Believe it or not, mice do occasionally play dead.
It’s rare to see a mouse run across your floor, but it’s even more rare to see one play dead.
Fortunately, everything you need to know about fake dead mice and real dead mice is laid out in this article.
Why do mice play dead?
Mice play dead when they feel that they are in grave danger and feel that running away would be pointless. More often than not, these types of situations involve one of their predators, such as cats, dogs, hawks, owls, and snakes.
Because mice face constant danger every single day of their lives, they are quite good at being elusive and knowing when it’s safe to venture.
However, on rare occasions, they get stuck in situations where they think that they’re caught red handed. These occasions are rare because in most cases where mice sense danger, they are able to run away from it. But, for example, if your cat walks into your bathroom and sees a mouse in the bathtub, he has nowhere to run (that is if the drain it plugged).
In situations such as the bathtub example, rather than attempt to run away, only to be tormented and eventually caught, the mouse’s last resort it to play dead and hope that the cat loses interest. After all, most of the thrill and enjoyment cats get from chasing mice is from actually chasing them, not catching, killing, or eating them. Therefore, it can actually be a pretty effective strategy on behalf of the mice.
This all may seem a little too unrealistic to you, and I wouldn’t blame you; after all, this all sounds a lot like a clip from Tom and Jerry. But you don’t have to take my word for it.
There are countless stories and videos out there on mice playing dead. My favorite is this video which shows a mouse playing dead right in front of a cat and the cat has no idea!
How long do mice play dead?
Mice play dead until they feel like they’re no longer in danger—this can be a few seconds to a few minutes.
This is an important point to discuss because you should be on high alert if you think there’s a mouse playing dead in front of you. Many people have reported to have seen their cat catch and kill a mouse only to see the mouse get up and run away minutes after the cat turns its back.
Therefore, you must remain vigilant when a you spot a mouse that looks or seems like a corpse.
How can you tell if a mouse is dying?
You might be wondering if a mouse is playing dead, actually dead (or dying), or just sleeping.
If you have pet mice, it will be quite obvious if your mice are sleeping or if they are slipping away. Owners of pet mice should be well aware that mice are nocturnal and will be asleep for most of the day. However, if their inactivity is worrying you during the day, check in on them during the night. If your mice are alive and healthy, you will hear them and see them eat their food and drink water.
Sudden decrease in activity during the day AND night, change in appearance, and loss of appetite are a few worrisome signs that indicate that your mice’s health are declining.
If you are not a pet mouse owner, but rather a homeowner burdened by the pestering presence of house mice, then you may want to know if your cat or dog actually killed a mouse or if it’s playing dead.
You never want to touch a mouse with your hands, dead or alive, and I wouldn’t recommend poking him with something like a stick because if the mouse is in fact alive, he could get up and escape if he has the opportunity.
Therefore, if your cat or dog drags a mouse into your room, and if you think the mouse looks a little too pristine and healthy (i.e. not chewed up or covered in blood), then immediately place a plastic, see-through food storage container over him.
This way, he cannot escape if he is in fact playing dead.
Why do I keep finding dead mice?
If you keep finding dead mice, it is probably because you have an infestation. In the rare chance that you have had an infestation for a while without knowing, the older mice eventually die, and sometimes you can see or smell them—house mice generally live up to two years.
It may also be that your cat or dog keeps catching mice from the outside, killing them, and bringing them into your home.
Lastly, if you know you have an infestation and are currently trying to deal with it, you will usually use traps, poison, and other repellents to get rid of these small pests. Believe it or not, sometimes people forget that they have put out rodenticides and are surprised when they start suddenly seeing dead mice all over their home.
Do mice die of shock?
Now that you know that mice can play dead, you should also be aware that mice can suddenly collapse and die for what appears to be no reason.
It is never because of no reason, though…mice (and rats) can die of shock. There are many ways that mice can die, and there are many contributing causes to the deaths of mice.
For example, if a mouse is severely injured or sick, the induced stress might actually be the thing to kill him, not the actually injury.
It is also known that mice can suddenly collapse in die when caught in traps.
For example, the humane tip-trap is a type of trap that captures mice without killing them. However, people have reported to have seen mice suddenly die once trapped in these confined contraptions, which usually means they died from shock.
So remember, mice are animals, just like you and me, and they have highly sensitive nervous and immune systems. If you have pet mice, make sure you don’t keep them around stressful environments and situations, and if you want to control your infestation in a humane way, usually some deaths are inevitable, even when using humane traps.