Musophobia (How to Overcome Your Fear of Mice and Rats)

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Nothing’s more difficult than dealing with a pest problem when you have an innate of that pest. And beyond arachnophobia (the fear of spiders), perhaps the most common phobia is musophobia (the fear of mice and rats).

This crippling fear has become more widespread in the past few years with Disney scandals everywhere, leading many afraid to see a movie or turn on their TV.

But that well-placed paranoia about major corporations isn’t the kind of musophobia we’re talking about, although Disney can play a part. Instead, we’re talking about a clear and present phobia of actual rodents.

Let’s take a deeper look at this phobia, what causes it, and how you can overcome musophobia long enough to evict any unwanted scurriers from your home.

Related: 20 Most Common Bug, Insect, and Pest-Related Phobias

What is Musophobia?

what is musophobia

Simply put, musophobia is an irrational fear of mice and rats (which some scientists argue are actually the same thing). In some extreme cases, that fear can even extend to rabbits and other “cuter” species of rodent.

Psychologists have a few criteria for diagnosing phobias of various animals.

  • First, the fear must be disproportionate to the actual danger or any sociocultural context (i.e. whether your society or culture teaches you that the creature in question must be feared).
  • Second, you have to exhibit this fear for a period of more than six months.

Chances are, if both of these criteria fit you, you’ve got musophobia.

Symptoms of Musophobia

musophobia symptoms

Symptoms may vary depending on how severe the phobia is, and different rodents may or may not affect you equally.

For example, you might also be afraid of bats (which aren’t actually rodents but look like mice with wings), chipmunks, groundhogs, prairie dogs, rabbits, and/or squirrels.

Some of the common symptoms of encountering (and sometimes merely thinking about) mice include:

  • Actively avoiding places where a mouse might appear (such as pet stores or Disney+)
  • Panic attacks at the thought of visiting one of said places
  • Extreme anxiety or a fight-or-flight reaction (such as jumping onto a chair or table) at the sight of mice
  • Fainting, dizziness, or nausea
  • Increased heart rate or shortness of breath
  • Sudden sweating or tremors

Related: Can Mice Climb Walls?

Can You Have Situational Musophobia?

what does a rat look like

Yes, it’s entirely possible for this phobia to be situational. For example, you may be terrified of real mice and rats but perfectly fine with animated ones or drawings.

Or you might be fine with even photos of different mice but cannot handle being around them in person. In some cases, people are completely fine with a caged mouse but panic if they see one scurrying across the kitchen. Size can also matter with some people being fine around mice while having a fear of rats or vice-versa.

Fear vs Phobia

Modern medicine understands that there’s a difference between having the occasional fright and an ongoing, intense fear. A fear is rational and short-term.

For example, you can have a natural fear of rodents wrecking your garden. A healthy fear of rats may be found in any restaurant owner or chef due to health and safety regulations.

Meanwhile, a phobia is an irrational and overwhelming fear that doesn’t simply go away. You may have a phobia if you flee in terror from mice believing they’re carriers of disease. While they do carry disease, such strong feelings of anxiety around mice or rats isn’t healthy.

Situational fears can be considered a middle ground. Sometimes, they’re perfectly rational fears. Other times, they’re a situation-based phobia caused by a traumatic experience in childhood. 

Why Are People Afraid of Mice, Rats, and Other Rodents?

fear of mice

While some people fear them because of physical attributes (the long tail or teeth are classic examples), others may be afraid because of some traumatic experience involving a rodent in their youth. However, the majority of cases are caused by various myths regarding these critters.

For example, many people think they’re filthy and carry diseases such as bubonic plague. In reality, they’re very clean creatures (they groom as much as cats!) and while they can carry diseases, so can any other animal.

As for bubonic plague, it was discovered the rats weren’t vectors, but rat fleas were. Mass exterminations of cats led to a boom in the rat population, and fleas were everywhere due to poor hygiene practices in cities.

Of course, there are some diseases that mice and rats carry that can still be quite dangerous to people. Therefore, it’s best to be cautious when handling any rodent you don’t know.

See Also: How to Get Rid of a Dead Mouse Smell

Are Elephants REALLY Afraid of Mice?

No, they’re not.

This myth likely began as far back as Pliny the Elder, a famous philosopher who died at Pompeii. It was widely believed that mice could crawl into an elephant’s nostrils, and thus elephants were afraid of them. Of course, this is utter tosh.

But one factor to this silly belief of elephants fearing mice is based in fact. When a mouse scurries by, an elephant will be startled.

The reason for this isn’t fear, it’s simply the fact that elephants have very poor eyesight, so anything that darts past them quickly can make them jump in surprise.

How to Stop Being Scared of Mice and Rats

afraid of mice

Let’s be honest here, Jim: We’re a pest control site, not a psychologist!

The good news is that doesn’t mean we can’t give you some tips on how to get past this fear at least long enough to deal with potential infestations.

These tips are actually based on methods your psychologist might use, although they’re no substitute for professional help when a phobia is moderate to extreme.

Step #1 – Educate Yourself

Considering you’re reading this article (unless you’re having someone else read it, of course), we’ll conclude that you’re at least either not afraid to talk about mice or willing to push past your fear long enough to find help.

This means, the first (and sometimes most important) step is already within your grasp: EDUCATION.

Take every chance to learn more about mice, rats, or any other rodents you’re afraid of. Find out what diseases they carry as well which ones they’re falsely accused of carrying.

Research stereotypical traits, such as their hygiene and lifestyle. Learn the reasons why they were often falsely associated with evil in folklore. Study up on their natural predators and limitations to movement due to their body design. And find out methods of safe handling, such as gloves and no-kill traps.

We can help with some of that, but it’s also important to talk to experts (people who have pieces of paper saying they studied animals such as mice or rats for five years and all they got was a lousy piece of paper).

Always fact check even reputable sources with at least one other reputable source. We actually like it when you fact check us in case we get something wrong.

Step #2 – Exposure Therapy

holding mouse

Okay, this is where it gets serious, but also where you can get a more permanent cure. This step is a doozy, however, so don’t push yourself too far too fast.

Exposure therapy (also called gradual desensitization therapy) for a phobia of rats or mice often starts off very simple. Begin by talking about mice and other rodents, looking at and discussing pictures of them, and basically everything you did in Step 1.

Once you’re able to have a conversation about mice and know the root of your fear (their appearance, their reputation as disease carriers, their ability to scurry suddenly across the floor, etc.), it’s time to come face to face with one.

The best way to do this isn’t at home, but rather a controlled environment such as a pet store. Take some time to watch them eat, sleep, and play.

When you’re ready, ask one of the employees to hold the mouse. If the extent of fear is minor after this, ask them to let you hold it. Explaining ahead of time that you have musophobia means they can be ready to take the mouse if you start having a panic or anxiety attack.

Step #3 – In My Heart, Not My Home

mouse climbing onto countertop

While this phobia of mice may affect thousands of people, the extent varies from person to person. In time, even an extreme fear can be conquered, vastly improving your quality of life.

In fact, it’s entirely possible for someone with musophobia to gain an appreciation for (and even a love of) mice and rats. That doesn’t mean you want them living in your home – unless you buy one as a pet, of course.

Read Also: How to Set a Mouse Trap Without Getting Hurt

Mice and rats are very similar, and both can cause a lot of damage (often unintended) to your home if they come in uninvited. There’s a reason why mouse repellents are always in high demand.

That said, we know this guide isn’t a miracle cure, and you may still need to hire a therapist. But hopefully if you open the cupboard and see mouse droppings, you won’t immediately panic and wonder how many mice are hiding in the area.

Instead, you’ll now be able to take a deep breath and either call a pest control expert or even tackle the problem yourself.


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