A mouse (plural mice) is a small mammal belonging to the order of rodents. The best known mouse species is the common house mouse (Mus musculus). It is also a popular pet. In some places, certain kinds of field mice are also common. This rodent is eaten by large birds such as hawks and eagles. They are known to invade homes for food and occasionally shelter.
The American white-footed mouse (Peromyscus leucopus) and the deer mouse (Peromyscus maniculatus) also sometimes live in houses. But these are in other genus.
Although mice may live up to two and a half years in captivity, the average mouse in the wild lives only about four months, primarily owing to heavy predation. Cats, wild dogs, foxes, birds of prey, snakes and even certain kinds of arthropods have been known to prey heavily upon mice. Nevertheless, because of its remarkable adaptability to almost any environment, and its ability to live commensally with humans, the mouse is one of the best successful mammalian genus living on Earth today.
Mice can at times be harmful rodents, damaging and eating crops, causing structural damages and spreading diseases through their parasites and feces. In North America, breathing dust that has come in contact with mouse excrements has been linked to hantavirus, which may lead to Hantavirus Pulmonary Syndrome (HPS). The original motivation for the domestication of cats is thought to have been for their predation of mice and their relatives, the rats.
Primarily nocturnal animals, mice compensate for their poor eyesight with a keen sense of hearing, and rely especially on their sense of smell to locate food and avoid predators.
Breeding onset is at about 50 days of age in both females and males, although females may have their first estrus at 25–40 days. Mice are polyestrous and breed year round; ovulation is spontaneous. The duration of the estrous cycle is 4–5 days and estrus itself lasts about 12 hours, occurring in the evening. Vaginal smears are useful in timed matings to determine the stage of the estrous cycle. Mating is usually nocturnal and may be confirmed by the presence of a copulatory plug in the vagina up to 24 hours post-copulation. The presence of sperm on a vaginal smear is also a reliable indicator of mating.
Female mice housed together tend to go into anestrus and do not cycle. If exposed to a male mouse or the pheromones of a male mouse, most of the females will go into estrus in about 72 hours. This synchronization of the estrous cycle is known as the Whitten effect. The exposure of a recently bred mouse to the pheromones of a strange male mouse may prevent implantation (or pseudopregnancy), a phenomenon known as the Bruce effect.
The average gestation period is 20 days. A fertile postpartum estrus occurs 14–24 hours following parturition, and simultaneous lactation and gestation prolongs gestation 3–10 days owing to delayed implantation. The average litter size is 10–12 during optimum production, but is highly strain dependent. As a general rule, inbred mice tend to have longer gestation periods and smaller litters than outbred and hybrid mice. The young are called pups and weigh 0.5–1.5 g (0.018–0.053 oz) at birth, are hairless, and have closed eyelids and ears. Cannibalism is uncommon, but females should not be disturbed during parturition and for at least 2 days postpartum. Pups are weaned at 3 weeks of age; weaning weight is 10–12 g (0.35–0.42 oz). If the postpartum estrus is not utilized, the female resumes cycling 2–5 days postweaning.
Newborn male mice are distinguished from newborn females by noting the greater anogenital distance and larger genital papilla in the male. This is best accomplished by lifting the tails of littermates and comparing perineums
In nature, mice are herbivores, consuming any kind of fruit or grain from plants. Due to this, mice adapt well to urban areas and are known for eating most all types of food scraps, especially cheese. In captivity, mice are commonly fed commercial pelleted mouse diet. These diets are nutritionally complete, but they still need a large variety of vegetables. Food intake is approximately 15 g (0.53 oz) per 100 g (3.5 oz) of body weight per day; water intake is approximately 15 ml (0.53 imp fl oz; 0.51 US fl oz) per 100 g of body weight per day.
Rats are various medium-sized, long-tailed rodents of the superfamily Muroidea. "True rats" are members of the genus Rattus, the most important of which to humans are the black rat, Rattus rattus, and the brown rat, Rattus norvegicus. Many members of other rodent genera and families are also referred to as rats, and share many characteristics with true rats.Rats are typically distinguished from mice by their size; rats are generally large muroid rodents, while mice are generally small muroid rodents. The muroid family is very large and complex, and the common terms rat and mouse are not taxonomically specific. Generally, when someone discovers a large muroid, its common name includes the term rat, while if it is small, the name includes the term mouse - scientifically, the terms are not confined to members of the Rattus and Mus genera. Compare the taxonomic classification of the pack rat and cotton mouse.
Species and description
The best-known rat species are the Black Rat (Rattus rattus) and the Brown Rat (Rattus norvegicus). The group is generally known as the Old World rats or true rats, and originated in Asia. Rats are bigger than most Old World mice, which are their relatives, but seldom weigh over 500 grams (1 lb) in the wild.
The term "rat" is also used in the names of other small mammals which are not true rats. Examples include the North American pack rats, a number of species loosely called kangaroo rats, and others. Rats such as the Bandicoot rat (Bandicota bengalensis) are murine rodents related to true rats, but are not members of the genus Rattus. Male rats are called bucks, unmated females are called does, pregnant or parent females are called dams, and infants are called kittens or pups. A group of rats is either referred to as a pack or a mischief.
In Western countries, many people keep domesticated rats as pets. These are of the species R. norvegicus, which originated in the grasslands of China and spread to Europe and eventually, in 1775, to the New World. Pet rats are Brown Rats descended from those bred for research, and are often called "fancy rats", but are the same species as the common city "sewer" rat. Domesticated rats tend to be both more docile than their wild ancestors and more disease prone, presumably due to inbreeding.
The common species are opportunistic survivors and often live with and near humans, therefore they are known as commensals. They may cause substantial food losses, especially in developing countries. However, the widely distributed and problematic commensal species of rats are a minority in this diverse genus. Many species of rats are island endemics and some have become endangered due to habitat loss or competition with the Brown, Black or Polynesian rat.
Wild rats can carry many different "zoonotic" pathogens, such as e.g. Leptospira, Toxoplasma gondii and Campylobacter, and may transfer these across species, for example to humans. The Black Death is traditionally believed to have been caused by the micro-organism Yersinia pestis, carried by the Tropical Rat Flea (Xenopsylla cheopis) which preyed on Black Rat living in European cities during the epidemic outbreaks of the Middle Ages; these rats were used as transport hosts. Today, this cycle still exists in many countries of the world and plague outbreaks still occur every year. Beside transmitting zoonotic pathogens, rats are also linked to the spread of contagious animal pathogens that may result in livestock diseases such as Classical Swine Fever and Foot-and-mouth disease.
The normal lifespan of rats ranges from two to five years, and is typically three years.
A squirrel is one of many small or medium-sized rodents in the family Sciuridae. In the English-speaking world, squirrel commonly refers to members of this family's genera Sciurus and Tamiasciurus, which are tree squirrels with large bushy tails, indigenous to Asia, the Americas and Europe. Similar genera are found in Africa. The Sciuridae family also includes flying squirrels, as well as ground squirrels such as the chipmunks, prairie dogs, and woodchucks. Members of the family Anomaluridae are sometimes misleadingly referred to as "scaly-tailed flying squirrels" although they are not closely related to the true squirrels.
In United States and Canada, common squirrels include the Fox Squirrel (S. niger); the Western Gray Squirrel (S. griseus); the Douglas Squirrel (Tamiasciurus douglasii); the American Red Squirrel T. hudsonicus; and the Eastern Grey Squirrel (S. carolinensis), of which the "Black Squirrel" is a variant. In Europe the Red Squirrel or Eurasian red squirrel (Sciurus vulgaris) is the most common native species, although the Eastern Grey Squirrel (S. carolinensis) has been introduced in some countries and has displaced the red in many areas, including most of Britain.
Unlike rabbits or deer, squirrels cannot digest cellulose and must rely on foods rich in protein, carbohydrates, and fat. In temperate regions early spring is the hardest time of year for squirrels, since buried nuts begin to sprout and are no longer available for the squirrel to eat, and new food sources have not become available yet. During these times squirrels rely heavily on the buds of trees. Squirrels' diet consists primarily of a wide variety of plant food, including nuts, seeds, conifer cones, fruits, fungi and green vegetation. However some squirrels also consume meat, especially when faced with hunger. Squirrels have been known to eat insects, eggs, small birds, young snakes and smaller rodents.
Ground and tree squirrels are typically diurnal, while flying squirrels tend to be nocturnal—except for lactating flying squirrels and their offspring, which have a period of diurnality during the summer.
Predatory behavior by various species of ground squirrels, particularly the thirteen-lined ground squirrel, has been noted. Bailey, for example, observed a thirteen-lined ground squirrel preying upon a young chicken. Wistrand reported seeing this same species eating a freshly killed snake. Whitaker examined the stomachs of 139 thirteen-lined ground squirrels, and found bird flesh in four of the specimens and the remains of a short-tailed shrew in one; Bradley, examining white-tailed antelope squirrels' stomachs, found at least 10% of his 609 specimens' stomachs contained some type of vertebrate—mostly lizards and rodents. Morgart (1985) observed a white-tailed antelope squirrel capturing and eating a silky pocket mouse.
Relationship with humans
Squirrels are generally clever and persistent animals. In residential neighborhoods, they are notorious for eating out of bird feeders, digging in planting pots and flower beds to pull out bulbs which they chew on or to either bury or recover seeds and nuts and for inhabiting sheltered areas including attics and basements. Squirrels use their keen sense of smell to locate buried nuts and can dig extensive holes in the process. Birds, especially crows, often watch a squirrel bury a nut, then dig it up as soon as the squirrel leaves. Although expert climbers, and primarily arboreal, squirrels also thrive in urban environments, where they get used to humans. Their intelligence makes them suitable as pets.