THIS JUST IN: Modified mice are good at snuggling

Those clever Japanese scientists have managed to turn off the "I’m skeered!" gene in mice, to make them fearless. An article on CBC says scientists claimed "The mice approached the cat, even snuggled up to it and played with it" proving mice are genetically hardwired to be skeered of cats. [Head tilt]


What’s next, dogs and cats sleeping together!? [yell in Bill Murray voice] Thanks for pointing this out, D.W. March



  1. BLEEEEN! A mouse!

  2. That’s not right… As adorable as it may be, it’s still wrong. WRONG!!!

  3. But he is clearly scared… Not of the cat, but still:

    Mouse: “Please hold me, I’m scared!” *hidingks behind kitty’s paw* “I know I’m supposed to be afraid of something… But what?…”
    Kitteh: “Are we done with this? Cat I eat it now?”

  4. This is apocalyptic!!!

  5. But the cat hasn’t been modified and did what cats usually do. Slash chomp.

  6. o no, I don’t want to be one of those nuffers who brings up cruelty to animals, but I’m not a fan of genetic modification or testing on animals.

  7. Mass hysteria!!! (Still yelling in Bill Murray voice.)

  8. There’s some research that says toxoplasmosis also makes mice lose their fear of cats. This makes them more likely to be eaten, thus infecting the cat and allowing the little toxo bug to reproduce. It’s a weird little bug– some researchers think it also changes the behavior of infected humans.

  9. I think this is precisely the type of genetic tampering that shouldn’t be taking place. Why in the world would scientists try to remove fear from anything? Fear is a necessary self-preservation instinct.

    The kitty and mouse are cute though…

  10. tracyFlick says:

    The kitteh does not look very happy. Happeh?

  11. My kitty would like to order 6 dozen of the genetically modified mice, please. Thank you.

  12. Thems Japanese scientists are a bit scary.

  13. Dangit! Kits beat me to yelling “Mass hysteria!” in Bill Murray voice. 🙂

    Kitty and Mousie are pretty cute all the same!

  14. cats and dogs sleeping together? erm.. i think that happened already:

    version for the fearless:

  15. The cat is all doing teh DO you mind look I am about to dine on Meeces.

  16. Tricia Garrett says:

    What about cats’ genes to bite mice?

  17. Itotallylikepigeons says:

    Tracyflick = you’re right, the kitteh doesn’t look happeh, it looks sceered. maybe the gene jumped from the mouse to the kit

  18. well, duh, scientists! anyway, i wonder if cats are less likely to try and kill a mouse that’s not running and therefore not chase-able.

  19. Not entirely sure what I think about the research, but it’s certainly *interesting* to know that fear is genetic. What might that mean for people with extreme debilitating phobias, for example? Or PTSD? I can understand why they’re studying this, and I’m sure the ultimate goal is not to breed entire populations of fearless mice.

  20. Itotallylikepigeons says:

    Anner, I think so too. it’s no fun for the cat if the mouse doesn’t run.

  21. i am saddened to think about all the mice who were tested on to come up with this seemingly pointless conclusion….

  22. Fearless mice and glow in the dark kittehs.. what will they think of next?

  23. Check out video of the cat&mouses here:

    It worries me that the researcher says, “we may be able to make others with no fear of their natural enemies.”

    But why? Whhhyyyy??

  24. morticiamom says:

    Can we genetically modify my kids so that they will pick up their dishes and dirty clothes? GLowing in the dark is optional, but would be a nice extra.

  25. What’s next? Well, in terms of suppressing the urge in mammals to flee from predators, maybe cats sleeping with dogs is next in line.

    In terms of other scientific fun, how about cats that glow in the dark?

  26. Mass hysteria, human sacrifice! Oh you are all so clever!

  27. What’s the point? I’m asking seriously, can anyone tell me what the point is of doing this?

  28. Well the shmouse may not be scared but the cat does NOT look happy. Course it is living in a LAB!!! Why? I really don’t get it. Why remove fear from something that allows it to live? WHY why why make glow-in-the-dark cats??? What are we NOT hearing about?

    The mouse may not be scared, but I am!

  29. And the cat’s behaviour was just like usual? :-S

  30. Momof2kitties says:

    Kitteh looks annoyed.

    Get this thing offa me!

  31. It’s simply not *sporting*! Here’s these mice walking right into the open, waiting mouths of the kits! PREPOSTEROUS, I say!

  32. Was this paid for by FELINE Lobbyists or something?

    Wouldn’t you want to have fear of your natural predator? Not to be nuffer but I don’t want to see my cat try to snuggle up to an alligator or deer be breed to snorfle men in camoflauge and large guns.

  33. Yes, because animal testing is teh cutest thingk EVA! (not)

  34. that cat is totally all: “oh no you di’in’t!”

  35. Do you all really still wonder what’s the point??? Fearless mice = easier to catch. That’s the only use, weather you like that or not…

  36. What has gotten up Meg arse? She seems all off these days. Cute animals aren’t cute, and mutilated animal are cute. EEK. Save Meg!

  37. ???? asked, “What’s the point? I’m asking seriously, can anyone tell me what the point is of doing this?”

    Maybe someone more knowledgable in this area can give a better answer, but it seems to me this research has the same purpose as your question: knowledge.

    I can’t imagine any practical applications. Instinctual fear of predators is usually a good thing. The one thought that crossed my mind is that someone may try to replicate this on a larger scale in areas where there are infestations on a massive scale of so-called “pests,” thinking that, for example, a colony of mice that are unafraid of “securitiy cats” will do their thing right up until the time that the cat kills them. On the other hand, that may just lead to a greater infestation and “pest” problem when the mice are unafraid of humans, as well. And that’s assuming that “brave mice,” if you will, survive outside a controlled research setting: any attempt at practical applications of this would succeed only if the brave mice are able to successfully reproduce and pass on their (suppressed) genes, but if the brave mice find themselves up against a predator of whom they are unafraid, they won’t necessarily survive to reproduce.

    In short, ????: the point of this is knowledge. Whether or not one finds that a reasonable or acceptable answer is up for argument.

    If anything I suppose it could be argued that this research may be instructive on gene suppression in general. Take that as you will.

  38. Though the pic is cute, I agree that the fear is there as an instinct for a reason. 😛

  39. Another video here:

  40. I am not so sure about the genitic tendancy of cats to bite mice. One of my friends brought over a mouse, put it in one of those balls so it could run around. My cat fled from it, and cried for me to hold her. She wouldn’t let me put her down until the mouse left.

  41. Itotallylikepigeons says:

    on this site only useless comments are allowed, any comment with a real opinion gets deleted. you’ll see this one will disappear too.

  42. I would like to know about their methodology here. Did they have ‘control’ mice that were treated in exactly the same way as the modified mice? From birth?

    I’m sure fear is at least partially learned. If that cat takes a swat at the mousie a few times, it shouldn’t take long for the mouse to say “Screw this, I’m not getting near that guy again!”

  43. So true Itotallylikepigeons. I was here 30 minutes ago and there are less comments now than back then on this tread. My own excluded. Editors are walking a thin line. Every person cencored is 1/5 a fan lost.

    FREE speech for everyone!

  44. lurkingsmirk says:

    Hmm this reminds me of the Japanese hamster that is best friends with a snake–anyone else remember that story? It was supposed to be lunch and the snake befriended it instead. This kind of thing is interesting because it requires both sides to be unusual in order for it to work!

  45. of all the cats I’ve had, even the dedicated hunters got bored and walked away when they encountered a mouse that wouldn’t run, and they got irritated/ scared when a mouse wasn’t afraid of them and approached them of its own volition.

  46. Nearly 20 years ago advertising agencies solved this long before the scientists got involved.

    “…can we all get along?”
    Mr. R. King Esq

  47. Cute kitteh (though he/she looks kinda ticked off) & cute mouseh.

    To those complaining: I think most of us come here to enjoy the pictures and cuteness. We use it to keep us calm and relieve some stress. We don’t really want to get lectured or have to talk about stuff too seriously. We love animals. I don’t believe Meg is using this to promote animal testing. If you want to create your own blog, you’ll have your free speech there. Just a thought.

  48. patricia-
    maybe it was the ball your cat feared and not the mouse?

    i’ve seens lots of meeces that like kittehs.

    big deal, so the japaneeze have NOT handed us our asses once again in the cute dept.

  49. Can they engineer a mouse to snuggle me? Can they? Though I know it would only be a very small snuggle, possibly only a snugella?

    Actually, a snuggling jerboa that hopped out of nowhere and launched itself at you in a burst of spontaneous rodent affection would be optimal, but one cannot have everything, that would just be silly.

  50. Another Angela says:

    Seems like there are a lot more pictures and stories “harvested” from other websites now than there used to be. I’d rather see cute that is original and sent in by people than stuff I have already seen on other websites.

    [I’m sure some of the original stuff is going into the upcoming desk calendar, AA; check the upper-right margin… – Ed.]

    And, as a rodent lover, I will add to the voices that say animal testing is not cute.

  51. If only they could remove whatever aggression instinct made my gerbils start fighting… 😦

    A lot of a cat’s predatory behavior comes from a prey animal… well, acting like prey. Mice that run right up to cats tend to freak them out. 🙂

  52. MamaDawn in Tulsa OK says:

    OK, am I the only one who thought the heading read that mice were good at smuggling? I couldn’t imagine what a mouse has to hide until I re-read everything. I think the ice here is going to my brain.

  53. The point of making genetic knockouts such as these mice is more likely to understand the genetic basis of instinctual fear than it is to get mice to snuggle with cats (though I suspect there are a few cuteologists among the biochemists at Tokyo U). In other words, “practical applications” need not follow, but we can certainly get a better understanding of fear as it relates to the nature vs. nurture question. All that aside, interspecies snorgling has been taken to a whole new level here, folks.

  54. MamaDawn — no, I read it that way too.

  55. Since peeps are asking “WHY?” I’d like to re-post a comment someone made earlier that made good sense to me:

    “Not entirely sure what I think about the research, but it’s certainly *interesting* to know that fear is genetic. What might that mean for people with extreme debilitating phobias, for example? Or PTSD? I can understand why they’re studying this, and I’m sure the ultimate goal is not to breed entire populations of fearless mice.

    Jaye | Dec 13, 2007 at 09:42 AM”

  56. I wonder if it’s possible to genetically alter people so they won’t be afraid of pudding…

  57. Which goes to show you, the kitties are not trying to eat the mousies when they bat them around, just play with them! But the poor wee mouse gets all scared and has a mousie heart attack and goes all ded. then kitteh wants to not play with mousie anymore.

  58. A friend of mine had two rattlesnakes for a while. He’d have to buy feeder mice for them regularly, and put them in the snakes’ enclosure still alive.
    Once, the day after feeding the snakes, he looked in and discovered one of the little mice was still alive in there. Not only was it still alive, but it was sitting there gnawing on the rattler’s tail.
    He felt that since it had survived a whole day in with the snakes it had earned a reprieve, so he got it a cage and some food and toys and it lived on for several more years.
    No Fear!!

  59. Better to be scared than to be eaten.

  60. Cute, but being a cat person I’d rather own a glow-in-the-dark kitty too.

    Another link to that story:

  61. Eastie, I come here to enjoy the cuteness as well. I certainly don’t come here to lecture anyone. And I, too, have been annoyed of people commenting on every darn submish that something is “cruel.” But animal testing actually *is* cruel, and completely undermines teh qte. That’s all I was trying to point out.

  62. I wanna see the cat with the big eared mouse…talk about your nomming…

  63. Cat: “AHHGH! Go away and leave me alone!! What’d I ever do to you?!”

    I think CO needs a new category – “What Hath Man Wrought”

  64. The *only* reason the mouse is still alive is that the cat doesn’t eat GM food…

  65. CheshireCat says:

    It would seem that when rodent is not scared of cat, cat becomes afraid of rodent. at least that’s how it works with my pet rat who often tries to snorfle my kitteh’s ear which freaks out my kitteh very much.

  66. Just guessing at the practical results that can come from research like this. 1) Possible diagnosis and treatment for certain types of mental illness like phobias, panic disorders, or social anxiety. Since many mental illnesses have a genetic component (ie. they are influenced by genes and also by a lot of other factors especially environment) knowing how the innate fear response is generated might be very helpful. 2)Law enforcement tools, like a hostage situation that could be defused by pumping in “anti-fear gas” or something like it so people can negotiate more calmly. 3) Making breeds of animals that are less fearful of unusual environments like feed lots or slaughter houses (not making a moral judgment here but it seems like a potential use of the technique) to reduce unintentional injuries. 4) As a springboard to further modify an animals innate responses, since they knocked out fear why not try removing or decreasing aggression or other dangerous responses. 5) Military uses (again not making a judgment) like protecting soldiers against fear or conversely causing fear in targets once it is better understood.
    Of course I could be completely wrong but that is what I came up with off the top of my head. Obviously it would have to be further researched before any of those applications were feasible. Well, that and it can make for very cute ratties 😉

  67. it would be nice to know how to apply this information to those of us with panic reactions and for people with irrational phobias. it would be nice to not freak out uncontrollably when i have to get blood drawn….

    on another note- this image is so bloody cute!

  68. Watch that clip here
    The mouse is cute!!!

  69. Does anyone else think this cat looks scared and miserable? Poor guy, he’s a lab cat and doesnt get enough cuddles…

  70. I skimmed the original research paper (hey, I’m a bio geek) and as far as I can tell, this group did NOT set out to create a fearless mouse. They set out to create mice that couldn’t smell certain things, and were just as surprised as anyone else to find that knocking out smell receptors made them fearless.

    Please stop assuming scientists are evil monsters who torture animals for fun. We’re not. I love mice, they’re cute little things, but unless you’d like to volunteer your children so I can test a new vaccine for H5N1 bird flu on them….

  71. a.l.e., no freaking kidding. I can definitely get behind somehting that helps understand and maybe reduce panic. I don’t particularly enjoy having my heart rate randomly hit 190…

  72. Some of you are against genetic modification? Hmm… Guess where domesticated cats and dogs come from? Wild African cats and European wolves. Their genes were modified, just not in a lab, and not quickly. It’s called selective breeding.

    Guess how we got silly poodles, basset hounds, retrievers, and so on? They were each bred for a particular trait. Like fox terriers to tenaciously dig foxes out of holes, retrievers for back when we had to hunt our own food and someone had to get in the water to find the ducks.

    Cats? Bred just for show because ain’t no way in hell you’ll get one to do any work! Any you want done anyway.

    “Oh kitty, you emptied the trash can for me? On the floor. How lovely!”

    When was the last time your cat fetched your slippers or the newspaper? Our ancestors bred all those traits into dogs by selecting those who demonstarted they had the proper genes. That *is* a form of genetic manipulation.

    Cats just haven’t been around as long. I’m waiting for one with opposable thumbs. I had a polydactyl but he couldn’t make his thumbs flex.

    All that having been said, animal testing squicks me.

  73. There’s a much sounder way to do this and it’s been happening naturally for eons: raise them together. From crows adopting kittens to sows suckling tiger cubs. The Japanese have also engineered a near-human robot that gives me the hee- bee- jeebies. That and the glow in the dark cats. That’s just wrong. What are they planning, world domination — again?!

  74. I’m not a fan of animal engineering, either, but I see Jaye’s point very clearly. This was just a test to see if fear is dependent on genes rather than learned. I’d be worrieed only if they decided to unleash an army of fearless mice all over the world.

    Also, one important point – any animal attacks its prey only if it detects fear in that prey. I’m sure you’ve all seen documentaries where the prey would suddenly turn back and viciously attack the predator (especially when both are more or less the same size.) In the Guardian website’s video, the cat doesn’t attack the mouse at all, it just looks puzzled and curious at the mouse’s fearlessness.

  75. love science AND mice. says:

    Genetic modification isn’t necessarily cruel, and don’t necessarily have ill effects on the animal (or whatever has been modified). It’s done on a molecular level before the animal is conceived.

    I’m also pretty sure that the scientists who conducted this experiment were not going to go to the effort and expense to genetically alter mice and set them free so that they can be instantly gobbled up by predators they SHOULD be afraid of.

    That said, there are practical applications for what these scientists have discovered.

    BTW, not all labs conduct cruel experiments, and make the rats or mice available as pets following the conclusion of the experiment, as it appears that Tokyo lab did, so they can live out their days in comfort and luxury.

    We had three rats from our college’s rat lab.

    Vivisection is cruel. Unnecessary chemical tests are cruel. Cosmetic tests are cruel.

    This mouse appears to have been subjected to none of the above.

  76. I’m not a biologist, but I think the GM takes place on the cellular level- not when the mouse is fully formed as we see him in the picture.

    And, GM will not help any of you who are wondering what this research could do for your anxiety disorders- That will take therapy and medication. Unless you plan on having yourself cloned- then maybe your genes can be altered…

  77. Yitzysmommie says:

    Morticiamom – HEHEHE, best comment.
    I would support GM for shedless dogs & cats, otherwise it’s creepy (ala Glow in The Dark Cats).
    She who is up to her ankles in dog & cat fur.

  78. JulieRaven says:

    I imagine that this would be useful in pet mice and rats, especially those cohabiting with other animals. Just a guess. I’m not a huge fan of animal testing, but find it to be a necessary evil (that I will not take part in).

    My alternatives are VERY controversial 😀 (using life sentenced inmates as testing subjects)

  79. I used to have a pet mouse. We (very carefully monitored, I assure you) introduced her to my roommates’ cat, just to see how they’d react to each other. Mouse didn’t care a lick. She crawled all over the cat, prancing about with her wee paws. The cat got irritated and left.

    My run of the mill $3 mouse didn’t require any special genetic breeding. Maybe she was just kooky.

  80. Jimmy –

    This technique will not help anyone with panic disorders, but it may lead to more research. These mice were changed at a molecular level before they were born. We can’t just turn off our genes like that any time.

    But what it does is show where in the genome some of the fear genes are, and it might be possible to figure out what kinds of proteins these genes tell the cell to make. So it might be possible to make receptor blockers or enzymatic proteins that would reduce fear.

    And again, these scientists weren’t intentionally studying fear. They were studying scent. It was just as much a surprise to them as us that they got fearless cuddle mice.

  81. JulieRaven, I must admit I kind of like your idea for new testing subjects.

  82. Also, “fearless cuddle mice” – I can see the Saturday morning cartoon series now…

  83. Yep, this story is an other science by-product which the media picked up on. No worries.
    At my office, we often have preschoolers running around; cow-orker’s kids and we’re all their aunts & uncles. I have a large poster of marine life and there’s a painting on it of a Great White shark, near the bottom of the poster, right at tiny tots’ eye level. This week, little 2 1/2 yr. old Tortugita Honu runs by, stops, looks at sharky pants and sez, “What’s dat?”. I said, “That’s a Great White shark. Oooh, go away baaad shark.” Her Daddy overheard and told me, “Do not put fear in my child! The shark has its place in nature (true.).” (This is his first child, so I let him off easy and only gave him The Eye. Plus we’re huge flirts, he gives me hot flashes and I make his knees weak – ha!) Well, little Tortugita looked at sharky and sez, “Baaad shark!”
    Dat’s right, honey. Be afraid and live.
    And, it is interesting, I’ve had dogs, who had never seen a live snake, who jumped sky high from a wiggling rope.

  84. Sure, they used “calm, gentle cats” for the experiment.

    Easy pickin’s for the “normal, mouse killer” cats.

    The reason they have fear is that they are at the bottom of the food chain.

    Everyone wants to eat them!

  85. poor lab kitty.. i wanna rescue her. i’ve never seen a cat so sad in my life. i think it’s immoral to make glow-in-the-dark kittys. and while i do not like rodents of any kind (at all), i don’t think they should be toyed with either. i don’t think it’s cute that the mouse was genetically engineered to be unafraid of what it should be afraid of. it also begs the question — allegedly unaltered cat chilling with the mouse …. hmmm – perhaps it’s the fact that the mouse is not running around like a frantic lunatic that is making this nuzzling possible …

  86. to all of those who are against Genetic engineering, I have this much to say

    Hamster, with Long-eared Jerboa ears 😛

  87. Animals are going extinct everyday all over the world, and we spend our money on cruel animal experiments. Our priorities are seriously backwards. I feel sorry for the lab cat and the lab mouse. I feel especially sorry for all the millions and millions of lab animals that aren’t “fit” for public display.

    Animal testing is not cute, and I would hope in the future Meg would use a bit more thought before promoting such things.

  88. Please. You are kidding right… know I’m going to jettison THIS one….turn your head..and say LALAAAAAAAAAA as I have lunch!!

  89. Hi Tk, Please do not pretend that you were some how involved in the study, and that you are explaining the research to the rest of us.

    And I stand by my comment that no one is able to change themselves at the molecular level, and this research, therefore, will not help them.

    However, there are research based medications and therapies that WILL help with anxiety. Good luck in knowing the difference.

  90. one of the erins says:

    Jimmy, no need to be condescending. I thought what Tk said made sense.

  91. I’m sorry, but I hate it when the media throws in incorrect conclusions based on research results.

    That genetic modification can eliminate fear *does not mean* that fear is purely genetic. It just means there is a genetic *component* to fear. Learning can still be another required component (as I belive it is.)

  92. Jimmy, through gene therapy/gene splicing, animals *can* be changed at the molecular level. It’s an infant science, but it exists.

  93. Jaye, you seemed to have misunderstood what I was trying to say. I am saying that a full grown adult cannot be changed at the molecular level to have a fear/anxiety *gene* altered. We can, however, have our brain chemistry altered by using anti-anxiety medications.

    And I do know that there is genetic research taking place all the time, all over the world- it’s called genetics.

  94. @RevWaldo Thank you. That was wonderful.

    In return, for you and all the CO family, please Feed the Kitty.

    WARNING: No animals were engineered in the making of this video.

    “What Hath Man Drawn”

    You will cry a river.

    A river of cute.

    @Jimmy I read Tk’s post. I read the entire thread from top to bottom thinking maybe Tk had made more than one post ( as I have on an earlier occasion )I then re-read Tk’s post and try as I might I am unable to conclude, as you have, that Tk was attempting to misrepresent him/her self as a fellow scientist involved in this nascent and particular area of research. It is a concise summary of a developing story removing the hyperbole, spin and attempting to stifle the developing paranoia that surrounds any advance in an area of human activity that many remain fearful of because they flunked basic chemistry, biology and physics. Too difficult and not relevant to their lives as they felt at the time and now, as adults, find they cannot comprehend the changing world of bio-chemistry and technology that surrounds them so they jump at the first headline or lead story on the television that screams Boo! Frankenstein.

    Cute Overload serves a valued purpose to all of us who are scaredy cats. We come here so that we do not have to contemplate a world that would willingly inflict cruelty on another living creature or human being.

    Isn’t that right JulieRaven and brinnann?

    Feed the Kitty.

    The world is cruel enough without adding to the ocean of pain and suffering that we float upon.

    This is Cute Overload not Cruelty Overload.

  95. I agree with JulieRaven I have actually thought of that alternative (using death row inmates instead of animals). They arent innocent animals, theyre CONVICTED killers, terrorists, etc. I myself try not to buy ANYTHING that has been tested on animals (I know, i’m a hippee freak I hear that from everybody). Mice are afraid of cats for a reason!! People who own cats know what I’m talking about. my cats bring lots of ‘presents’ inside for me to enjoy (what really stinks is when they ‘come back to life’ in the house)!! I have to admit, that is a cute picture, though 😀 as are all of the pics on C.O.!!!!