While most of us hate rats, they are increasingly kept as pets nowadays, as strange as that sounds. Some people are simply drawn to them and it turns out that they are actually interesting creatures. We have put together a list of science-based rat facts that just might blow your mind.
Rats are able to dream
In recent studies, it was proven that rats actually dream while they sleep. Electrode measurements of active and sleeping rats showed their brain activity in these two different scenarios, and it was shown that specific combinations of neurons help both rats and humans build internal maps of their surroundings. Researchers then watched the same neuron structures light up when the rats were sleeping, showing that they were experiencing their environment in their sleep.
Rats can drive
Not only can rats learn how to drive, they actually experience a reduction in stress when they do. Professor Kelly Lambert, who is a behavioral neuroscientist, managed to train 17 rats to drive to food treats, and she observed that the rats were actually becoming more relaxed as they were wheeling around. Interestingly, the stress reduction did not come from the reward, but from the completion of the task. Rats that were in a remote-controlled car did not experience the same reduction in stress levels.
Rats are space travellers
One of the first species in space, rats made that giant leap for mankind in August of 1960, when the Soviet satellite ‘Korabl-Sputnik2’ orbited Earth before returning safely after one day. The satellite carried many animals including dogs, and all of them were healthy when they reached Earth.
Rats had to adapt due to their connection with humans
Rats have a very close connection to human habitats. They can find plenty of food and shelter wherever they can find humans. As such, they would often join human caravans and ships, and this has taken the rat all over the world. However, not all species survive their encounters with new habitats. Rats managed to adapt, changing their genes over time to develop behaviors and diets suited for their new environment.
Rats have amazing senses.
As humans, we would feel around in the dark to go about our environment. Rats show similar behavior, but instead of fumbling around, they use their whiskers to feel their surroundings and avoid collisions. The rats can move their whiskers in three dimensions and use them to perceive depth in dark environments. They also have an extraordinary sense of smell. Researchers have been able to train African giant pounced rats to diagnose tuberculosis, and the rat brain will register and remember a smell even while the rat is under anaesthesia.
Rats are incredibly social
In research settings, it was found that rats would experience depression when isolated, and that young rats would engage in play fighting and play behavior. Some scientists have even managed to detect laughter in rats when they are tickled. When playing, rats learn and improve behaviors, as observed by researchers during a game of “hide and seek”. Not only that, but they are also capable of empathy, exhibiting higher stress levels when they witness other rats suffering.