Body language across the animal kingdom can be somewhat confusing. When you see a dog wagging his tail, he's probably happy and content. When you see a cat shaking hers, she's probably a little irked with someone or something. Tail shaking in mice is similarly unpleasant, and often serves as a signal of possible aggression to come.
When a mouse shakes his tail in front of another specimen, it usually means they're not getting along too well. Mice tend to vibrate their tails as a means of notifying others that they're about to partake in battle. This type of fierce mouse behavior is prevalent in the boys, particularly when they haven't been fixed. Never allow two unfixed male mice to share living quarters, as that could result in extremely violent consequences.
Tail shaking behaviors aren't exclusive to battling domestic mice in captivity. Many mice in the wild shake their tails as a means of expressing apprehension and interference. When deer mice (Peromyscus maniculatus) feel bothered by something, they rapidly shake their tails and create conspicuous booming sounds. Woodland jumping mice (Napaeozapus insignis) also react to bothersome situations by shaking their tails.
When mice shake their tail around each other, it often signifies that a territorial dispute is brewing. Mice have highly turf-oriented behavioral patterns, after all. In the wild, single male mice reside in groups alongside numerous females. Male mice don't live together in the wild. As highly social creatures, mice thrive in groups, though it's always important to think about group arrangements beforehand to prevent territorial aggression -- and eventual tail shaking and battles. Male mice aren't safe matches, although they can sometimes be peaceful if they've been together their entire lives, like siblings. Female mice aren't usually as truculent as the males. Mice tend to flourish in units of two, although they can often manage successfully in groups of up to five. Pairs of two females work well. Unfixed opposite sex pairs aren't a good idea as they inevitably breed -- and quickly.
Annoyance With Humans
These wee rodents frequently indicate their displeasure with fellow rodents by shaking their tails. When they're annoyed with human beings and want them to go away, they sometimes react by nipping them. This behavior usually denotes that a mouse is fearful and trying to protect himself. If your pet mouse ever bites or attempts to bite you, it usually is a sign that he requires more socialization. Using food to train mice often can go a long way to get them to become more docile and mild-mannered critters.
- SmallAnimalChannel.com: Read Mouse Body Language
- ESF Adirondack Ecological Center: Deer Mouse
- SmallAnimalChannel.com: Aggressive Mouse Behavior
- Rat & Mouse Club of America: What is a Fancy Mouse?
- ESF Adirondack Ecological Center: Woodland Jumping Mouse
- SmallAnimalChannel.com: One Mouse or Two
- SmallAnimalChannel.com: Mouse Housing Guide