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Watch a mouse play dead to avoid being eaten by a hungry cat

do mice play dead, cat caught a mouse

Do mice play dead? It’s a strange question. The idea of a tiny, timid mouse suddenly playing dead to escape danger seems like something out of a cartoon. But with countless online videos, this funny-looking defence mechanism has some success on cats.

Do mice play dead?

Some mice, when threatened, will play dead instead of running away. The mouse will appear lifeless, lying motionless on its back with its limbs extended and eyes closed. It will remain this way until it believes the danger has passed.

Why do mice play dead?

mouse sat on top of cheese

Mice play dead as a defence mechanism in response to stress, fear, or danger. The behaviour is called “tonic immobility” and is also exhibited by other small animals, such as rabbits and opossums.

How long can a mouse play dead?

The duration of tonic immobility can vary depending on the individual mouse, the severity of the stress, and other factors. In some cases, a mouse may only remain in this state for a few minutes, while in others, it may last several hours.

How to tell if a mouse is dead or just sleeping?

If you’re trying to determine whether a mouse is dead or just sleeping, there are a few signs you can look for:

  1. Observe the mouse’s breathing: Check if the mouse’s chest is moving up and down, indicating it’s breathing. 
  2. Touch the mouse: Gently touch the mouse and see if it responds. A sleeping mouse will typically wake up or move after being touched. 
  3. Check for other signs of life: Look for other signs, such as movement, twitching, or a blink reflex. These are all signs that the mouse is still alive.
  4. Check for other physical signs: If the mouse is dead, it may have a stiff body, unresponsive eyes, and a lack of warmth.

Video of a mouse playing dead in front of a cat

The mouse lays comical on its back, waiting for the cat to lose interest. Once the cat walks off, the mouse lifts its head up to see if the coast is clear so it can escape.