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A house proud mouse, considerately tidying up the workbench of the shed in which it lives, has been captured on video and shared online. The mouse pops out of a box, picks up some screws, nail clippers and a metal chain and carries them back into the box. It's tempting to think the mouse is cleaning up its home in the same way that a human would. Of course, in biology, things are rarely that simple.
Cleaning a living area for hygienic reasons isn't unusual in animals. Bees will remove corpses from the hive, male fish will pick bits of mould and silt from their eggs. Clearing debris from a display area is common in birds that dance to attract a mate. None of these apply to the mouse, so we need to look for an explanation that is based in the innate behaviours of rodents.
Packrats - North - America - Habit - Objects
Packrats in North America have a habit of collecting shiny objects, stones and wood to protect their nests. Some mice like to keep a good larder – when food is plentiful, they will hoard it.
Many rodents bury novel objects that they find in their territory and this is sometimes thought to be an extension of the natural digging response that all rodents have. Mice and rats are keen tunnellers so the urge to dig is an important part of their behavioural repertoire.
Mice - Bedding - Nest - Video - Evidence
Mice also manipulate their bedding to make a nest. Though it's difficult to be sure with only a short video as evidence, it's possible that the mouse's behaviour is rooted in these responses of hoarding, burying and generally manipulating its environment. All those objects in the mouse's territory may have triggered confusion, leading the mouse to stash them somewhere it perceives as safe.
So animals are lot tidier than you think and not just this one...
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