Rats are some of the most unfairly maligned creatures of the animal kingdom. Despite their funny little rat-hands and furry little rat-bodies, the poor rodents can’t seem to shake the reputation of being disease-bearing, wire-chewing harbingers of destruction.
Still, despite long suffering the slings and arrows (and tantalizing, cheese-holding death traps) of outrageous fortune, the rats press on, collecting slices of pizza and bags of trash from city streets, enjoying rare PR wins when they make people laugh by getting stuck in manhole covers, and, most recently, learning how to drive tiny cars.
A video from Cleus describes this landmark moment, explaining that a research experiment conducted at the University of Richmond involved putting rats through a food-based behavioral training test that included the use of ad-hoc ratmobiles. The scientists “constructed a tiny car out of a clear plastic food container on wheels with an aluminum floor and 3 copper bars functioning as a steering wheel,” the video says. “When a rat stood on the aluminum floor and gripped the copper bars with their paws, the car started moving forward.”
Granting learner’s permits to a group of “11 male rats and 6 female rats,” the researchers tempted the drivers with bits of food—including Froot Loops—placed in various places around a closed-off area. While none of the rats, as far as we know, did any cool car stunts like flying off a sick jump or leaning out the window with a minuscule rodent pistol to shoot at pursuing rat cops, they did begin “navigating the car in unique ways to reach the destination of the reward.” Apparently, the researchers studied the rats’ stress levels, too, and found “that they were completely relaxed while driving their mini cars.”
It’s extremely important to note that the video also contains footage of the rats driving around during the experiment. Whether you’re interested in the science involved or not, there’s a whole lot to be said for videos showing twitchy-nosed balls of fur cruising around in empty plastic containers with wheels slapped on them, feeling the thrill of the open road as it stretches out a meter or so into the horizon.
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