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Rat Intelligence?

Someone asked, "How do we know that rats are smarter than the average 2 year old child?" After a bit of contemplation, here's what I came up with:

I honestly think this "intellect of a two year old" is supposed to apply to birds (because birds throw fits like a two year old) and not rats but there are some good cases for rats anyway:

1) Mazes - Rats will learn a maze by trial and error. Once learned, (thanks to marking), can repeat the maze with less or no error.

2) Depth perception - a 2 year old baby will fall off of a ledge if allowed to do so. A rat will sense the depth and, in most cases, if unable to sense that "below" is nearby, won't take the leap.

3) Learning through positive reinforcement - You can train a rat to do most anything (and, even if unaware, you do so every day). When you give a rat a treat, you are reinforcing a behavior. If the same behavior is reinforced regularly at the onset and intermittently further down the line, they will continue the behavior. COSI has rats playing basketball; I have rats who think they're a gaggle of geese ;O)

4) Learning through positive reinforcement II - A rat knows love...at least affection. A positive reinforcer needn't be a treat. A rat learns who is friend and who is foe and treats each accordingly. Much like a two year old...only less gnawing from the rat if you are "friend."

5) Learning through positive reinforcement III - It doesn't take much to potty train a rat. Not sure about a two year old, but it never looked quite as easy.

6) Responsiveness to stimuli - They react. They flinch. They hide. They cower. A two year old child won't necessarily know that a sharp loud noise is something to be afraid of -- a rat will.

7) Nourishment - They know what makes them feel bad and what made their mom feel bad and what made anyone in their colony feel bad. Silly enough, they sniff other rats' mouths and butts to find out what they ate - to determine what is good (tasty) and bad (poisonous, illness-inducing). They will retain this information. A two-year old depends totally on what those he trusts say is OK.

8) Persistence - A rat can swim for 72 hours straight (but the experiments that led to this discovery should have never happened). Humans, all of them, break down from stress much sooner than that.

9) Dependence upon the colony - Rats trust and depend on everyone in their colony. If they are cold, they snuggle up with or under another rat (two year olds depend on their colony as well, but they don't have the liberty or sense to seek warmth when needed). Outsiders are a different story - much like a two-year old.

10) Stashing - They (usually) remember where they stockpile their food. This is survival instinct. A two year old just burps the food.

11) Survival Instinct I - They exhibit caution (when exploring new territory, for example, they will venture out a small bit, return to "home base," go back out and venture further, return, and so forth. A two-year old will keep chugging along.)

12) Survival Instinct II - They know that if they exhibit signs of illness that, as prey animals, this will make them more susceptible to injury and/or death. They hide illness (but...since our guys are domesticated, this isn't so "smart" because we can't help them if we don't know they're ill). Two year olds just drool which is always sickening ;O)

13) Organizational skills - They develop organizational structures at an early age and stay in their place within that structure (usually) in order to benefit the group as a whole. At two, a child is testing and breaking the "structure" (The "No" years).

14) Hunger - If a rat is hungry he will find a way out of his cage by whatever means necessary and he will find food. Even baby rats around 2-3 weeks of age, if left without food, will find something and find a way to eat it. A two year old child will just cry and cry and cry and hope that someone hears.

15) Grooming - From 1 day of age, they know how to clean themselves. Your average (male) two year old won't know how to do this until he's 16.

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Disclaimer: There are many non-sarcastic accounts and tips on the web regarding rat care. This is not one of them. These are merely accounts of our experiences with rats, our perceptions of these experiences, where we've failed and where we've succeeded. These accounts are here for two purposes:

    1) To entertain.
    2) To help avoid repetition of mistakes

  Remember! Your rat is not a science project, he is your friend!

All content contained herein © 1996-2007 by Andrew Waltz, Nathalie Baldwin, & the rats of RatRaisins, Inc.  
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