“Life is full of choices,
and every one is a test.
I know this maze like my own shadow.
I will show you how to use your clever mind
to decide which choice is best.
Some call me selfish,
others say I’m shrewd.
I don’t rise to that bait.
I know myself to be a survivor,
and I’m not afraid to be rude!
Keep your eye on the prize.
Chew over your issues, and
gnaw them down to size.
The Lord of Success
rides upon my back.
Attention to small details
will keep you on track!"
“Only the most foolish of mice would hide in a cat’s ear, but only the wisest of cats would think to look there.” Andrew Mercer
“The mice think they are right, but my cat eats them anyways. This is the point… reality is nothing, perception is everything.” Terry Goodkind
There are some 40 species of mice and 137 to 570 kinds of rat, although not all are “true” rats.“True rats” are members of the genus Rattus, the best known of which are the Black and the Brown rats.
Pack rats, kangaroo rats, and Bandicoot rats are examples of those which bear the name although they are not actually rats. Despite heavy predation, mice and rats are regarded as the third most successful of all mammalian species on Earth today, second only to humans! Mice may live up to two years in a lab or pet environment, but the average mouse in the wild only lives about 5 months. These rodents are a key food source for most ecosystems, and feed a wide variety of animals including: eagles, hawks, owls, cats, foxes, weasels, stoats, snakes, and badgers. In Ancient Rome, very little distinction was made between them, being called commonly Big Mouse and Little Mouse. Physically and in habit, they are of course very similiar.
Mice are omnivores that typically feed on grains, fruits and seeds although they will eat meat, including dead mice, and have even been known to cannibalize their own tails during starvation situations! Mice and rats are typically despised for two reaons; crop destruction and the spread of disease.While modern wild rats can carry certain diseases communicable to humans, this is more rare than is commonly thought. Wild rats and mice tend to be healthy and robust creatures, and even city rats which often suffer from poor diet, internal parasites and mites, rarely spread disease to humans. Hantavirus, rat bite fever, and food poisoning like salmonellosis, are probably the most common diseases spread by these rodents.
Most other ailments, like the infamous plague, are actually spread by the fleas or mites that infest the rodents. Another common misconception is that mice find cheese irresistable, and while they certainly won’t pass it up if the need and opportunity present themselves, they aren’t actually fond of the fatty texture of cheese, preferring foods high in sugar. Peanut butter is a much better bait for rodents than cheese, and chocolate is actually toxic to them.
Mice are social creatures that prefer living in groups, and their natural habitats are very diverse from inner-city to desert. Male rivalry can become troublesome when the group is confined to a small space.
Brown rats and mice (typically some variety of house mouse) have been used for a wide variety of laboratory research for many years. There are many reasons why these animals are preferred for these types of studies. Their short life spans, rapid reproduction, small size and the thrift of their upkeep makes them cost effective and highly useful as we can study the wide variety of responses from a single generation. There is also a remarkable genetic similarity between mice and humans, and a 2007 study actually showed that rats are capable of greater cognition than we have given them credit for up til now. Learning, memory, explicit and implicit knowledge, planning and evaluating have all been displayed.
Perhaps even more astounding, is the fact that it has been found that rats emit short, high frequency, ultrasonic, socially induced vocalization during rough and tumble play inaudible to the human ear without aid. In other words, they are ticklish and they laugh! Like us, they have certain areas of the body which are particularly susceptible to tickling, and this induced laughter is associated with positive emotional feelings, social bonding, and even suggests a social preference by these more playful and ready to laugh rats for others like them! (Panksepp and Burgdorf 2003) Despite the horrible reputation that rodents have with us, popular culture suggests that we have been more aware of these qualities than we have realized.
As a Totem, Mouse teaches us that paying attention to small details and accomplishing smaller tasks will help us with the bigger ones. The trick is not to get so lost in details that we loose sight of our real goals. Mouse people often have a lot of nervous energy which can affect their health adversly or show itself in other ways, like excessive neatness or even OCD behavior. Mouse people like to have everything in order, tidy and organized. It is often a struggle for them not to nit-pick or over analyze things. It is easy for them to feel too small for the challenges they face, fearful of life’s unknown variables, or overwhelmed by circumstances. While it is often beneficial for them to stop all activity and allow themselves the breathing space to really take in a situation before making decisions, Mouse people must beware freezing to the spot and becoming incapable of making any decision, like a mouse paralyzed by fear from a passing hawk’s shadow. Mouse asks us if we are too focused on one detail and perhaps missing the bigger picture? Are we being too cautious in an over zealous effort to “look before we leap”?
Ganesha, the elephant-headed Hindu God of Success, is often depicted riding on the back of a mouse or rat. This can be interpreted in many ways. Some say this illustrates the challenge of over coming our baser instincts and desires in favor of enlightenment and universal love. Other may say that this shows that even impossible things can be achieved if we see and approach things with Balance. Ganesha, also known as the Remover of Obstacles, can place obstacles in our way as well. Learning both sides of this concept is an important lesson. Sometimes things we perceive as obstacles are actually there for a very good reason that will only become clear later. Rodents remind us to examine all things in detail before reacting. Their need to gnaw on things to keep their teeth from becoming too long is another reminder to chew things over first, to be especially mindful of our words as they can cause pain and damage, and that persistence can see us through a lot of difficulties.
There is a temple of Sacred Rats in India teeming with rats who are believed to be souls of local nobles who have passed away. White rats especially are considered heralds of good fortune. Rats have symbolized the Night in several cultures, and was sacred to Ra, just as the field mouse was sacred to Horus, the hawk-headed god. Bast has been depicted defeating a rat-god. Mice have also been associated with Edo or Wadjit, the Egyptian Mother Goddess known by many names. In many countries mice are identified with the human soul, and it is believed that this is the form taken by the soul during dreaming or at the time of death. If the soul does not return or if the dreamer is awakened before the soul returns, he immediately dies, which is why it is considered bad luck to wake up a dreamer or sleep-walker. In Ancient Greece, the destructive side of Apollo was called “Smitheos”, or “Apollo Smintheus” from the Greek word “sminthus” which means “mouse.” Sacred mice were kept in his temple, and Apollo has been known both to heal illness and to shoot plague-ridden arrows.
Mice have also been associated with Jupiter/Zeus and, because of their rapid reproduction, Aphrodite!Rats are an attribute of St. Fina, and when the Philistines captured the Ark of the Covenant, their towns were plagued with rats bearing disease, possibly bubonic plague. In order to free themselves from the tumors brought on by the disease, they returned the Ark with a trespass offering of five golden tumors and five golden rats – one for each of the cities and lords of the Philistines (1 Sam 5:1-6:18). Rats have served as the mounts of the Japanese god of Wealth, harbingers of death, disease, good fortune, or godly wrath. An amazing fortune has been created with the much beloved Mickey Mouse, and even the Henson team has profited from their bold and sassy Rizzo the Rat. Cinderella’s mousey friends helped her get to the ball, and it was the humble mouse who saved the mighty Lion. How do these tiny Teachers appear in your life?
“All creatures must learn to coexist. That’s why the brown bear and the field mouse can share their lives in harmony. Of course, they can’t mate or the mice would explode.” Betty White