Can Mice Swim Or Do They Prefer To Stay On Dry Land?

Can mice swim?

Can mice swim?

Mice are adorable creatures. They’re tiny, soft, and surprisingly social.

If you search “mice swimming” on YouTube, you will find tons of videos of cute surfing mice, mice swimming in tiny mouse-sized pools, and plenty of mice taking a bath.

You might have a mouse of your own, and might be wondering about getting them into the water.

But can mice swim, or are they only able to tread water for a couple of seconds?

Sure, they look like they might be able to swim, and we all know that rats can swim. So, it makes sense that mice should be able to swim as well.

However, it is essential to be sure before pushing your mouse into a bathtub.

Most importantly, do mice even enjoy swimming? Even if a mouse can swim, it does not mean that they necessarily enjoy it or should do it.

In this article, we’ll explore these questions and many more to figure out if you really should put your pet mouse in the water.

Can Mice Swim?

So, do mice swim?

Mice can swim in water.

Actually, they can tread in water for days at a time.

Swimming is not their preferred mode of travel, and they do not usually seek out swimming time themselves. But, if necessary, they can swim for days on end.

They can also hold their breath for up to three minutes, which means that they can swim underwater for quite a while too.

Mice are commonly made to swim in many laboratory tests to determine the usefulness of new drugs.

One such test is called the “mouse forced swim test.”

This test measures the effectiveness of antidepressants by putting mice into a transparent tank filled with water and then testing to see if the drug had any effect on their swimming performance.

This test is supremely effective at testing drugs, though the mice must be suitably calmed and unwarranted stress must be avoided to get the most accurate result.

Another test is called the Morris water maze.

This test consists of a maze that includes a submerged platform. It tests the spatial learning ability of mice based on their ability to find the submerged platform.

Since scientists are using water in some standard tests, then mice must be able to swim well — at least, somewhat.

Mice Swimming

Though the answer to “Can mice swim?” is a resounding yes, there are a number of factors that affect a mouse’s ability to swim.

The most obvious of these include things like wellness, diet, and fatigue.

A mouse that is sick or eating a poor diet is not going to be able to swim as long as a mouse that is in tip-top shape.

Age might also play a factor, especially if the mouse is particularly old.

There are a number of plants that can also decrease a mouse’s ability to swim.

According to one study, plants in the Sideritis family can cause a mouse to swim for a decreased amount of time.

The higher the dose, the greater the effect.

Another study found that plants in the Ziziphora family also cause mice to swim for a decreased amount of time.

Exposing your mouse to either of these plants can make them unable to swim for the length they usually can, and should be avoided, particularly if you plan on putting your mouse in the water.

Do mice swim?

Do Mice Like Water?

Even though the answer to “Can mice swim?” is yes, that doesn’t mean that mice necessarily like swimming.

Though we will never really be able to get inside a mouse’s head and detect their exact feelings towards swimming, we can answer this question by looking at their behavior while they are swimming.

When a mouse is placed into water and is unable to escape by him or herself, they enter a state that scientists have described as “despair.”

This is why scientists commonly use mice to detect the effectiveness of antidepressant drugs.

Mice become depressed when placed in water and quickly become stiff. The more effective the antidepressant, the longer it will take for this rigid state to become apparent.

Of course, at home, you aren’t putting your mouse into the water to determine the effectiveness of a drug. However, your mouse will still display signs of despair after spending some time in the water.

Because of these signs, it is safe to say that nearly every mouse is not going to like swimming.

Can Mice Swim In a Bathtub

Technically, yes, mice can swim in a bathtub.

In fact, they should reasonably be able to tread water in a bathtub for a long time.

However, as we previously discussed, most mice are not going to enjoy this swimming activity, especially since the sides and bottom of a bathtub are usually too slippery for mice to find their footing.

Soap and other chemicals might also be found in the bath water, which can have an unknown effect on your beloved pet. Of course, they might not react to the chemicals at all, but they could have a severe reaction.

While you can put your mouse in the bathtub without worrying that they might drown, your pet mouse would probably much rather be doing something else besides swimming.

Can Mice Swim in the Pool

This is a little trickier than a bathtub.

Pools, firstly, are larger. It is going to be much more difficult for your mouse to get out if they wanted to, especially if you take them into the middle of the pool.

Pools are also full of lots of chemicals, such as chlorine. These chemicals are harmful to a mouse in larger quantities.

Pools also have various currents, especially if the filter is particularly active. It’s easy for a mouse to get swept away by a filter current.

We do not recommend taking your mouse into a pool for these reasons.

Mice and Water

The answer to “Can mice swim in water?” is yes, but they might not necessarily enjoy swimming in a bathtub or pool.

In fact, mice are commonly known to become saddened when placed in water, especially if they cannot get out. This is why observing mice swimming is a standard test for antidepressant drugs.

Do you let your mouse swim in water? Tell us how it went in the comments?

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References and Further Reading

  • Ozturk, Yusuf. “Effects of essential oils from certain Ziziphora species on swimming performance in mice.” Phytotherapy Research. 1995.
  • Porsolt. “Behavioral despair in mice: a primary screening test for antidepressants.” Archives Internationales de Pharmacodynamie et de Therapie. 1977.
  • Ozturk, Yusuf. “Effects of extracts from certain Sideritis species on swimming performance in mice.” Phytotherapy Research. 1996.
  • Wolfer, David. “Spatial Memory and Learning in Transgenic Mice: Fact or Artifact?” American Physiological Society. 1998.
  • Can, Adam. “The Mouse Forced Swim Test.” Journal of Visualized Experiments. 2012.


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