Mice and cheese

No, I’m not asking for a recipe. Why are mice associated with cheese? Why are they depicted as veritable cheese fiends? Don’t they prefer grain?

Yes, but grain wouldn’t traditionally have been stored in the house; they’ll actually eat just about anything we will (although like us, they do have preferences). cheese would have been one thing that was commonly stored in a larder/pantry without any external packaging, so it would have been an easy target.

Well, this is about rats rather than mice, but: I heard an NPR story from a man who wrote a book about rats. He spent a lot of time observing them in the city. He said that rats pretty much ate what we ate and prefered what we prefered. In other words, in a dumpster full of veggies and high-fat foods, the rats would eat the high-fat foods. I suppose cheese falls into the high-in-fat catagory. I further suppose that mice are not too unlike rats.

I used to bait my mouse traps (when I had mice) with a pinch of bread. Worked well. Much better than cheese.

Except rats will die a lot faster from that diet than we will. You’re not meant to feed rats with cheese, it will kill them.

I hear it’s better to bait the traps with honey coated grain.

Apparently, a blob of peanut butter is quite effective as mousetrap bait, because the animal must stay and eat it in situ - making it much more likely to spring the trap.

Tried the peanut butter in a “Hav-A-Heart” box like cage trap.
The big mouse or small rat had cleaned off the trigger plate by hanging from the wires, not triggering the trap and got away, the first time.
Rebaited the trap with p.b. inside a small tin can wired onto the trigger plates.
Chalk up one big mouse to dispose of.

Mice love peanut butter, but they’re too good at consuming it without setting off the trap.

Half a peanut works better - the same appeal as peanut butter, but reliably sets off the trap. One baiting will usually catch several mice in succession.

I keep my cheese in the fridge. :wink:

So the mouse-cheese pairing dates from when people kept comestibles in a larder. That’s a long stretch. When did the depiction of mice eating cheese become common? That is, in cartoons we always see mice becoming rapturous at the aroma. This obviously predates Tom & Jerry. Does it exist in folklore? When?

I can easily find newspaper articles from the 1870’s talking about baiting a mousetrap with cheese.

I read a study somewhere where they did a test with a variety of foods and out of everything they tested the mice prefered…gumdrops.

The problem is the idea of little gumdrop loving mice is just so adorable I certainly couldn’t bait a killing machine with it.

During a time of no cats, we found that what mice really, really love is . . . brownies. (Just a corner.) They could not resist.

My kids started saying things like, “Mmm, mom’s making mouse bait!”

Given that the widespread introduction of home refrigeration is an event almost within living memory, I don’t regard it as a stretch at all.

Wouldn’t the trap kill them before the cheese did? :slight_smile:

I wasn’t recommending that people feed their pet rats a diet of cheese. I was trying to answer the OP.

According the author of the book on rats, rodent-type animals are attracted to the same types of food that humans are: high-in-fat products. Big Macs, fries, and yes, cheese. Of course, I have generalized, the man’s book was specifically about rats.

No, a long stretch of time.

That’s what I mean; it isn’t as long stretch of time really; there are people still alive today who have seen the introduction of refrigeration (at least in their own homes) and who will still remember storing cheese, hams etc in a larder, besides, cartoons and children’s books were very much in production during the period in which larder storage was commonplace, so there’s plenty of overlap for the association to become established.

Ah. What I meant was that there was a long stretch of time between when cheese was invented and people kept it in larders, until the invention of the refrigerator. So when, during that long period, did the image emerge?

Oh, I see. I suppose there’s always been something like a larder, as long as there’s been cheese (unless it’s the sort that is eaten fairly promptly); if you’re keeping cheese, you need to put it somewhere out of the way; a cellar, a larder, a cave, a storehouse; whatever - and mice are going to find these places just fine to live in, especially with all the cheese.

I suppose all I’m really saying is that cheese is more vulnerable to rodent attack because:
-It is typically stored for a long time (it’s designed for that very purpose)
-It isn’t (traditionally) usually stored with any kind of wrapping or protective packaging - just the natural rind
-The places in which it was traditionally stored are:
– cool and airy, to prevent it going off (but ventilation is a possible entry route for rodents)
– out of the way - either because the cheese isn’t pleasant to live alongside, or because the warmth of the human-habitable places isn’t suitable for its storage (so there’s plenty of undisturbed opportunity for the mice to get busy)

Other foods would either have been eaten fresh (bread), bottled(fruits), crated (apples), bagged (grains), packed in sand(root vegetables) or suspended from a high ceiling (hams). Cheese is just sitting there on the shelf, asking for it.

Well, folks, I think we have a new euphemism !

(gets a paper cut) “Cheese and Mice !”

My dad used to say, ‘Cheese and crackers got all muddy!’