Rats have a reputation for being intelligent. It is probably debatable whether rodents are really smarter than other animals. However, one thing can be said with certainty: rats are by no means stupid.
Two cute rats in their hiding place: How smart are the rodents really? – Shutterstock / Gallinago media
Rats as pests can be persistent in the house and in the yard because they are not so easy to catch. Is it because the animals are so smart? After all, many people keep the so-called pet rats as pets because their intelligence makes them exciting and versatile companions.
Is the rat simply too smart as a pest?
Well, maybe it’s not because rats are just smarter than humans. However, it proves difficult to get your hands on the animals, which are often regarded as vermin. Because rats “smell the roast”: If a fellow rat falls over immediately after the enjoyable bite of the bait, the clever rodents quickly understand that they should rather refrain from this supposed food. The rat hunt is made immensely more difficult. The risk of collateral damage is much greater: If the pest control takes place outside in the yard, other animals are more likely to fall victim to the poisoned baits – in the worst case also pets. It is therefore important to consider whether to make use of them. Still, rats aren’t necessarily smarter than other animals — but they are more cautious.
Smart Pet: The Pet Rat
It is not for nothing that pet rats are a popular pet among rodent friends. So the little animal has a lot in store. Rats can learn many tricks, which is why some pet owners even engage them in clicker training or agility. Intelligence toys intended for cats and dogs are also often used. In this way, the cute rodents can be challenged not only physically but also mentally. It’s almost as if rats even enjoy such activities and need them to be really balanced.
Scientists are researching the intelligence of rats
Again and again there are studies that are supposed to prove that rats are smart. For example, a researcher at NTT Communication Science Laboratories photographed rats with normal facial expressions as well as with distorted faces. The latter was induced with the help of a small electric shock on the claw – a somewhat questionable method as it gives the animals at least a brief shock and slight pain.
The resulting pictures were each hung up in two separate rooms and given to the test person rats to choose from. The animals deliberately avoided the room with the pain-distorted rat portraits. This behavior suggests that rats not only communicate with their scents and ultrasonic sounds, but apparently also interpret facial expressions and interpret the emotional states of conspecifics.
Psychologists from University College London, on the other hand, came to the conclusion that rats can understand the rules of a sequence of sounds. Before feeding, the test animals were played certain sound sequences, for example two high tones and one low tone in quick succession. After some time, the animals immediately recognized the feeding time from this melody. Now the psychologists changed the entire pitch of the respective sound sequence, while the order of the individual tones remained the same. Surprisingly, the rats still recognized that there was food and rushed to the feeding bowl. This suggests that the animals can learn and understand a specific sound pattern independent of pitch.
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