Old 07-25-2007, 04:12 PM
Join Date: Aug 2000
Location: New York
Posts: 22,322
Do mice "play possum"?

In a conversation with people, there emerged the (sort of creepy) concept of picking up dead mice that your cats have found, throwing them away and realizing (after finding an empty garbage can) that the mouse wasn't in fact dead. When I inquired if it was possible to pick up a living mouse, I was informed that sometimes mice play possum until it's safe.

Googling only comes up with possums playing possum. Anyone in the know?
Old 07-25-2007, 04:14 PM
Join Date: Nov 2000
Location: Montreal, QC
Posts: 55,911
I think they get stressed easily, and exhausted. If you eat your body weight in food every day and you lose 40 minutes of feeding time getting batted around by Mr. Whiskers, you'd be tired, too.
Old 07-25-2007, 04:16 PM
Join Date: Oct 2006
Location: San Diego
Posts: 7,439
It may also be possible that the mouse was unconcious (and not playing possum) when you/her found it.
Old 07-25-2007, 05:21 PM
Join Date: Nov 2004
Location: Left of spleen
Posts: 2,662
I don't have much specific mouse experience, but I wouldn't be surprised. Playing dead is a popular trick among the prey species.

I'm sure one of the murine enthusiast dopers will be along eventually.
Old 07-25-2007, 05:26 PM
Join Date: May 2005
Posts: 5,889
No idea on the mouse, but I've seen a cottontale rabbit pull this off when my dog caugt one. I took it away from him, tied him up, went to fetch a shovel, and when I returned the rabbit was making it's escape.
Old 07-25-2007, 06:23 PM
Join Date: May 1999
Posts: 18,361
I once found a mouse in the bathtub, I put my cat in the tub, the mouse froze, no movement at all. My cat didn't see the mouse and looked at me as to say' why did you put me in here?', as my cat looked away the mouse quicky went down the drain and 'circled' itself as deep as it could in it. My cat did notice something and went over and poked it a few times, the mouse didn't move, basically played dead. My cat jumped out of the tub and went back to her cat bed and circled herself and went back to sleep.

So at least for a short time I'd say yes a mouse can 'freeze' and play dead.

I've heard that cats divide things visually depending on if they move or not. If they move the cat decides it is something alive, if it doesn't the cat places that as background and for the most part ignores that object except for navigation purposes. This may be where a mouse has learned those freeze and play dead tricks. And you can try it with your own cat, if you are totally still when your cat comes in the cat won;t see you (or so has been my experence.
Old 07-25-2007, 06:35 PM
Join Date: Aug 2000
Location: New York
Posts: 22,322
So kitties have the same visual abilities as T-Rex? Interesting. (I know, I know...Jurassic Park was full of crap.)

Thanks for the info, all. Next time I see an unconscious mouse, I won't assume it's dead.
Old 07-25-2007, 06:44 PM
Charter Member
Join Date: Aug 1999
Location: Lost in the mists of time
Posts: 13,398
I know that squirrels play dead. My dad found out the hard way after my dog had caught one.
Old 07-25-2007, 07:39 PM
Join Date: Jul 2007
Location: New York
Posts: 74
Yes, very definitely, mice play dead. So do chipmunks.

My cat is considerate when hunting, and doesn't usually go in for the kill. Instead, she brings them to me to share. She has brought me both mice and chipmunks and lain the seemingly dead animal at my feet. Within in a few moments, the poor animal wakes up and runs under the nearest thing it can run under. Then it's fun, fun, fun while cat and I chase after it.

I've learned that I have maybe a 30-second window, and I keep a box around just in case. If I can get the box over the animal before it arouses, I can easily get it out of the house.

I've noticed that the birds she tries to bring me are usually dead or injured. My theory is that they don't play dead, instead they struggle, so she has to fight them harder, clamp down tighter, and they get injured.

I do try to keep her from hunting, but it's her instinct - hard to break. And no, keeping her inside all the time is not an option. Both of our sanities would suffer.

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