Hey everyone! I’m McKenzie, and I work with our Ambassador Animal population. Even though I primarily spend my time with birds at the World of Wild Theater, I also get to work with our ambassador rats daily. I have always loved rats (probably why I’m known as the Mother of Rats around here), but then again, how could you not love these incredible and adorable creatures? Now I think we all know some negative stereotypes given to rats, but I hope to put an end to those thoughts with just a few facts!
Did you know rats are super smart? Rats are very intelligent animals who can learn new skills quickly. There are even rats around the world who have professional jobs! There is an organization (APOPO) that trains and uses Giant African Pouch rats to sniff out land mines. They are perfect for the job since their strong sense of smell allows them to sniff the mines out, and their light weight allows them to move over the mines without setting them off. Rats can also remember faces and possibly even their own names.
Rats are very social and may grow sad if they are alone. In fact, if you follow a rat to its home, you are most likely to find it is a part of a group of rats, called a mischief (a very fitting name). There are some studies that show rats can show empathy for each other and will repeatedly free each other from containers. Rats also communicate with the others in their mischief to let them know where all the best meals are, just like Ratatouille!
Believe it or not, rats are actually very clean! A lot of times, rats are associated with garbage and sewers which makes us think they must be dirty. This is not true at all. Rats spend hours every day grooming themselves and their buddies, and some believe they may be cleaner than even dogs and cats! The reason we find rats around trash is because there is often leftover food thrown away. Since rats are opportunistic omnivores, they can eat lots of different things. Don’t hold this against them though, as we need our opportunistic omnivores around as they are nature’s cleanup crew. Just remember that if you keep food up and away, they are more likely to steer away from your home and trash cans.
I hope you keep all these things in mind the next time you see a rat, and instead of screaming and running, take some time to appreciate how awesome these little guys are!
Keeper II, Ambassador Animals