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Mice are cleaner than you may think – scientists showed that they prefer keeping their toilets separately

Posted April 28, 2019

Humans love pets. We like their company, we enjoy petting them and taking care of them. However, they are individual animals with very specific needs that are not easy to learn and accommodate for. Now scientists from the University of British Columbia say that mice don‘t like having their toilets close to their living areas. Researchers say that pet owners should have that in mind.

Mice like their nests to be away from their own waste area and pet owners should try to make such accommodations. Image credit: Tiia Monto via Wikimedia (CC BY-SA 3.0)

Mice are quite small pets to have, but they still require a lot of care and attention. It would be easy to assume that they are simple and undemanding, but in reality they are smart and have preferences about their living environment. Sadly, that living environment for them has to be a cage, because otherwise we would lose them and they could get hurt by chewing through cables or running across the path of a bird or some hunting cat. But what cage would provide mice with the most comfort? Scientists say a system of cages is actually better.

During a 15 week research scientists studied 60 mice. Some of them were housed in standard single cages, while others were living in a complex “triad” caging systems that featured three separate compartments. Scientists noticed that all mice were making efforts to keep their nesting and waste areas separate. Those animals who were living in a single compartment cages were keeping the waste in a separate corner. Meanwhile those living in “triad” caging systems used different compartments as toilet areas. This showed that mice naturally prefer keeping their nests clean from their own waste, but it is difficult in a single compartment cage. This is actually a bigger problem than you might think, because it is not just about your house pets.

Mice are still commonly used in scientific research. They are popular research models for various drugs, therapies and even cosmetics.  Keeping mice in single compartment cages does not allow them to separate dirty and clean areas. This negatively affects their wellbeing as well as their behaviour. In some cases this could be enough to skew results of a research. Joanna Makowska, author of the research, said: “In humans, the most common elicitors of disgust are feces and urine. This finding opens avenues for exciting new research, such as whether disgust is a reaction that has evolved across species in much the same way that pleasure and pain have”.

Three compartment cages do not have to be bigger than single compartment cages, but that would help as well. Mice have to feel good to respond naturally to various stimuli that researchers present them with. Hopefully this study will provide scientists in different laboratories with motivation to improve living conditions of their animal models.


Source: University of British Columbia

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