Cartoonists have always drawn little mice nibbling small tetrahedral portions of cheese (always with holes in them, like Emmental cheese). Now very few realise that this has no connection with what happens in nature. As specialists know, not only mice don’t really like cheese at all but they’ll even stay as away as they can from certain types of cheese, because of the odours they give off! Nevertheless, the image of a mouse eating cheese looks natural in everybody’s mind….
Manchester University on mice and cheese
According to a Daily Mail article in 2006, Dr David Holmes from the Manchester Metropolitan University did a study on the relationship between mice and cheese. If hungry enough, mice will pretty much eat anything. On normal circumstances, most type of mice will prefer grains, fruits, etc. Certain species of mice will also eat insects or other small animals. According to Dr Holmes:
Clearly the supposition of mice liking cheese is a popular premise. Mice have evolved almost entirely without cheese or anything resembling it. They respond to the smell, texture and taste of food and cheese is something that would not be available to them in their natural environment and therefore not something that they would respond to.
Basically, they like to eat what they’ve been used to, since before humans started making cheese around 10,000 years ago.
So, cheese wouldn’t work on a mouse trap but try peanuts or peanuts butter or chocolate….
So where did it start?
The point is that nobody knows exactly the origin of the belief that mice like cheese.
As far as we can see, one of the oldest records are from Roman philosopher Lucius Annaeus Seneca who, in his Epistulae Morales ad Lucilium (Moral Letters to Lucilium – Book V – Letter XLVIII), about 2,000 years ago wrote:
Mus syllaba est; mus autem caseum rodit; syllaba ergo caseum rodit.
‘Mouse’ is a syllable. Now a mouse eats cheese; therefore a syllable eats cheese.
It’s been around for a long time now….
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