Rats and mice communicate through smell and urine

Rats and mice possess a sense of smell potentially capable of differentiating hundreds of thousands of smells and a general tendency to urinate on surfaces in their environment. In the urine of rodents there are specifically excreted proteins, which can be perceived by the keen sense of smell of their peers and interpreted as messages of identity, alertness or stress.

Where the very limited sense of sight of rodents does not go, it is more than supplied by their sense of smell. Alex Wade, technician, consultant and popularizer of the world of pest control explains it to us in the latest issue of Pest magazine .

Some studies conclude that the sense of sight in a rat would be rated a limited 20 out of 600, so it could hardly survive if it had to rely solely on what it sees. This visual impairment is supplemented by a sophisticated sense of smell, which is what mainly allows you to orient yourself, recognize your peers and make decisions, such as where to go or what to eat.

On the one hand, they are capable of creating “mental images”, based on their ability to identify potentially hundreds of thousands of specific odors, which allows them, for example, to distinguish the difference between natural and synthetic aromas or to know what a congeal just by smelling your breath.

And on the other, rats and mice are capable of detecting a whole range of chemicals, volatile and non-volatile, peptides and small proteins. This ability has been related to the habit of rodents to urinate frequently on surfaces in their environment. They do not urinate freely, but in spaces common to their social group and with the aim of signaling something.

Odors in urine

In the urine of rats and mice there are specifically excreted proteins, each with a unique structure and a number of associated pheromones. The functionality of this combination of pheromones within proteins is to allow the pheromones, generally very volatile, to remain in the environment much longer than they would be free in the atmosphere.

In this way, specific messages transmitted between individuals via chemical signals and pheromones remain for longer periods of time. This is important, among other things, for the survival of the group.

For example, if a mouse ingests something that makes it ill, as its discomfort grows it begins to excrete proteins and pheromones, which transmit its discomfort to the group. By smelling the breath of the intoxicated mouse, the other members of the group identify what it has eaten and avoid eating it themselves. If the food in question is a rodenticidal bait, aversion to this product can quickly develop among members of the rodent group. 

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