American Fancy Rat & Mouse Association

This article is from the WSSF 2006 AFRMA Rat & Mouse Tales news-magazine.

Beginners’ Corner

Mouse Senses; Mouse Sensory System; Traveling Rats
Mouse Senses

Matthew DeMaria, Science Research Student , Locust Valley High School
Q My name is Matthew and I am currently doing a science research project for the Young Naturalist Project. I was interested in mice and decided to go to a pet store and purchase a mouse. I received a fancy mouse and did several experiments concerning the senses of a mouse and how it reacts to certain obstacles or things that will enhance its senses. I am wondering if you have any information on this mouses senses or characteristics that may apply to this question. Also, If you have any book references I would deeply appreciate the help.

Mouse Sensory System

Erin, e-mail
Q My name is Erin and I am presenting a project for a psychology/zoology class at Beloit College in Wisconsin. For my presentation, I must research on how the sensory systems of mice differ from the sensory systems of humans. If you have any books or web sites or loose information you could recommend to me, I would be very grateful.

Answer to Mouse Senses & Mouse Sensory System
A Domestic mice do not need sight or hearing to survive well in captivity. The main sense that they use is smell. I have worked with deaf mice and it is next to impossible to tell that they cannot hear. Carmen Jane Booth, D.V.M.

A You might call around to Veterinarians that specialize in exotic animals and see if they have any info specifics or know of any books. Mice, like most mammals, do not see color. This is an advantage as colors can be confusing. Black-and-white-only sight enables the animal to more easily spot movement. In total darkness, the mouse relies on its other senses: touch, hearing, and smell. The mouse can feel its way around with its whiskers, not just side to side but also along the ground so that it does not fall off an edge. The mouse knows where it has been before because it leaves a faint scent trail of urine to follow so it can find its way. If it is out doing initial exploration, it can follow the scent trail home, or if it finds something interesting it can return there later. Mice have acute hearing and can detect sound at a much higher pitch than human hearing.

Try attaching an enclosed maze directly to the door of the cage (I say enclosed so if you walk away waiting for the mouse to explore it does not get away). Put food (cat or dog kibble is good) in the maze and watch to see if your mouse will explore and find the food. When it does find the food, does it go back home?

One thing to consider when dealing with domestic mice is that much of their instinct, and possibly some of their sensory abilities, have been bred out of them over the years to make them tame and manageable. Some breeds of dogs have been specifically bred for their scenting abilities, while other breeds would be hard put to find anything by smell alone. This may be the case with domestic mice (and other domestic animals) as well. Helen Pembrook

Traveling Rats

Heather e-mail
Q I will be taking a trip in June for a week, the trip takes 2½ hours. What is the best way for me to transport my rats? They are 6-month-old females. This will be their first trip. They are my first rats so I don’t know much about things like that.

A You should put them in a jumbo-size plastic carrier or a small wire travel cage or a small/medium size plastic tote with the lid made of wire mesh (make sure the carrier is big enough so each of them can stretch out and sleep). Keep them in a cool spot out of the sun while in the car. If you stop, you can offer them water (don’t keep the bottle in the cage as it will drip and make a wet mess). You can also use fruits/veggies for their moisture while traveling. Most of time they will just sleep while you are driving. When you get to your destination, then you can put them into a bigger cage. Karen Robbins *

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Updated March 7, 2014