mouse_in_cupEmpathy in rodents, could it be true!?

As off-the-wall as it may sound, a recent study has shown that our furry friends may feel empathy, or compassion, for their relatives and close friends.

This study has shown us that when a rat was put in an uncomfortable situation, whether in a confined space or was put in physical pain, that the on looking rat would do what it could to free the other, showing emotional suffering for the rat who was feeling pain.  This shared suffering is referred to as “emotional contagion”.  Who would have thought that these annoyances of ours actually share a characteristic with us?

An interesting fact about this study is that these “rescuers down under” don’t seem to expect anything in return.  After freeing a caged friend, they would actually share their chocolate chips!
Since there was no evidence of reuniting or an expectation of an award, it is still in question whether these rats are doing their good deed for the day to relieve their crying friend, or to relieve their own emotional stress from watching the distressed friend in need.

Another interesting fact is that this helping characteristic is only revealed when the rats can see each other; the cries from the caged rat doesn’t seem to make a difference unless they can physically see one another.  Whether or not the rats are affected by facial expressions is not yet known.  Being able to see one another’s expressions might affect the rats in a more profound way than just being able to hear their cries.

I can’t help but feel reminded of those times when I’ve shown little empathy for these critters, thinking that they are just little pests that need to find their own place to live.  Knowing that rats and mice show empathy for one another, just like humans do, I can’t help but feel bad for wishing them ill.  Just one more reason I feel good about my choice in using Fresh Cab Rodent Repellent, a guilt free way to keep rodents out and my conscience clean!

Diet of a Mouse