Top 10 Reasons Not to Be Scared of Mice!
10 Ways to Look at Mice Differently (and Yes, They're Scared of You Too)
Phobia (noun): a persistent, irrational fear of a specific object, activity, or situation that leads to a compelling desire to avoid it.
I was so excited when I got my first mice. I’d wanted them ever since I could remember, having always loved anything small and fluffy. But it soon sprang to my attention (when my Nanna almost literally jumped out of her skin at the sight of my mice) that not all people are of the same opinion. Of course, the next question that sprung to mind was: “But why?”
So as I sat holding my most prized possessions – Diddle and Minstrel – in my hand, I couldn’t imagine why anyone would ever be afraid of these harmless little fur balls. Spiders? Okay, I can understand that. Boy, can I! They’re black; they're hairy; they're shifty; they have eight legs, (sometimes poisonous) fangs, and millions of eyes; they make me shudder just at the thought of them. But mice? They’re small, soft, cuddly, friendly, not poisonous, and playful, yet apparently terrifying!
So Here Are 10 Reasons I Believe You Shouldn't Be Scared of Mice
Aim to admire and respect their amazing ability to survive, instead of being disgusted by it. Compare their species to ours and see how many things we have in common with them: the functions of the body; basic animalistic needs; the ability to convey emotion. It's all there. If you study a mouse's behaviour closely, you'll see that they're actually very clean animals that build nests, have maternal instincts (just like us), and arrange their habitat to suit their needs accordingly.
There is more to these creatures than 'spreading disease' and 'chewing wires.' After someone commented about the mess they leave behind, I feel it's relevant to add that pet mice can be potty-trained. I successfully trained my mice to wee nowhere else but in an old jam jar, which rather successfully helped keep their cage clean.
They do this in the same way a human would fight back if attacked. As a kickboxer, I am more than aware of this instinct! It's only fair that something as small and helpless as a mouse needs at least one way of defending itself to give it half a fighting chance, right?
So how does one avoid being bitten? The answer is simple: don't give them a reason to bite you. That is, don't scream, bang about, throw things at them or make them frightened and distressed. In the worst case scenario, their teeth are barely big enough to break the skin (I know this from my pet mice), so don't worry too much about being bitten. It's not a big deal.
Note: Mice can spread certain diseases, but, as the CDC points out, it is rare for diseases to be spread through a mouse bite.
You’ve heard it before, but I’ll say it anyway: They’re more scared of you than you are of them. To them, you are a giant who takes huge, thundering steps with a booming voice, and they are a four-inch-long critter that can barely be heard even at the quietest of times.
When they bolt, it's out of fear, not because they're trying to get to you or find the quickest way possible to chew through the TV wires. They are trying to get away from you. If you just keep still, they're more likely to note your position in the room and run as far and as quickly as possible in the opposite direction.
Hard as this is to believe, you can actually develop a connection with mice, just like you can with cats and dogs. They become your friend. They get excited by the sound of your voice and smell of your skin. They get 'sad' when you leave. I'm sure you can see from the picture of Lady and me that there is more to having a pet mouse than just cleaning out dirty sawdust every day!
Just like rabbits, they need a lot of taking care of. They need to have fresh sawdust and bedding every day. They need feeding and regular cuddles. They love trying new things to eat, like bread mixed with milk or broccoli and carrots, and playing in any new toys you might buy them, even if it's something as simple as a toilet roll tube!
I even trained my mice to race up and down my staircase! Mice can be so much fun! I used to love the way Diddle hung upside down on the bars in the cage clambering about like an acrobat. It kept me entertained for hours on end and was much more interesting than sitting watching TV or playing on the PlayStation, like the majority of children do nowadays.
When you look past the initial fear, you will find that healthy mice are very beautiful creatures. Each mouse has unique markings – like freckles on a human – that make it pretty in its own way. Its fur is smooth to the touch and glossy in texture. Their whiskers are finer than the silk woven by a spider.
Learn to appreciate their delicacy and vulnerability by looking at them in the same way you might look at a newborn baby. 'Oh, look at its tiny feet and its little pink nose! It's so small – how cute!'
When you've been given strict instructions by Mum not to feed the dog those extra tid-bits and he goes and settles himself patiently in front of you with those big brown puppy-dog eyes just staring at you saying, 'Pleeeease, I've been ever so good and not barked once all day!,' you find yourself asking the question: 'Well, who can resist that little face?!'
Try doing the same with mice. You might find that, soon, that scatty little rodent actually turns into a sweet little animal with sparkly eyes, a pink, twitching nose, and beautiful, glossy fur.
It is true that the mouse itself does often make squeaking noises, but most of them are much too high-pitched for the human ear to pick up on. We only hear an odd squeak every so often, and the squeaking we hear is, in fact, a highly developed means of communication, much like the tweeting of a bird.
What is more easily heard it the sound of mice scurrying around. This often freaks people out. Try to imagine this sound as the same as those made by any other living animal moving about, such as a floorboard creaking when someone moves about upstairs or the sound of dog's paws trotting happily down the hallway.
Whether due to its appearance or the fact that it will wrap around your finger when you touch it, a mouse's tail seems to cause problems for people. It's actually very similar to a cat’s tail (with less fur) in that they use their tails for balance, feel and grip, which, in my opinion, is pretty amazing. Fascination is the best cure for fear. Turn your fear into fascination!
10. YOU SAY: It’s the way they move...
I SAY: If I ever learn to move with half as much agility and speed as a mouse, I will be an unstoppable kickboxer!
Mice need to be able to run fast to escape from predators in the wild, such as owls and cats. As I said earlier, if a mouse feels threatened by you, it will bolt because it sees you as a predator. If you make very slow movements and use a soothing tone of voice when speaking in its presence, you will find the mouse becomes much calmer and more trusting, enabling you to catch it (in a humane way, of course!) and release it into the wild where it belongs.
A New Perspective on Mice
Every species has its flaws. No one is perfect. We all know that. Look at humans, for example. We pollute the Earth. We kill our own species. We betray one another. We hunt other animals and destroy their habitats.
So how can we criticise a mouse for chewing a wire or making a nest where you were planning on putting your new TV when the things we do are one hundred times worse?
So next time you come across a mouse, wherever it may be, take a deep breath, look at it for what it really is – a helpless little animal just searching for some food or a warm place to live – and just smile and move on. You can learn to love them. And besides, it’s one less thing to be unnecessarily afraid of!
By Daniella Wood