Rats Will Help Other Rats

Rats will help other rats

Calling someone a dirty rat might not have the same impact it used to have because new research reveals that rats are more likely to act like knights in shining armor than they are to leave a rat neighbor struggling with their plight.

An experiment conducted at the University of Chicago was done by placing two lab rats that normally shared a cage in a test area, with one rat allowed to roam free and the other rat confined within a closed tube that had a built-in door that could only be opened from the outside. According to the Telegraph, it took a few tries before the free rat learned how to open the door, but once the lesson was learned, the free rat freed the captive rat almost immediately.

Different scenarios were used to determine a reason for the free rat to open the tube, but rescue seemed to be the motivating factor because the free rat didn’t try to open the door for a stuffed toy rat that was placed in the tube and the entrance to the tube wasn’t messed with when the container was left empty. Socializing was ruled out as a factor because the free rat continued to free the captive rat even when the newly liberated rat was separated from its rescuer. When a second restraint tube was filled with chocolate chips, freeing the captive rat still appeared to be a priority.

”That was very compelling,” said co-author Professor Peggy Mason. ”It said to us that essentially helping their cage-mate is on a par with chocolate. He can hog the entire chocolate stash if he wanted to, and he does not. We were shocked.”

While I think it’s fascinating that rats are able to demonstrate this level of empathy, I’m curious about what would happen if the restrained rat didn’t normally share a cage with the free rat. Does the free rodent feel some type of protective bond with a familiar rat? Would it still attempt to free a rat from confinement if it didn’t normally share its living space with the captive rat? Interesting findings, but I’d love to see more variety.

The results of the study are being reported in the journal, Science.

4 Comments on "Rats Will Help Other Rats"

  1. ..but what gender were the rats.. wouldnt that be critical?
    There may be more than empathy involved.

  2. Philip McCormac | October 14, 2013 at 1:24 pm | Reply

    I just love the photo you use for this article. I am an author and I have a sci-fi novelette featuring intelligent rats and need a picture to make a front cover. Would there be any restrictions on using this particular photo.

  3. So, not-so-empathic human vivisectors show me that rats are empathic – and then their conclusion is that humans are still more empathic?

    There are so many real happened stories including NO laboratory setting, where animals showed more empathy and compassion than I have seen in humans, with my own eyes! Our *filthy* human race even sell our own mothers and children for sexual abuse! Ohh yeah – even without money in return we do this!

    Vivisectors are bad, mad scientists who should be locked up! Anyone who performs animal experiments prove themselves to me that THEY have no empathy! Vivisectors lie about the outcome of their experiments: benzene wouldnt cause cancers – NOOOO; asbestos wouldn’t cause cancers, NOOOO; parabenes would NOT cause cancers – NOOO .. liars! These are the people that even less than a century ago operated on babies without anaesthesia – cause Descartesians think that only adult humans can feel pain!

    If an arab would cause such harm they’d be labelled being a terrorist – but these people get another grant cause they wear a white coat!

    Disgrace! Lock these people up and sterilize them so that it’ll stop with them!

    Disgraceful people!

    -a nurse who’se seen the dangers of animal experiments on humans ..

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