A video showing a huge rat grabbing her human’s finger and dragging her to show off her baby is going viral, reminding us of how little we actually know about rats – one of the most intelligent animals in the world.
In the clip above, a mother rat takes her owner’s hand in her little mouth and guides her to her new baby. The owner holds the rat in her hand as the mama rat hovers over it, almost like she’s saying, “Look what I made!”
While it might appear as though the mother rat is showing off her young, her behavior is more likely fueled by pragmatism, according to Animal Behaviorist and Senior Lecturer at the University of Southampton Dr. Anne McBride. Gambian pouched rats are social creatures. Female rats with young will gather to watch over each other’s babies and keep them warm. It’s more likely that the mother rat is bringing her owner to the baby to help warm it up because there isn’t enough nesting material to insulate it.
When rats bond with their human companions, it’s for life. So, if they’re suddenly given away to someone else or neglected, they can even die of sadness. Just like humans, if they don’t have companionship, rats get lonely, anxious, stressed, and depressed.
Rats are highly social and communicate with each other using high-frequency sounds that we can’t hear without instrumentation. They like to play together, cuddle, and wrestle. Jaak Panksepp, a neuroscientist at Bowling Green State University, suggests that when playing or being tickled, rats make chirping sounds that are strikingly similar to human laughter. “[Y]oung rats have a marvelous sense of fun,” says the professor.