Mouse (plural: Mice), a small rodent (gnawing animal) widely distributed throughout the world. The term mouse has been applied to a number of rodents belonging to various families. The name was probably first given to the Old World house mouse, which originated in Asia and has spread to all inhabited parts of the world.

The dormouseThe dormouse is a bushy-tailed mouse about the size of a red squirrel.

A typical mouse has a slender body covered with short gray or brownish fur; small, beady eyes; a pointed snout; and small, rounded ears. The slender tail is long and either bare or thinly haired. Mice are closely related to rats, the principal difference being the mouse's smaller size. Mice are also related to the lemmings and voles.

Most kinds of mice live on or under the ground, but some species live in trees. They feed chiefly on grain and other vegetation, but some kinds also eat meat, cheese, and other foods. Traps and poisons are used to kill mice. Mice are also killed by natural predators such as cats, snakes, and skunks.

Because they reproduce so rapidly, mice are often used in scientific experiments. (The house mouse, for example, may have five litters of four to seven young a year, and can reproduce when 35 days old.) Some kinds make interesting pets. In the United States, the white mouse, an albino variety of the house mouse, is especially popular as a pet. The most widely distributed native mice in North America are the deer mice, or white-footed mice, which include cotton mice. Others numerous in the United States include the harvest mice and pocket mice.

Does a Mouse Really Love Cheese?

A mouse in a house does love cheese—and anything else it can sink its teeth into. A mouse will eat almost any food that humans eat. That includes meat and vegetables. A mouse will also eat things that humans won’t. For example, it will also eat glue, leather, paste, and soap.

A house mouse needs very little food. It tends to damage more food than it actually eats. This tiny rodent is only about 3 inches (7.6 centimeters) long, not counting the tail. It weighs only 1/2 to 1 ounce (14 to 28 grams).

The house mouse is the best-known kind of mouse. It lives wherever people live. It nests in homes, garages, or barns. But there are hundreds of other kinds of mice as well. They can be found all over the world—in mountains, fields, forests, swamps, and deserts.

The house mouse is Mus musculus of the Old World family Muridae. Deer mice make up the genus Peromyscus of the New World family Cricetidae. The cotton mouse is Peromyscus gossypinus. The Eastern harvest mouse is Reithrodontomys humulis of the family Cricetidae. The long-tailed pocket mouse is Perognathus formosus of the New World family Heteromyidae.