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Rat Smarts

"But really" people have asked, "how smart can they be?..." Some people aren't ready to believe that rats could have personalities, or even much intelligence. After all, their brains are half the size of walnuts.

Anyone who explores the world of pet rats will soon run into the name Debbie Duncommun "The Rat Lady". Ms. Duncommun has an extensive pet rat website at www.ratfanclub.org, and has authored several books. In the back pages of her book The Complete Guide to Rat Training, she has adapted an animal intelligence questionnaire for use with rats.

For example, "Let your rat watch you hide a treat under a cup or in your hand. Your rat:
a) can immediately find the treat
b) looks for the treat but has trouble remembering where you put it
c) forgets all about the treat when you hide it"

Avid readers of this site and other Eek-o-fans will probably guess that answer A matches the very persistent Eek and little Scribble is described by answer C.

Moving on to another question: "If your rat is eating a large piece of food and you offer her a piece of food she likes better, she:
a) immediately drops the food she is eating to take the new food
b) tries to take the new food, but can't with food already in her mouth, so then drops the food to take the new food
c) tries to take the new food, but can't with food already in her mouth, but persists in trying
d) tries to take the new food but can't with food already in her mouth, so gives up and continues eating the original food"

That would again be an A for Eek, and a C or often D for Scribble.

Let's try this question: "Your rat:
a) is always curious about new things, places and people
b) is sometimes curious about new things, places and people
c) is occasionally curious about new things, places and people
d) does not seem curious about new things, places and people"

Let Eek and Scribble roam freely in a new empty space, and Eek will have mapped it out completely, high and low, within a matter of 15 or so minutes. Scribble probably won't leave her cage. That would be another A for Eek and a C or often D for Scribble.

And so the questions continue along with an obvious pattern in the answers. Eek's behavior is typified by answer A question after question, worth 5 points each, while Scribble's behavior more closely matches answers C or D, mostly worth 1 or zero points.

Final score? Eek, with more than 35 points is rated "Your rat is very smart - a rattie genius!" Dear little Scribble's answers sum up to a score of "7 points or fewer", a final rating of "Your rat is a lovable little dummy." And she is, indeed - especially the lovable part.

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Blog_post | by Dr. Radut