Considered as much a pest as a pet, there are many misconceptions surrounding the mouse. We separate fact from fiction to discover the truth about this famous rodent
They like cheese
Remember Tom and Jerry? The cheeky cartoon mouse Jerry always tries to steal his beloved cheese, while Tom leaves cheesy morsels on a mousetrap to outsmart him – without much success. In reality, this would be down to the fact that mice aren’t particularly fond of cheese at all. Mice will eat almost anything, but they usually have a sweet tooth, and are more likely to satisfy their cravings with fruit, grains, or even chocolate, than indulge in some cheddar. In fact, their highly adapted noses will probably repel them from fragrant Roquefort!
They need to chew
Those who find mice a pest often argue a mouse will not stop chewing walls and furniture, as they need to keep it up to sharpen their teeth and stop them from overgrowing. Mice, however, do not need your 17th century baroque chair to keep their pearly whites nice and sharp. They’re perfectly capable of keeping them chiselled by grinding the bottom and top teeth against each other. However, their teeth do keep on growing throughout their life.
The typical image of a mouse is often that of Stuart Little – a fluffy white rodent with a naked tail and a pink nose. In truth, it’s mostly only pet or lab mice that are white, and even then it’s only the albino variety that come in this snowy colour. The most common varieties, such as the house mouse, field mouse, dormouse, harvest mouse, wood mouse and deer mouse, are a shade of brown or grey, though some have an endearing white belly.
They don’t have bladders
This is a rather odd but stubborn myth about mice, and it stems from the fact that mouse urine, which has a strong smell of ammonia, seems to be everywhere during a mouse infestation. This has convinced some that mice are simply incapable of storing their waste inside their tiny little bodies. It is, however, a false assumption, as anyone who has had to dissect a mouse in school will know. Mice simply urinate often to mark their territory.
They can be controlled by cats
Cats are portrayed as the mouse’s ultimate enemy. A common piece of advice for those suffering from a mouse infestation is to get a cat, as the feline would surely control the population. While cats certainly are crafty hunters, they won’t necessarily rid your house of mice, as mice are clever about their nests. The mouse is one of the most adaptable creatures on the planet, and among the most successful mammals on Earth today due to its incredible survival skills.
You could be forgiven for thinking mice squeak – after all, that’s what they sound like to us. However, the vocal communication between mice is far more complicated than that, and they actually produce a range of sounds, which experts refer to as ‘singing’, similar to birds. It’s too high-pitched for us to hear, but mice will use it to woo potential partners. It seems we can also get rid of the popular ‘quiet as a mouse’ idiom then.
They’re easily scared
Perhaps it’s down to their incredibly quick way of darting across the room, or the high-pitched noises they make, but mice are often thought of as cowardly. However, the opposite is true. Mice will not back away from a fight, and will put themselves in pretty dangerous situations if it will mean they survive. Why else would they often seek refuge in the homes of one of their biggest enemies, humans?
Fact or fiction
They carried the plague
Whether or not mice or rats brought on the bubonic plague is still contested, but it is true that they can carry and transfer disease.
While mice make lovely pets, males can be aggressive, and will fight to the death over a female. Females, however, can live in harmony.
They’re only active at night
Most mice, and especially wild mice, are mostly crepuscular and nocturnal, meaning they’re active at dusk, dawn and at night.
They can’t swim
Mice can swim quite well, and for long periods of time, but it causes them great distress and anxiety, so it’s not advised for pets.
They’re (often) blind
The likeliness of a mouse being completely blind isn’t higher than any other species, but they do have bad eyesight and are colour-blind.