Scientists suggest that the Welsh mouse who takes pride in their home may partake in “tidying” for enjoyment.

Mice are known for their cleanliness, but do they extend this diligence to their homes? A mouse in Builth Wells has been filmed repeatedly gathering objects and neatly placing them in a tray in a shed. This behavior has been dubbed “mousekeeping”, but experts suggest there could be other explanations.

The shed’s owner, Rodney Holbrook, has nicknamed the rodent the “Welsh Tidy Mouse”. The footage shows the mouse collecting clothes pegs, corks, nuts, and bolts, and arranging them in a tray on Holbrook’s workbench. This behavior has been observed for months. A similar incident occurred in Bristol in 2019, where a mouse was filmed “stockpiling” screws, chains, and other metal items in a birdfeed box.

If the Welsh Tidy Mouse is indeed keeping its home clean, it wouldn’t be the only animal exhibiting “cleaning” behavior. Bees and ants remove corpses from their hives and tunnels, garibaldi damselfish clear their nest areas of sea urchins and starfish, and songbirds remove droppings, uneaten food, and dead nestlings from their nests. Northern Pacific rattlesnakes even clear vegetation from their strike paths to improve the accuracy of their attacks.

However, it is up for debate whether the Welsh Tidy Mouse is truly engaging in “mousework” or some other activity. Dr. Megan Jackson from the University of Bristol suggests that the mouse didn’t tidy up its environment consciously. Dr. Jonny Kohl from the Francis Crick Institute thinks it could be displaying an unusual form of nesting behavior, especially if it is a female mouse.

The gathering of objects that aren’t typically associated with nests raises questions about the mouse’s motivation. It’s possible that the Welsh Tidy Mouse is indulging its natural curiosity, as mice and other rodents enjoy exploring and interacting with new objects. For example, pack rats hoard shiny objects like bottle tops and keys in their nests.

Another possibility is that the mouse finds enjoyment in foraging and storing objects. Even though the behavior may seem pointless, it appears rewarding to the mouse. Dr. Jackson suggests that, as humans find pleasure in various activities, seeing a mouse engage in non-essential behavior can be quite nice.

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