While it may be difficult to fathom, studies have shown that rats have empathy for others who are in a stressful or painful situation.
What the Studies Have to Say
In 1959, Russell Church, a well-known psychologist, conducted a study involving two rats. One was in a cage with an electrified floor and the other was free. The free rat had a choice of food but when it pressed the lever, it sent an electric shock to the cage and caused its occupant pain. Once the rat connected the pressing of the lever with pain to the caged rat, it stopped pressing the lever.
In 2006, more studies were conducted at McGill University that showed rats became more sensitive to the pain of other rats, showing an emotional tie. When caged test rats showed signs of stress and emitted high-pitched alarm calls, their free counterparts reacted by finding a way to release the captive rat.
Several studies have ensued through the years that show rats are empathetic when it comes to others of their species experiencing distress such as pain or being caged in small areas.
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