Pop culture is full of references that mice love cheese including “Tom and Jerry,” “The Farmer in the Dell” and Chuck E. Cheese. Do mice really like cheese though?
Not all mice are the same, according to an article from Live Science. Mice make up several different genera, including Apodemus, the field mice, and Mus, or standard mice. Each mouse species is accustomed to its own habitat, like the desert pygmy mouse (Mus indutus) of southern Africa or the steppe mouse (Mus spicilegus) of Eastern Europe. But the mouse that people are most familiar with is the house mouse (Mus musculus).
The house mouse probably evolved in Central and Southern Asia. That’s according to Dr. Megan Phifer-Rixey an evolutionary biologist at Drexel University in Philadelphia who studies the species.With the help of humans, she told Live Science, these rodents have spread worldwide — and when it comes to food, they’re not very picky.
A house mouse will eat pretty much anything that’s nearby, Dr. Phifer-Rixey said. That could include grains, insects, trash — and yes, cheese, if it’s available. She said that cheese is not a mouse’s favorite food.
Instead, what house mice really seem to love is peanut butter. Peanut butter has plenty of protein and fat, which mice find attractive, she added.
“They have a good sense of smell, and it has a pretty strong odor,” Dr. Phifer-Rixey said.
Using peanut butter is hardly a revelation to pest management professionals (PMPs), of course, and the only reason for hesitation about using it is the concern of being place in an area where someone with a peanut allergy might be nearby. However, where peanut butter can be used, Dr. Phifer-Rixey agreed with the conventional wisdom of making it even more attractive to mice by sprinkling on bacon bits or even oats (to prevent stickiness).
So where did mice liking cheese originate? There doesn’t seem to be a definitive answer.
One unproven theory on the internet is that people once kept their cheese on open shelves, as opposed to other food stored in jars or hanging from the ceiling. Because the cheese was readily available to mice, people might have seen mice eating their cheese, leading to the belief that they favor cheese.
“As for when the idea originated, it may go back hundreds or thousands of years. Some internet sleuths have found that the Roman philosopher Lucius Annaeus Seneca, who lived in the first century A.D., seemed to take for granted that mice love cheese,” according to the article
“‘Mouse’ is a syllable,” the philosopher wrote in a letter to his friend Lucilius, according to a translation of his works by Richard Mott Gummere, a former Latin professor at Haverford College in Pennsylvania. “Now a mouse eats its cheese; therefore, a syllable eats cheese.”
So it’s possible that this story about mice and cheese has existed for as long as mice and humans (and cheese) have coexisted, from the halls of ancient Rome to the rodent-inspired children’s arcades of modern suburban America.
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