Overview and Meaning
Looping is a stereotypy - a repetitive, unvarying behavior lacking apparent goal or function. Looping is a repetitious back flipping, concentrated in one area of the cage. The mouse will turn back flips, either in open space or against the wall of the cage.
Before looping, a mouse will generally extend its body upward from the cage floor and rest its forepaws against a surface (e.g. cage wall) to brace itself. Then it will tilt its head back a couple times, while arching its back, to gain the momentum and positioning for the back flip. By throwing its head and body backward in an arc (usually combined with pushing away from a surface) the mouse is able to complete a loop. The loop can be cyclical or elliptical in shape (usually dependent on the amount of space). The hind paws of a mouse will often make contact with another surface (e.g. opposing cage wall) before completing its landing onto the cage floor.
Looping can help be distinguished as follows:
- Looping will generally occur in the same area of the cage.
- The direction of looping varies (e.g. background to foreground or right to left).
- Depending on which side of the cage walls the mouse is using, looping can occur in a different direction: clockwise or counterclockwise (left side wall = clockwise; right side wall = counterclockwise).
- The number of loops per session varies (but must occur more than once in succession to be considered looping).
- When looping first develops, the mouse may jump a half-back flip to the roof of the cage, and then drop down to the floor in another half-back flip.