diseases that can make your tarantula ill. If you do decide to feed your Bird Eater a pinky mouse, make sure that it’s a frozen mouse. (Scroll down to see how you can safely thaw a frozen mouse.)
6. The Tarantula Won’t Finish The Mouse … And You’ll Have To Clean Up The Mess
It’s one thing to not be squeamish of a spider, but quite another to clean up half-eaten (and half-liquefied) mouse remains if your tarantula can’t eat the whole meal that you’ve given her.
Even a large spider, when given a large mouse to eat, won’t be able to finish the whole mouse and you’ll be stuck the next day cleaning putrid-smelling half-digested mouse from your tarantula’s tank.
Of course, this is compounded if you have an arboreal spider or spider that needs high humidity to thrive, as bacteria also need a warm and humid environment to multiply.
Your tarantula tank can all too soon become a breeding ground for germs that can not only have a negative impact on your tarantula but can also make you sick.
Pinky mice, on the other hand, are small enough to be eaten and digested by the larger tarantula species and shouldn’t pose much of a problem in terms of leaving a lot of remains behind to be cleaned up afterward.
When Not To Feed Your Tarantula A Mouse
You shouldn’t feed your tarantula a mouse if they are still a young, and therefore small, specimen. The prey may just prove to be too much for them.
Rather wait until they are adults before starting to feed them mice. This is a good rule of thumb even if you have one of the Bird Eaters (Theraphosa).
If you do decide to feed your tarantula a mouse, be sure not to feed it this large meal just before or just after they molt.
It’s a good rule of thumb to wait a week after your tarantula molts before feeding them any type of food as their fangs also still need to harden and eating too soon may damage them. (Some tarantula species can take weeks after molting before they start to feed again as well.)
You should also not feed your tarantula mice if they are overweight as such a big meal may only exacerbate the problem. Rather leave the mouse-treats for later!
What Kind Of Mouse To Feed Your Tarantula
If you do choose to feed your tarantula a mouse, it can be difficult to know which of the mice that are available can be safely fed to them. The best “type” of mice to feed your tarantula is the so-called “pinkies”, “pinkie mice” or “pinky mice”.
Pinky mice are newborn mice that are only a few days old. They do not yet have fur and their skin looks wholly pink, which is where the “pinky” name comes from.
Although some tarantula keepers give their tarantulas pinky rats, you should only feed these to the very largest of the tarantula species, like the Goliath Bird Eaters.
If you give your tarantula a frozen pinky mouse, be sure to thaw it first before giving it to them as they can damage their fangs on the frozen pinky.
How To Thaw A Pinky Mouse
Thawing a pinky mouse is easy and relatively fast. A word of warning, though, rather leave your microwave out of this one. Not only could your microwave start cooking the flesh, but it could also cause harmful bacteria to start growing in the pinky.
Place the pinky in a sealable plastic bag like a sandwich ziplock bag. Seal it thoroughly.
Place the bag with the mouse in a container of hot — not boiling — water. You only want to thaw the pinky, not cook it!
Leave the bag in the hot water for 10 to 15 minutes. When the pinky is soft, you know that it has been thawed completely.
If the pinky is still very cold to the touch, leave it in the water a few minutes longer.
The pinky is now ready to be fed to your tarantula.
Note! It’s important to discard the mouse if your tarantula doesn’t want to eat it. Basically, treat it as you would meat that you yourself would eat; once thawed, don’t re-freeze.
The main reason for this is that bacteria could be growing in and on the mouse that can harm your tarantula if you try and feed it the same mouse later.
How Often Should You Feed Your Tarantula A Mouse?
You shouldn’t feed your tarantula mice as a rule, as their natural diet does consist of insects as well as other prey like frogs or lizards (in the case of the larger tarantula species).
However, feeding your tarantula a pinky mouse about a week or two after they’ve molted can help to improve their overall health and help them regain some of the fluid and weight that they’ve lost while fasting for their molt.
If your tarantula isn’t interested in eating the pinky, rather keep them on a diet of insects that you’ve gut-fed properly.
As you can see, it is possible to feed your tarantula mice if they are one of the large species like the Goliath Bird Eater or King Baboon Spider.
However, care must be taken to feed your tarantula only thawed (dead) pinky mice and not live mice at all. Not only is feeding live mice inhumane, but they can also injure and kill your tarantula.
In the end, though, it is completely up to you if you feel comfortable feeding the pinky mice to your tarantula or not. It also then depends on whether your tarantula wants to eat the mouse, as various tarantula owners have said that their tarantulas don’t care for them.
So, if you’re comfortable with it, you can feed your Bird Eater or Curly Hair a pinky every now and then as a treat.