Overview and Meaning
Grooming is an maintenance behavior that functions to maintain the physiological stasis, comfort, and appearance of the mouse. Grooming occurs sporadically during periods of activity and can become more intense after feeding.
Usually in a sitting position, the mouse will lick its fur, groom with the forepaws, or scratch with any limb. Often the mouse will mix all of these grooming behaviors. Grooming typically follows a sequence of four behaviors:
- Elliptical Stroke: Elliptical asymmetric movements of the forepaws over the nose and muzzle, alternating the major and minor paw.
- Unilateral Stroke: Alternating strokes of the forepaw across the vibrissae and the eye.
- Bilateral Stroke: Large symmetric bilateral strokes of the forepaws that begin behind the ears and pass over the whole face.
- Body Licking: Licking of the whole body, typically beginning rostrally and working caudally to the tail.
When self-grooming, the behavior follows the distinct sequence listed above.
Grooming can occur in three additional contexts:
- Allo-grooming (where the goal of the behavior may be affiliative)
- Post-Copulatory Groom following successful mating.
- Ulcerative dermatitis an abnormal behavior characterized by excessive scratching at the end of the normal grooming sequence.