Laughing Rats

Heard a great radio programme which included the sound of laughing rats. Some scientists are claiming that if you tickle a rat it giggles.

Before you rush to tickle a pet rat, it’s worth knowing that the sounds aren’t audible to humans. (Unless you have a bat detector or some other piece of specialist measurement gear). The sounds on the radio and video have been altered because the vocalisations are at too high a frequency for humans to hear. As many domestic animals make and can hear sound at these high frequencies, maybe all our pets are laughing behind our backs?

Like human laughter, it appears that these vocaliations help regulate social behaviour. When rats are rough housing each other, the giggling shows that they’re having a laugh and not being serious. In pursuit of a definitive answer as to why rats make this sound, scientists have been plying drugs on the poor rodents (morphine, ethanol, cocaine) and seeing what effect they have. This might all sound a bit strange, as scientists grapple with drunk rats and high rodents, but potentially there are serious implications of the research. If human laughter dates back to when we were rodents, then by studying what happens to rats when they laugh, we can reveal a little more about ourselves.

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