How Smart are Mice?

By Jo Jackson

In the novel “A Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy,” mice were considered the most intelligent species on the planet. In reality mice are not smarter than humans and several other species, but they are clever. They are highly social, playful, curious, affectionate, capable of learning and can be taught tricks. You can teach them to recognize their name and sit up for food. This makes them excellent pets as they are quiet, inexpensive and take up little space.

Brain and Body Size

There is an association between the size of the brain and how smart a creature is. The size of the animal has to be taken into account, so brains are compared using a ratio of brain weight to body weight. In humans the ratio is 1:40. Mice have a similar ratio. By comparison cats are 1:100 and dogs are 1:125. Although brain size is not the only measure of intelligence, their brain size suggests they are smart creatures.

Intelligence Measures

Human intelligence is measured in many ways including numeracy, literacy and problem-solving abilities. Mice cannot be tested for the first two, but are good at problem solving and can work out how to get into places where food is. They have quick responses because in the wild they must be alert and quick-acting to avoid predators. Laboratory tests have shown that mice can learn, which means you can teach your pet mouse tricks that he will remember.

Genetically Enhanced Mice

If you have pet mice, you will know they are quite smart, but scientists have manipulated a gene that makes mice even smarter. The genetically enhanced mice can complete tasks such as finding their way through a maze more quickly. They also seem to learn more quickly and can remember things longer. Scientists hope their experiments will be able to help people in the future.

Social Features and Training

Mice are social creatures who readily bond with each other and their owner. They communicate through touch, smell and by sound at frequencies beyond our hearing range. They are energetic and inquisitive and once they get used to a person will enjoy being handled and will even bounce up and down waiting to be noticed. This makes them ideal candidates to teach simple tricks to. The Internet has many videos of smart mice doing tricks.