For the majority of people, the word “rat” has a litany of negative connotations. They are vilified constantly in pop culture, and the sheer number of ways we try to kill them is staggering. Maybe it’s the tail that scares you, or the thought of them crawling around at night. Whatever bothers you about rats, chances your fears are unfounded. As a proud rat parent, it is tragic that so many people can’t recognize that these furry mischief-machines are some of the most exciting, hilarious, and brilliant animals you can welcome into your home. It turns out that rats are almost as smart as dogs! They can learn tricks, come when you call their name, and are unbelievably affectionate. Not only that, but they contribute to the safety and health of people all over! It’s time to spread the word, and share some rat love with everyone!
The first myth to dispel is that rats are ugly creatures.
Rats are incredibly hygienic creatures, and they are hilariously cute when they are kept in a happy and clean environment. They are also one of the most affectionate pet you could ever imagine, happily riding around on you while you do things around the house. They also have their own version of purring called bruxing. They chatter their teeth together when happy, and are quick to show how much they love you when you play with them.
Rats are so much closer to dogs and cats than people realize, and they are also far more human than we think!
Rats dream like we do!
It might be hard to imagine, but rats actually do dream, and they apparently dream about places they want to be and things they want. A recent experiment let rats run through a maze with food at the end, but with the food inaccessible. The rats then slept while having their brains monitored, and the same parts of the brain humans use to access mental maps lit up! When they awoke, the rats ran back to where they had seen the food immediately. The fact that rats can not only dream, but dream about things that they want and places they have been is incredible, and shows just how similar we really are.
Rats risk their lives to help others!
We hear about dogs and cats helping to rescue their humans, but did you know rats have the same compassion for each other? There have been a number of studies that have shown rats placing the safety of their friends above food, and even their own lives. This type of altruistic behavior is primarily seen in animals with close-knit social groups such as primates, canines, and humans. The fact that rats have such a strong instinct to protect their loved ones shows a great deal of humanity that most people tend to ignore.
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Rats can be heroes!
What can sniff out landmines and smell tuberculosis? You can probably guess. Rats! A species of rat, the African Giant rat, is being used in Cambodia to help locate landmines left over from decades of strife. There are up to 6 million landmines still undetonated in Cambodia, which have led to more than 64,000 casualties, including 25,000 amputees. One rat can cover 200 meters in 20 minutes, compared to traditional means that can take up to 4 days to cover the same area. This huge difference will help to eradicate landmines far sooner than anyone had expected.
Rats as tuberculosis sensors is another incredible way to leverage the talents of our long-tailed friends. One rat can evaluate 50 samples in 8 minutes, opposed to the entire day it would take a qualified lab technician. While the US has enjoyed the eradication of TB, many countries are still suffering from it, and with rats helping to diagnose cases, eliminating it is becoming a much more likely possibility.
While people might be afraid of their “creepy tails,” or afraid of being bitten by a giant sewer rat they saw on TV, there is no way to properly appreciate or understand rats until you spend a little time with them. Their tails are actually a lot of fun to pet, and while they love to nibble on things, people are not in any real danger of being the victim, no more than you are with a dog or cat. Rats need a lot of love and intellectual stimulation, but they can be wonderful friends. And if you’re still not convinced on how talented they are, here are some amazing tricks they can learn! Hopefully you won’t dismiss these wonderful creatures the next time you’re looking for a furry friend.
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