FlipFact of the Day: It’s a pop culture trope that everyone’s familiar with: A hungry mouse stumbles upon a delicious-looking wedge of cheese, lunges for it… and promptly gets caught in a mousetrap. Too bad that’s not how it works in real life; in fact, you’d improve your catch rate by switching out that slice of cheddar for a spoonful of peanut butter.
Mice are opportunistic feeders, meaning they’ll eat anything they can get their grasping foot-paws on. However, if given the choice, mice would rather go for energy-rich foods that are easy to get, such as cereals, fruit, chocolate, seeds, nuts, or grains. In fact, according to Dr. David Holmes from the Manchester Metropolitan University, the strong smell and flavor of cheese—a type of food that wouldn’t normally be available to mice in their natural environment—would actually turn them off. A non-scientific experiment conducted in 2015 supports this: When baited with platters containing grapes, cheedar cheese, and peanuts, the mice made a beeline for the peanuts, tried the grapes once, and basically ignored the cheese.
Now, we’re not quite sure how the cheese-loving mouse myth started. The most popular theory, though, is that way back in the day (read: before the dawn of refrigerators), cheese was the most accessible food in many households due to its minimal storage requirements. Ravenous rodents couldn’t dig into jars of grains or sink their teeth into salted meats suspended beyond their reach. Thus, they had to settle for what they could grab from the cupboards: cheese. Families would then wake up to the unpleasant sight of mouse-bitten cheese, which ended up fueling this milk-based mice-conception.
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