Cheese has long been associated with mice in cartoons, paintings and literature: the animals are often depicted sneaking into kitchens at night to grab crumbs of the food that was assumed to be a tasty treat.

But the perpetuating myth that these ravenous rodents' favourite food is cheese is a hard one to break.

In 2006, one academic, Dr David Holmes from the Manchester Metropolitan University, argued mice turn up their noses at rich cheeses in particular, and in reality would prefer to raid cupboards for cereal, dried fruits and man-made high-in-sugar foods such as chocolate.

This week BBC Two's Winterwatch devised a non-scientific test that appeared to back up the claim that mice go for almost any other food than cheese.

These animals are making the right choice. They are what we call optimally foraging, and this is what we would expect them to do particularly at this time of year when foraging activity is absolutely crucial 

The programme makers put out a platter offering cheddar cheese, peanuts and grapes, and recorded the food choices made by visiting wood mice.

Almost every time the mice went straight to the peanuts; a grape was eaten on one occasion; but the cheddar cheese was avoided.

Right choice

According to the team, peanuts’ calorific content is 50% greater than cheese, so the rodents may have been attracted to food that provides more energy.

Winterwatch presenter Chris Packham said: "These animals are making the right choice. They are what we call optimally foraging, and this is what we would expect them to do particularly at this time of year when foraging activity is absolutely crucial."

It seems while many of us might inadvertently share our homes with these little opportunistic feeders, they may only steal our cheese as a last resort.

See the secret lives of mice captured on camera on Winterwatch on BBC Two on Thursday 22 January at 20:00 GMT