September 20, 2021 / Rodents

Musophobia: Why Are Some People So Afraid of Mice?

Close-up photo of mouse

If you’ve ever seen an old cartoon elephant absolutely lose its mind over the appearance of a tiny little mouse, you have some idea of what musophobia actually means. Granted, in humans, true musophobia is no laughing matter. Rather, musophobia is the intense fear (the -phobia part) of mice, rats and other rodents (mus is latin for mice) — and it’s not entirely unreasonable.

While the TV show MythBusters confirmed that elephants do seem to have a disproportionately oversized reaction when surprised by a mouse, humans have plenty of reasons to fear mice. Wherever mice go, there goes disease and destruction of property.

There may even be a scientific explanation for why women seem to have a greater fear of mice -- mice don’t fear them. In other words, mice aren’t too concerned about letting their presence be known in front of a woman versus a man.

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The Best Reason of All to Fear Rodents: Disease

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention will tell you everything you need to know to develop a healthy fear of rodents, including mice. The list of common diseases they carry numbers more than a dozen. 

Just take a look:

  • Hantavirus
  • Hemorrhagic fever with renal syndrome
  • Lassa fever
  • Leptospirosis
  • Lymphocytic Chorio-meningitis
  • Omsk Hemorrhagic Fever
  • Plague
  • Rat-Bite Fever
  • Salmonellosis
  • South American Arenaviruses
    • Argentine hemorrhagic fever
    • Bolivian hemorrhagic fever
    • Sabiá-associated hemorrhagic fever
    • Venezuelan hemorrhagic fever
  • Tularemia

Wait -- did that say plague? Indeed, the so-called Black Death, or bubonic plague, that devastated and killed a third of Europe in the 14th century was caused by a bacteria carried on the backs of rodents by fleas. Thankfully, today we have antibiotics that can cure it, because cases of plague do still appear, even in the United States

Destruction of Property is Another Good Reason

If the risk rodents pose to your health isn't enough to convince you, the damage they can do to your home (and the cost of repairing it) is enough to make any homeowner fear them. 

Mice will chew on just about anything they can get their sharp little teeth on — wood, paper, cloth, books, furniture, insulation and, most dangerous of all, electrical wiring (which can cause a fire).

Rodents will also go after any food in your house that isn’t sealed air-tight, which not only destroys your food store but also circles right back to disease, as contaminated food can be a vector as well.

Other Sources of Musophobia Are No Less Real

Of course, some of the reasons people fear mice aren’t logical, per se, but more of a learned behavior. People who had a negative traumatic experience in childhood, for example, may fear rodents as adults — especially if during that early experience an adult modeled fearful behavior, like screaming or climbing up on a chair to get away from the intruder. 

And that’s where you run into the most common symptoms of musophobia: 

  • Screaming
  • Crying
  • Climbing to get away
  • Trying to flee
  • Shaking, trembling
  • Sweating profusely
  • Accelerated heart rate, aka tachycardia
  • Rapid breathing or gasping
  • Nausea, vomiting or other gastrointestinal distress
  • In extreme cases, full-blown panic attacks

Regardless, Responding to Rodents Should Be Rational

Whether your reaction to discovering rodents in your home is based on a logical fear of disease or destruction or is slightly more hysterical, the only rational solution is to get them out of your house asap. 

And, as with most pests, the best way to get them out is to keep them out in the first place. That means eliminating food sources by sealing up foods (including pet foods and grass seed), setting your trash cans on six-inch risers, picking up any fallen fruit in your yard and filling in any holes (even small ones!) in the exterior of your house.

Whether you have an active rodent infestation or just fear the potential (a totally rational fear in New England, we might add), the best way to prevent or eliminate a rodent problem is with a professional pest control company.

You can quit screaming and get down off of that chair now — then check out our Rodent Control page to request a free quote.

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