Rats as feeling creatures

Rats may “dream” about the future.

They may also be able to show joy by squeaking as a primitive form of laughter.

“Recent affective neuroscience research has yielded the discovery of play- and tickle-induced ultrasonic vocalization patterns ( approximately 50-kHz chirps) in rats may have more than a passing resemblance to primitive human laughter. In this paper, we summarize a dozen reasons for the working hypothesis that such rat vocalizations reflect a type of positive affect that may have evolutionary relations to the joyfulness of human childhood laughter commonly accompanying social play.”

Rats will help each other.

There is a video at the site. “Finding simple mechanisms in animal brains that make them sensitive to others is exciting because it suggests empathy is deeply engrained in the heritage of animals,” says Christian Keysers, head of the Social Brain Lab at the Netherlands Institute for Neuroscience in Amsterdam.”

Rats show “pacing” behaviour, which resembles the behaviour of human females being “chased” by males:

As discussed here, also with a video.

“In women, the urge to feel irresistible may not be part of the conscious, cognitive software … It appears to be a primal component of female sexuality, as basic as a man’s urge to chase and seduce … there may even be a parallel between female irresistibility and a sexual cue in the female rat. When female rats are in the ‘proceptive phase’ – a period of fertility when they’re seeking males for sex – they are in control of the sexual interactions, darting and hopping around the interested male in a process called pacing. The female rat wants the male to pursue her. If the male shows sufficient interest and chases her at the pace she sets, then she permits him to mount her and copulate.It’s clear that female rats find pacing to be rewarding. Both pacing and the reward for pacing are controlled by software in the rat subcortex.”

I have written here on what human and animal feelings imply about whether animals have souls.


5 responses to this post.

  1. The reference to “squeaking” reminds me of when I was once minding two little lads aged about seven years. I made some infantile joke, and was amazed at how they squeaked, virtually squeaked, in amusement.


    • Yes, I found that “squeaking” paper some time back, and was intrigued by it.

      I have been noticing for some time that rats seem to be showing more and more signs of intelligence, but also, more significantly, emotion and feeling. It is as if they are quantitatively but not necessarily qualitatively different from humans.

      Admittedly, the rats in these experiments would be white, laboratory rats; not wild rats; but I don’t think that makes a difference to how surprising some of their capacities are.

      I think we need to be a bit cautious in this area, since some reports of moral and cognitive abilities in monkeys, for example, have had to be retracted:



  2. Posted by Julian O'Dea on August 27, 2015 at 9:03 am

  3. […] the other hand, even rats seem to experience qualia (pain and emotions). And I have argued, as I said above, that this […]


  4. Posted by kneeledbeauty on July 7, 2016 at 2:36 am

    The similarity between female rat behaviour when seeking a mate and the sexual behaviour of human females is quite interesting. Anyone who has watched women when out socially knows women do this and generally, it is the woman who chooses who she will couple with that night.

    The difference though, is while the rat behaviour here is described as being toward a potential male, females generally display for other females, to compete. It has been my experience and occasionally born out in surveys, that Men prefer women with more curves on them than a stick figure and a lot less make up. While a Man will choose out of the sexually aggressive females before him, if for one night, he will look elsewhere for a life partner.


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