Luna’s rump slouched a little too over the side of their ‘ladder hammock’, and she flopped right out of the hammock! I giggled so much, mostly at the look on her sleepy face when she landed butt first on the floor of the cage, which was about 4-5in under the ladder.
Yesterday I got into a bit of an argument with my mother on animal emotion, specifically the display of emotion by rats. She implied that rats are incapable of expressing emotion like our two shih tzus can. She is correct in saying that my rats cannot express emotionexactlylike the shih tzus, but is also false in implying rats cannot show emotion.
In my twenty one years of life, I’ve spent much of it with a wide range of animals: cats, dogs, rats, mice, birds, lizards, spiders, chipmunks, and many other species. When you spend enough time around an animal, you begin to take notice of the different ways they express their emotions. Naturally, most of us personify these emotions in order to explain and make sense of them. There’s nothing inherently bad or incorrect about doing this, as it seems to be a natural process in people. Knowledge of animal behaviours and much time spent with the animal form into legitimate fact on the expression of emotion in an animal and what the animal is feeling. Our best example of this is our dogs. Any dog owner can tell you how her/his dog is feeling.
In my experience, enough time spent with an animal will teach you to learn and recognize different ways the animal shows her/his emotions. In the argument with my mom, she implied that a rat cannot show emotion. I challenge that. Just because an animal cannot show emotion as a dog can doesnotmean the animal cannot express emotion.
My three rats, Maxine, Freyja, and Luna, express emotion. They express emotion through: their eyes, their body posture, their facial expressions, their vocalizations, and through action. I can tell when my girl, Max, is crabby and has little patience for my shenanigans, I can tell when my girl, Freyja is feeling shy, and I can tell when my youngest girl, Luna, is happy. Each of my rats express emotion through the above listed ways. If they’re crabby, they’ll bare their teeth, pull their lips further back, and puff themselves into a fuzzy ball. When they’re happy, they run around, they play, explore, and to my delight they’ll even hop (Luna is notorious for hopping). When it comes to determining the emotional state of a rat, it’s about the subtle movements of their face and body position. Personally, it’s all about facial expressions. One of my favorite expressions is Luna’s curious face, in which she stands still, perks her ears up, has one front paw flat on the group and the other front paw “positioned fancy”, and she slowly moves and bobs her head around!
In conclusion, I believe any animal can show emotion to us. We as people just need to take the time to learn the different ways each species expresses it, as each is unique in the ways they express emotion. For me, those animals are my rats, and I cherish each day with these amazing little critters and the things, such as expression, that they teach me.
Two of my little “woogie woos”, Maxine and Luna, curled up and taking a rat nap together. Most of the time, Maxxie and Freyja are on that level and snuggling and napping, but this is one of the delightful exceptions!