Rats Can Be Kind!

Maybe calling someone a ‘rat’ is not such a burn…

JF Danskin
2 min readNov 28, 2023

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Graffiti of a rat
Photo by Nick Fewings on Unsplash

Would you believe that a rat can be kind?

People might assume that animals are generally selfish, and that beyond caring for their young, that they won’t go out of their way to help another individual. Not unless there’s something in it for them.

However, researchers have shown that rats can display altruism!

When another rat is trapped in a box and is making sounds to show that it is clearly distressed, other rats will attempt to let it out.

They do this even though there is no benefit to themselves. They could even be releasing a future competitor for food or mates.

And that’s not all.

They will actually save some food for the trapped rat, apparently realising that it will be hungry after it escapes!

That’s pretty kind, right?

The rats seem to show empathy. Perhaps, calling people ‘rats’ isn’t such an insult after all.

There is one catch, though. Rats don’t help all other rats equally. They are much more likely to help other members of their own social group, according to a study at UC Berkeley.

That means, they display ‘ingroup bias’ just like people. They will help a member of their tribe rather than a stranger.

I read about it here:

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JF Danskin

Writing fiction (fantasy especially) and poetry, enthusiast for creativity, collaboration, community. An Editor at the Fiction Writer's Den (he/him)