How Smart are Mice and Rats?
It’s no surprise that mice and rats are a nuisance. In fact, when you think of them, you likely focus on the negative: They can carry pathogens that may cause disease, they can infest your homes and can cause property damage. Also, they generally have a reputation for being unsanitary. However, their intelligence might surprise you. Just how smart are mice and rats, and why does it matter?
The Rodent Brain
It’s no shocker that rodent brains are smaller than human brains. What is amazing, though, is that, according to research, rat brains are similar in structure and function to the human brain. For years, some people assumed rats were blind. However, Harvard researchers have proven that their vision and processing abilities are advanced enough for them to recognize 3-D objects despite changes in size or orientation. They can even tell when a movie features rats.
There are several natural rodent behaviors that indicate a certain level of intelligence. For example, mice have multiple methods of communicating with one another. They can “talk” through their characteristic squeaks and chirps. Some vocalizations, known as ultrasonic vocalizations (USVs) are so high pitched that humans can’t hear them. Additionally, researchers have even found that mice sing.
Other forms of mice communication include urine, which contains pheromones that can spread important messages, and body language, such as tail drumming, which can indicate aggression.
Some mice, such as specific species of the deer mouse, are monogamous and display parental care for their litters. Deer mice are also known to create burrows to protect themselves from predators. The type of burrow created varies depending on species, soil type and geography.
Rodents are social creatures. Rats are known to live in communities, and a group of rats is fittingly referred to as a “mischief.” Within these communities, they display social behaviors, such as grooming, sleeping together and playing. They have also been known to display aggression toward unfamiliar rats.
Rodents in the Lab
Scientists have used rats in psychology experiments for more than one hundred years, due in large part to the similar structure of their brains to the human brain and their decision-making abilities. According to researchers, rats are able to find a good pattern and stick to it, and they’re less likely to second-guess themselves than humans.
Mice were long thought to be less intelligent than rats, but recent research is proving this assumption to be incorrect. In fact, studies are indicating that mice have many of the same decision-making abilities as rats. This means that mice can be trained in the lab like rats and used to study and understand human behaviors.
Why Rodent Intelligence Matters
Why should pest control professionals care about rodent intelligence? One answer is that understanding rodent behavior can help professionals detect infestations and determine the best course of removal and control. Rodents can adapt to different food sources, and on top of their intelligence, they’re notoriously successful breeders. In order to be effective, rodent control professionals should have an understanding of what attracts rats and mice to homes, the locations where they’re likely to be found and the behaviors they might display.
If you think you have a rodent infestation in your home, the professionals at Terminix® offer solutions, backed by a guarantee. Contact Terminix to learn more and to schedule your FREE inspection.