The Indelible Joy of Mousekeeping

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Welshman Rodney Holbrook, 75, was in his backyard shed in October when he realized the bird food he was storing had been placed into a pair of shoes. “Something strange is going on here,” he thought.

He installed an infrared camera in the shed to figure out the mystery, and found that at night, instead of a poltergeist, a mouse came to straighten things up, the Washington Post reported.

The rodent, obviously disturbed by clutter, would explore Holbrook’s messy table and use its tiny mouth to pick up items such as nails, corks, or even a screwdriver, and place them in a small box. Night, after night, after night.

Holbrook nicknamed it “Welsh Tidy Mouse” to avoid confusion with another mouse displaying a similar passion for housekeeping – or mousekeeping, if you will. In 2019, a rodent collecting items in Bristol was jokingly dubbed the “Brexit mouse” for allegedly squirreling away items in preparation for the UK’s departure from the European Union.

Regardless, captivated Brits have since been wondering why mice are so obsessed with tidying up. One simple answer, pest-control specialist Gareth Davis told the newspaper, could be that they are simply “hoarding everything that could be useful in the future.”

But scientists say it’s not that simple. Mice, researcher Megan Jackson told the BBC, are “really cognitively complex.” She monitors mice in her work, which focuses on motivational behavior. In her current study, she has found that mice show a pattern in their foraging behavior. The repetitiveness of it would indicate that they find it rewarding.

Jackson added that although the makeshift nest that mice are creating is being disturbed every day, the animals still enjoy the process of putting things back into it, and into order. As French author Albert Camus once wrote, “One must imagine Sisyphus happy.”

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