Overview and Meaning

Circling is a stereotypy - a repetitive, unvarying behavior lacking apparent goal or function. Circling is a repetitious, loosely circular path that is traced mostly on the cage top and occasionally on the cage floor. Circling is repeated identically with reference to the animal's own body, but may be performed in different positions in the cage. This kind of stereotypy may have extremely fixed beginning or ending sequences, which help delineate the bout of stereotypy for the observer.


A circling mouse repetitively traces a loosely circular path (usually on the cage top). While circling, the mouse may change its body orientation, alter its direction, and intermix other behaviors while following the path. Circling can be distinguished from similar behaviors as follows:

  • Circling is easily mistaken for twirling because in both cases a mouse turns in a full circular motion.
  1. Unlike twirling, in circling, these turns are not tight. Instead, the mouse is tracing a roughly circular path.
  2. The mouse's body orientation is also inconsistent, because the mouse rarely places its paws on the same bar or area during each turn.