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January 16, 2006

Mice and other small fry

Believe it or not - before I moved in with my humans they didn't know the first thing about mice. Everything small and furry with a naked tail and long front teeth was a mouse to them. That's not true, of course, and I saw to it that they learned quickly.

First, we have to distinguish between genuine mice and mouse-like creatures. The voles, for example, fall into the latter category. Each kind of adult mouse is characterised by the length of her body, her tail, and the colour of her fur. Being a forensic scientist myself I gave my humans an introduction to crime scene work teaching them to make proper use of measuring tape and camera. I often went hungry myself in those days, leaving a lot of material for them to practice on. It's been worth the effort, however - now they are able to identify most of the little buggers correctly.

  • House mouse (mus musculus domesticus) body length: up to 10 cm tail length: 10 cm fur colour: greyish
  • Harvest mouse (micromys minutus) body length: 7 cm tail length: 6 cm fur colour: (reddish) brown I found one this floating belly up in my water bowl in the garden once - aaaaargh!. It had gone there for a swim just because it was a very hot day.
  • Ear mouse (mus musculus musculus) body length: 8 cm tail length: 7 cm fur colour: greyish brown, white belly


  • West clipping mouse (arvicular sapidus)
    body length: 22 cm
    tail length: 14 cm
    fur colour: greyish brown
  • Common vole (microtus arvalis)
    body length: 11 cm
    tail length: 3.5 cm
    fur colour: brown and of a plushy quality
  • Apart from mice there are others that occasionally get hunted down.

  • Mouse weasel (mustela nivalis) body length: 23 cm tail length: 6.5 cm fur colour: reddish brwon, white belly Hunts mice and is therefore not allowed in my garden. So far, two of those refused to leave my premises upon being told to do so.
  • Mole (talpa european) body length: 13 cm tail length: 3 cm fur colour: black I am really sorry to having to kill that one. But it was digging big tunnels in the garden and it wouldn't go away voluntarily.
  • My people say there's nothing like a cat for giving you an education. I take that as a compliment. Nevertheless, it's quite true: once you start looking into things and at details as I do in my profession there's just lots more to be learned and discovered.

    In case you ever wondered what I really look like - The Gray Monk has kindly given this sketch to me.


    Posted by Mausi at January 16, 2006 10:44 AM

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    Our cats aren't nearly as scientific as Mausi. They should have been named "Neurotic" and "Streetfighter". Streetfighter has tried to perform dissections on the other neighbourhood cats, but they're not keen on doing their bit for science, so he is a long way away from getting his degree in biology. Neurotic probably has completed a psychology degree, but hasn't heard the saying "physician, heal thyself". Mausi deserves a round of applause for achieving feline academic success!

    Posted by: groendraak at January 18, 2006 03:58 PM