National Zoo notes World Rat Day, a time for rodent appreciation

Posted by Big Rat on Campus on Apr 9, 2018 in Rat News | Subscribe

Wednesday was World Rat Day, and at the National Zoo, three creatures in the collection helped give the day meaning. They were the zoo’s three Norway rats.

“We are celebrating our Norway rats Donut, Muffin Cupcake!” the zoo said in a Twitter message. (The three arrived in September.)

World Rat Day was not created in an effort to be ironic, or to mock those whom we don’t much like. Nor is it a day for playing the Pied Piper and trying to rid the city of its rats.

No, it was created, according to its web page, “to recognize the fancy rat as a wonderful pet and companion animal for people of all ages.”

And yes, many people do keep pet rats and form strong emotional bonds to them.

And it is not so surprising that the Smithsonian Institution’s National Zoo, a place that gathers animals of all sorts, has rats on display. They are in the Think Tank.

Curiosity about why the zoo has rats is apparently not uncommon.

Last November, the zoo posted this on its website:

“Many people wonder why we have Norway rats on exhibit at the Zoo, but the truth is that the Think Tank is a fitting home for this species!’’ wrote an animal keeper.

“For more than a century, scientists have used rats to study animal intelligence. From their experiments, we learned that rats have excellent short-term memory, which comes in handy for navigating mazes, wrote the keeper, Erin Stromberg.

“Not only that, scientists have observed rats exercising choice. For example, a rat may choose to go for the smaller, easier reward or for the larger reward that has more obstacles in the way.”

Norway rats are the common sort, which can be seen scurrying around the streets of many cities. But the rats may be getting a bad rap.

“Rats have a reputation for being dirty when, in fact, their nature is to be clean and organized,” Stromberg said. And there are other reasons for rodent appreciation.

The ones in a video posted this week by the zoo did seem particularly well-groomed.

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