Quick, what’s a mouse’s favourite food?
If you said ‘cheese’, then congratulations, you’re part of the 98% of the population that believes that.
Thanks to popular culture, many people assume that all mice love cheese. In fact, one of the most iconic and recognisable image of a mouse is a brown cartoon mouse standing, sitting, or otherwise located near a chunk of yellow Swiss cheese.
Can mice eat cheese? Yes, of course they can. Many mice species are voracious eaters, which means they can eat virtually anything they can get their hands on, even if it may not be edible. Quite obviously, they can eat a whole variety of food including, but especially not limited to, cheese.
Cheese: yay or nay?
Contrary to what many people believe mice don’t actually love cheese that much.
In 2006, a professor and researcher at Manchester Metropolitan University, Dr. David Holmes, conducted a study looking into the preferred foods of our mice friends.
To achieve the results of the study, Dr. Holmes and his colleagues set out several foods in a line and let the participating mice decide which one they’d like to eat.
Interestingly, the professor found out that not only did mice appear to not love cheese all that much, it seemed that they actually chose other foods majority of the time. When given the chance, most mice preferred sweeter foods like dried fruits and chocolates or grains such as rice over something like cheese.
What’s more, it was also discovered in the study that there are some kinds of cheese that can repel mice due to their pungent stench.
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A short history of cheese and mice
So, what exactly is the deal with animated mice and their love for cheese?
In the popular children’s show Tom & Jerry, we often see the tomcat, Tom, trying to bait the little brown home mouse, Jerry, with a delicious slice of cheese. The cartoon series was originally started way back in 1940, which could explain why many people, even up to now, still hold the belief that mice love cheese.
Another theory as to why mice are often thought of as cheese lovers was thee location of cheese in old kitchens. In previous times, people used to store foods like meat and grains in hanging jars and containers way up from the ceiling.
Even though mice are more attracted to those foods, they have no choice but to settle for the ones that they can reach, like cheese, for example. Cheese was most often just left on the table or a shelf in the pantry, a location that mice could easily access.
Dr. Holmes, the main researcher of the study, agrees more with the cartoon theory, though.
“[As] far as I can tell, [mice loving cheese] has become extremely popular because cartoonists like to draw little segments of cheese with holes in them and little mice’s faces poking out of them,” he says. They will admit this and they would say quite simply it’s a really good image, it’s a kind of image we can use and it’s the kind we will continue to use even though we know that mice don’t like cheese”
What foods do mice like?
If it’s true that mice don’t like cheese as much as we thought, then what foods exactly do they like?
Mice are extremely fond of foods that are high in sugar. Sweet fruits like grapes also tend to attract a mouse’s sense of smell. If you’ve ever accidentally left out some leftover cake from last night’s party, you’ll know this one really well.
Most rodents including mice will often risk life and limb just to gain access to sugary treats in the hopes of getting just one bite.
You’ll have a better chance of catching a wild mouse with a piece of chocolate rather than a slice of cheese.
Nuts and grains
Seeds, nuts, and grains are what mice love eating in their natural habitat. If given the choice between a peanut or a cheddar slice, you can bet that the mouse will likely choose the former.
This is proven in an episode of BBC Two’s Winterwatch where wood mice are offered a platter filled with various food options like fruits, nuts, and cheese.
Surprisingly, or perhaps unsurprisingly, the mice immediately headed straight to the nut majority of the time. Some went for the fruit, but none of them went for the cheese. Just goes to show that mice really don’t like cheese that much!
Since many mice species are omnivores, it only makes sense that they’ll go for meat as well. They especially love fat and would happily munch on whatever fatty meat they can find. Mice are even known to eat the carcass of other animals, including their own species. In extreme cases like harsh winters or long droughts.
Conclusion: Can mice eat cheese?
Certainly, mice can and do eat cheese.
But then again, they also eat a whole lot of other things. Mice can even eat non-food items when given the chance, and when they don’t have any other option.
How many times has a pesky mouse bitten through a cardboard box or clothing of yours? For many people, the answer is often one too many. A large amount of the world’s population even considers them as pests. This is because they can do so much damage with their teeth.
Hearing about situations like a pack of rodents eating through an entire field of crops is definitely not uncommon, and that is due to mice’s ability to eat practically anything.
The image of a cartoon mouse with a piece of cheese right next to it may not exactly be a perfect image of your average mouse, but it’s an acceptable one.
At home, as long as you keep your pet mouse happy and healthy, there’s certainly no need to worry about destructive habits ruining your house.