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Weird Nesting Behavior - Video

2587 Views 15 Replies 5 Participants Last post by  nuedaimice
So I have this mouse who has the strangest taste in nesting material. So I filmed her attempting to make her nest, and decided to post the video.

Its actually pretty funny... but it takes about 1 minute and 35 seconds for her to start going after the "strange nesting material". You'll know what I'm talking about when you see her grab it.

Here's the video link:
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OMG that is so funny!! Her friend doesn't seem phased by her trying to drag her off to turn into a bed at all :lol:
Tail chasing (or carrying) can look funny to us, but it is a mental disease related to OCDs in people, involving anxiety, obsession, and even paranoia. The animals who do this are generally pretty stressed out. In dogs, cats, and monkeys it is treated with fluoxetine or other similar medicines. I don't know how you'd treat it in a mouse, if you would be able to at all.

Their cage looks pretty empty. Do they have toys or a house? Sometimes these behaviors indicate mice who are suffering from stimulus deprivation and simply by adding a wheel, toilet paper tubes, empty macaroni boxes, or other such things the symptoms will lessen. It doesn't take much to occupy a mouse's mind, but some mice seem much more susceptible to these diseases than others and need more stimulation than others.
Jack Garcia said:
Tail chasing (or carrying) can look funny to us, but it is a mental disease related to OCDs in people, involving anxiety, obsession, and even paranoia. The animals who do this are generally pretty stressed out. In dogs, cats, and monkeys it is treated with fluoxetine or other similar medicines. I don't know how you'd treat it in a mouse, if you would be able to at all.

Their cage looks pretty empty. Do they have toys or a house? Sometimes these behaviors indicate mice who are suffering from stimulus deprivation and simply by adding a wheel, toilet paper tubes, empty macaroni boxes, or other such things the symptoms will lessen. It doesn't take much to occupy a mouse's mind, but some mice seem much more susceptible to these diseases than others and need more stimulation than others.
:eek: I didn't think that it could be that serious!! Makes sense though I suppose - the mouse equivalent of a bear or tiger etc wandering around in a circle because they are so bored.
Yep, it's very sad.

It happens a lot in laboratories, where the animals are given nothing but bedding and food to stimulate them.

It's weird, though. There are some mice who seem to do fine in cages with no houses, no toys, no wheels, and no anything. I know a couple fanciers in England who use the old-fashioned wooden cages, relatively unfurnished, and the mice don't seem to have psychological problems like tail chasing or barbering (both of which can result from sensory deprivation). I think a mouse's psychosocial world is a lot like a person's: some people would be content to sit in their bathroom all day and do nothing, but it would make most of us crazy (pretty literally) after a couple days.
And some mice who have loads of toys still develop problems. I've one in a freddy 2 with her daughters and sister with loads of toys and she still barbers her sister. Only her sister funnily enough so she never has any hair on her front leg for more than a week. And I've another mouse who is agoraphobic. Just goes to prove that they are as mad a us sometimes.
Yep, they really are!

I think that if we were mice we would understand more of their psycho-social lives, and I sometimes wonder how much of ours they really understand! From a philosophy standpoint, these questions are just a small-scale version of the "Problem of other minds" that people like AJ Ayer talked about. A few years ago in a "Philosophy of Mind" class we talked about him, and I always thought of animals and how the same epistemological questions we ask about other human minds ("How can we know what they're really thinking/feeling or that they think/feel at all?" etc) can also be applied to animal minds, with even less clear answers.

What we can be reasonably certain of is that behavior such as tail chasing, barbering (of self or others) and self-injury are psychological phenomena that usually indicate high levels of anxiety and stress, regardless of the species. In environments as barren as a lab cage (for example), the only way mice have to cope with their high levels of stress is to mutilate themselves or engage in repetitive behaviors. Sometimes people do something to cause this stress (in themselves or their animals) and sometimes it's just naturally in the brain without any inducement. A naturally high-strung disposition can have its advantages: in wild animals, an easily-stressed, easily-anxious personality is an asset when you have zillions of things to keep you occupied and around every corner awaits a cat or an owl trying to eat you. In captivity, though, whether as pets or show animals, this kind of personality quickly leads to maladaptive, compulsive behavior like tail chasing or barbering. Like in humans, though, mental traits are often inherited. And in animals as inbred as mice, you often find whole families that suffer from these kind of things (just like you find whole families who suffer from obesity, kinked tails, or whatever else the case may be).
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Thats interesting you say this is an OCD behavior, as it is the first mouse I have ever owned to display this behaviour. Do you have any lab studies or reports to back up this information? I would love to see scientific reports that confirm this.

I noticed this mouse display this behaviour for the first time last week, as I have only owned this mouse (as well as the 33 others I just got) for a total of 2 weeks, I can not say whether she had displayed it before. However, it took me almost a week to catch her doing it again (and considering how much time I spend in the room, which is quite a lot - I often fall asleep in there staring into the cages, she does not perform this behaviour frequently).

The two times I observed the behaviour, the second time was when I caught it on film, were both right after the nest had been disturbed. I noticed she kept grabbing her tail while she was trying to build a nest, and attempt to take it to the nest to add to the material. In fact, the first time I saw her do this, she had bedding and her tail in her mouth. She also would try to grab another mouse's tail if left available and attempt to take it to the nest. If she couldn't carry the mouse's tail (which obviously she can't) she would spend a few seconds trying to dig out from around it and see what it was "stuck under", before attempting to move it again. I saw her do this several times and with multiple mice.

This particular doe did come from a cage of barberers, because she was barbered when I got her, but her whiskers are growing back in now. However, it is my understanding that barbering is a hereditary condition that is used for establishing a hierarchy order among deems of males or males and females (typically, where the dominant male has the condition, the sub-ordinate mice will be barbered). However, with deems of does, it is often displayed when no order is present. At least, this is what I have read and researched in lab reports.

This particular tank lacks stimulus for a reason. I have several tanks set up with varying degrees of stimulus/diets to try and determine which set up mice learn best under. I am attempting to clicker train several mice, and its a real challenge trying to determine which food/diets get their attention the best, how to get their attention and make them want to train, etc. It seems the cages with the lesser stimuli respond better when taken out for training sessions. And, so far, those with a bland diet respond better to food rewards. Now I'm just trying to figure out which mice are the more intelligent ones to work with. We already know that Super Y and Triple X are our most agile and active participants, but they tend to be too curious and not motivated enough by our rewards. Although, through natural curiosity, they often respond correctly to my signals.

The behaviour of these animals is very fascinating to me, and thats why I keep my camera handy to document anything that happens of interest. I have another video of our little acrobat Super Y scaling the side of a 35 gallon aquarium (with the help of a water bottle, of course).

Please let me know if you have any lab reports on this behaviour, I would love to see it! I really enjoy reading any studies, articles, books, or anything on animal behaviour.
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Of course I do. Here are just a few which deal with different aspects of obsessive compulsive disorders in mentally ill mice (and thus people), all ultimately benefiting humans more than mice. That's how these things, go, though. The experiments are carried out on mice and the results are translated over to people: ... T/ABSTRACT

These types of articles are extremely technical and most people (including me!) need help reading and understanding them and their relevance to the mouse fancy.

If you Google "obsessive mice" you get millions of additional results as well. A great number of these are laboratory reports dealing with neurological studies and subsequent findings in mice or rats, but I would also recommend searching for the reports of OCDs in nonhuman primates and in cats and dogs, if it interests you. If in your search you find anything that needs pay-access, I may be able to get it for you for free since I have default access and I don't mind in the least. I read a lot of obscure scholarly journal articles about mice.

By the way, I'd imagine that working in PetCo would give you lots of opportunities to observe animal behavior. :p Kadee (who also works there) says that her favorite part is watching and playing with the animals.
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Ooh, thank you! I'm OCD, so these will be a fantastic read! I like to print them out though and read them in the morning when I am most alert. This helps me focus and not be interrupted. I shouldn't have any problem, I read lab reports all the time. No worries on pay-access, I have my connections already. I had to pull some strings recently when researching the secret lives of wild mice, and needed some chapters out of a particular book.

Oh, and you seem to be confused on my employment status. I haven't worked for PetCo since 2007. I was training their new dog trainers within 3 months of working there, and was so over what they had to offer in 6 months. They expected me to fix all of the dogs behaviour issues in the store, which is impossible to do. I quit working there and 5 months later was given my own dog enrichment program at a nationally accredited vet hospital. We had 200+ dogs in the program and worked with anywhere between 30-50 a day fixing behavioural problems, training them, and even doing IQ testing. Both in and outside of the home. I have been working the field of dog training for 8 years and dog behaviour for almost 2 years, I am in the process of trying to get my certifications.

I have tons of photos of the facility I worked in, and a lot of the dogs I worked with. It was almost like owning 200+ dogs. Of course, at the moment, I am at home, just doing foster work for rescues (mostly the dogs with serious issues that have been deemed "unadoptable" otherwise), and working with private clients who need help with behavioural issues. Since my sister got multiple myeloma last year and needed someone to help her, I had to take a leave of absence to be with my family.

I still go to visit my "other family" 4 hours away every so often and keep in touch. Make sure they don't kick Ophelia out while I'm gone! No one can really handle her except me. Luckily, Adrienne is there to make sure nothing gets too out of hand. However, if I decide not to move back, I will eventually open my own facility up in town here. I've looked at several places and have offers for financial backing, but with health issues in my family, its not a good time to open my own business right now.
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I haven't read your links yet, obviously, but what do you think of this theory, pertaining to rats:

2.7 Why does my rat carry its tail in its mouth?
A rat may pick up its tail in its mouth and carry it. Tail carrying is a rare behavior that has not been well studied and is not well understood. However, it may be a form of displaced maternal behavior. A nesting rat deprived of normal nesting material may carry her own tail and try to build a nest with it. A nursing mother rat may retrieve her own tail to the nest, like a pup.
Found here:

I did find a lab report specifically about the behavior, but it will probably take me a day or two to access it through my current connection.
You're very welcome!

I know so many people who work in pet stores currently or who used to, I guess I get you all mixed up. It's a very common occupation for animal lovers, I've found.

What kind of degree or certifications do you need to train dogs? I thought that basically anybody could do it without much training at all. That you need certification to do it (from who?) actually surprises me. That's not the impression you get from all the varied people who call themselves "dog trainers," "animal trainers," "animal behaviorists," "animal psychologists," and so forth. From my outsider-looking-in perspective, it seems to be a pretty unregulated field.
Indeed! Almost all dog trainers are "self-taught" (last time I checked we were at 80% but those numbers may be a lot lower now with the introduction of the Animal Behaviour College - a $3,000 course for anyone who wants to become an animal behaviorist and get a job at PetCo or PetSmart).

However, there are certifications you can acquire in the respective field to, at least, show that you do know what you are talking about. Even PetCo and PetSmart have a 12 week course that MOST of their dog trainers have to take to get certified. I didn't have to take it because after sitting down for an interview with Fanna Easter, the Pet Services Co-ordinator (who just happen to write some of the curriculum used at ABC), it was decided that I did not need to take the course, as I had already been training dogs for 4 years and they just handed me a certificate saying I was "certified" by them. Which, my skills were obvious since I was #1 in "canine education" sales in the district the entire time I worked there. Thats why they promoted me to District Trainer so quickly. And when I left PetCo a lot of my clients followed me and we did group classes at parks until I moved.

I digress. Anyway, there are several organizations to help professional dog trainers, such as the APDT. Then for certification, the most respected and most common is the CCPDT (Council of Certification for Pet Dog Trainers). You have to pay a non-refundable $375 (I think thats right) to take their test, which only occurs twice a year. You have to know a lot about canine learning theory to pass, its not just a "how do you teach a dog to sit?". You also have to know about husbandry, as well.

What I am working on is a certification through the IAABC. It takes 3 years to get, though. So I have some time still.

While dog trainers are self-taught, it is certainly not a career that can be done without "much training at all", at least, not and be successful at it. There are a lot of dog trainers who get dogs that they "can't fix". When someone gets told that, they bring their dog to me. A lot of it is application, you have to be able to assess the situation, think on your feet, figure out (using what you know about how a canine thinks and perceives the world) "why is this dog doing this?"

99% of the time, its not even the dog. Its the owner.

Luckily, dog behaviour and training is also easily adapted to help raise children! Thats how both of my oldest two children were reliably potty trained at the age of 2. Its amazing what you can do with a clicker and a handful of Reese's pieces.

BTW, I skimmed through your first and second link, and I see that its about OCD behaviour, but the first one is monitoring grooming patterns and the second one is about mice that have been chemically induced? Do you have any links to any lab reports that are about the tail carrying behaviour, not OCD?

And, sorry, I keep typing behaviour, instead of behavior. I did by accident the first time, and since we were on a UK forum, kept doing it. My spell check is going nuts over here.
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I was just wondering if your mouse is so fixed on tail like things to nest with is it safe to give them pieces of twine? I'd be worried about the fibers a little, but other than that i thought i was a good idea. Of course it is also a good idea to give them some toys so your mousie isn't so "bored" but if this is really just a preference in nesting material...string may be the answer.
Hemp rope it fine. Maybe try offering some of that. :D
I give them Orchard Grass and Timothy Hay, I like natural nests.

As said above, the lack of stimulus was an on-going behaviour experiment. The behaviour displayed in the video has only been observed twice, right after the nest was disturbed (and no new hay or grass was offered). I was lucky enough to catch it on film this time.
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