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Feeding frozen/thawed foods

Developed with and approved by a qualified veterinarian.

feeding frozen/thawed foods care sheet

Overview

Feeding live rodents to reptiles and amphibians is strongly discouraged for various reasons, especially the danger they can cause to your pet. Live rodents can bite reptiles and amphibians and inflict serious, sometimes life-threatening wounds. Frozen foods are safer and healthier for your pet, and teaching them to accept frozen foods after eating only live foods may not be as hard as you think.

 

Types of frozen/thawed foods

  • Pinkies are the most common rodent fed to young pet reptiles and amphibians; they are young mice that are almost hairless and are the smallest of the rodents typically offered to reptiles and amphibians
  • Fuzzies are juvenile mice with some fur that are the second smallest rodents fed to reptiles and amphibians
  • Hoppers are larger than fuzzies, but only about half the size of adult mice
  • Adult mice and rats are commonly fed to larger reptiles and amphibians

 

Benefits of feeding frozen/thawed

 Some pet stores, reptile and amphibian experts and books state that feeding live prey is the best choice of food. This is simply not true. Frozen/thawed foods are just as good, if not better than live foods.

  • Some people argue that pets have to kill their prey like animals in nature or that they should feel the “thrill of the kill,” but pets act much differently than animals in nature. Pet reptiles and amphibians do not spend their days searching for food and hiding from predators; instead, they are housed in comfy enclosures and have all their habitat needs met. They are also enclosed in a much smaller space than their counterparts in nature, so they cannot get away from a live, biting rodent in their habitat if they choose not to eat it
  • It takes much less room to store frozen foods than it does to house, feed and care for live prey before it is fed to pets
  • Live foods may have internal and/or external parasites; freezing removes most parasites that may harm pet reptiles or amphibians
  • Purchasing frozen prey costs less than purchasing live rodents
  • All frozen foods are humanely euthanized according to a set of government-dictated guidelines, while feeding live rodents may be inhumane to the rodents

 

Things to remember when feeding frozen/thawed food

Safety for your pet

Feeding frozen/thawed foods is safer for your reptile or amphibian than feeding live prey. An animal that is not hungry will most likely not eat; it will ignore the prey animal. The prey animal, on the other hand, when left alone in a tank with a predator, may not be so relaxed. Rodents may become aggressive, attacking and injuring the disinterested reptile or amphibian and inflicting serious, sometimes life-threatening damage to skin, muscle and even bone.

Even when a pet is hungry and tries to catch the prey, the prey may use its teeth and claws to defend itself, injuring the pet. Serious bites and scratches may lead to blindness, wounds and even death for pet reptiles and amphibians. Feeding frozen/thawed prey eliminates this risk and keeps your pet safe when feeding.

 

Converting pets to frozen/thawed feeding

If not immediately, most reptiles and amphibians will learn to take frozen/thawed food eventually. Some pets are stubborn and may take a little longer to accept eating frozen/thawed prey. For more stubborn pets, try these techniques:

  • Try foods in different sizes or colors
  • Make sure food is warm (place in a plastic bag to keep it dry and soak in almost hot water prior to feeding)
  • Use long tongs (not your fingers!) to dangle the food in front of your pet
  • Let your pet get inside a hideaway; then, using tongs, wiggle the warm food in the entrance
  • Try different movements with your tongs, such as up and down, side to side, at different speeds, etc., to stimulate your pet’s interest in the thawed prey
  • Using tongs, drag the food across the feeding container, making it look like it’s hopping
  • If all else fails, feed a single small live prey item, being sure to monitor that the pet eats it, and follow it immediately with a frozen/thawed item

If your pet is still stubborn about accepting frozen/thawed foods, have patience and try leaving the food in the feeding habitat for longer periods. You may even try leaving the food in the feeding habitat overnight to encourage your pet to explore the food.

Look for positive reactions (head turning, tongue flicking, stalking behavior) while you are feeding your pet. If the pet appears stressed, stop and try again later. Remember, missing a meal once in a while will not hurt your reptile or amphibian. Don’t give in too easily and return to feeding live if they skip eating occasionally.

 

How to thaw frozen foods

Never feed your pet food that is still frozen! Thaw it and ensure it is warm before feeding. Do NOT use a microwave to thaw frozen food, as it can leave hot spots that can burn your pet’s mouth, along with cold spots in the middle. Microwaving also may make the food explode. Since frozen prey can carry germs that may cause illness in humans, it should not be thawed in areas such as kitchen sinks or countertops where human food is prepared.

Follow these steps to defrost frozen prey:

  • Remove the appropriate number of food items from the bag
  • Put the food in a plastic bag to keep it dry and place it in a dedicated thawing container (used only for frozen reptile and amphibian food) filled with cold tap water
  • Leave the food in the water until it is thawed and then discard the cold water
  • Next, fill the container with warm water and let the thawed prey, still inside of the plastic bag, soak for 10–15 minutes before discarding the water
  • Just prior to removing the thawed prey and feeding, run nearly hot water into the container to warm the food above room temperature
  • Remove food from the container and plastic bag; immediately offer it to your pet
  • Alternatively, you can also leave the frozen food in the refrigerator to thaw slowly; if time is an issue, pinkies are usually small enough to defrost by running them under warm tap water for a few minutes

 

Where to buy 

Frozen foods for reptile feeding are available for purchase at Petco online and in store. If visiting your local location, please call ahead to check availability. 

 

Supplies

 

FAQs

  • Where can I buy frozen mice? At your local Petco or com.
  • What is a pinky mouse? Pinkies are young mice that are almost hairless and are the smallest of the rodents typically offered to reptiles and amphibians.
  • How should I thaw frozen mice for a snake? Never feed your pet food that is still frozen! Thaw and ensure it is warm before feeding. Do NOT use a microwave to thaw frozen food, as it can leave hot spots that can burn your pet’s mouth, along with cold spots in the middle. Microwaving also may make the food explode. Since frozen prey can carry germs that may cause illness in humans, it should not be thawed in areas such as kitchen sinks or countertops where human food is prepared.
  • Follow these steps to defrost frozen prey:
    • Remove the appropriate number of food items from the bag
    • Put the food in a plastic bag to keep it dry and place it in a dedicated thawing container (used only for frozen reptile and amphibian food) filled with cold tap water
    • Leave the food in the water until it is thawed and then discard the cold water
    • Next, fill the container with warm water and let the thawed prey, still inside of the plastic bag, soak for 10–15 minutes before discarding the water
    • Just prior to removing the thawed prey and feeding, run nearly hot water into the container to warm the food above room temperature
    • Remove food from the container and plastic bag; immediately offer it to your pet
    • Alternatively, you can also leave the frozen food in the refrigerator to thaw slowly; if time is an issue, pinkies are usually small enough to defrost by running them under warm tap water for a few minutes

 

Additional care sheets

  • Live Insects for Reptile Feeding

 

Notes & resources

Ask a Pet Care Center associate about Petco's selection of products available for the care and happiness of your new pet. All products carry a 100% money-back guarantee.

Because all reptiles and amphibians are potential carriers of infectious diseases, such as salmonella bacteria, always wash your hands before and after handling your reptile or amphibian or their habitat contents to help prevent the potential spread of disease. Pregnant women, children under the age of 5, senior citizens and people with weakened immune systems should contact their physicians before purchasing or caring for reptiles and should consider having a pet other than a reptile.

Go to the Centers for Disease Control at cdc.gov/healthypets for more information.

 

Core messages for the Zoonoses Education Coalition

  1. Healthy reptiles and amphibians can carry salmonellaand other germs that are zoonotic (transmittable to people).
  2. Always wash your hands thoroughly after handling reptiles and amphibians or touching anything (such as food, habitat or habitat décor) where they live or roam
  3. Reptiles and amphibians are not recommended as household or classroom pets for children under the age of 5. Children younger than 5 years of age, people with weak immune systems, pregnant women and senior citizens should not handle or touch amphibians or reptiles or items from their environments because they are at a higher risk for serious illness and hospitalization from salmonella bacteria or other germs.
  4. Keep your reptiles and amphibians and their equipment out of your kitchen or anywhere else in your home where food is prepared, served or consumed. Never use food preparation areas to clean reptile and amphibian habitats or anything in their habitats. Ideally, these items should be cleaned outside of your home. If you must clean the habitat or habitat items in the bathroom, clean and disinfect the area completely afterward.
  5. Don’t cross-contaminate! People don’t have to touch a reptile or amphibian to get sick from their germs. Any items associated with reptiles or amphibians—such as frozen or live rodent prey, habitat cleaning equipment, habitat décor and tank water—may be contaminated with salmonellabacteria and other germs infectious to people.
  6. Do not kiss or snuggle with reptiles and amphibians; this behavior is likely to increase the chances of germ transmission and your risk for infection.

 

The information on this care sheet is not a substitute for veterinary care. If your pet is ill or not eating, or if you need additional information, please contact your veterinarian as appropriate.