ratI’m not an equal opportunity animal lover.

In fact, I really dislike rodents. Of all stripes. (Well, I might make an exception for a capybara, if I ever meet one.)

This is a reasonable belief based on rodent facts, not a prejudice. (Please see this post, if you wish to know the details of my nasty encounters with gray squirrels that have contributed to my dislike.)

I recently stumbled over a study whose conclusions have unsettled my beliefs, though.

Rats are capable of empathy.

How did they prove that?

Full details here. But the short version is that a rat was willing to release its cage-mate from a plastic tube OVER first eating all the chocolate chips in a nearby tube. The test rat responded to the distress calls of its cage-mate by working hard to figure out how to get the tube door open when it could have ignored the other rat and kept all the chocolate chips for itself.

Mmm . . .

Plenty of humans wouldn’t be as kind.  Especially if no one was looking.

Rats are gross, vicious, germ-carrying vermin.

When I was in college I knew people who treated their white rats like pets, letting them run up their arms and down their shirt. Snuggling with them. This did nothing to endear rats to me, however, since I viewed this as the same type of behavior as getting an in-your-face tattoo or giant ear holes plugged with steel rings. People like this are rebels, not thought leaders.

Even the movie, Ratatouille, with its cute rat chef, failed to make me reconsider the humanity of rats. Even though that rat was a total foodie.

But a rodent willing to give up chocolate for a distressed friend?

I need to mull this one over.

All I can say for sure is the next time I see someone trapped in a plastic tube, I’m going for it.


Chocolate or no chocolate.

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