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Rats love driving cars!

Rats love driving cars! - By Felicia

I love rats, so I decided to write this article about how much rats love cars! It’s actually a fascinating topic. Rats that drive cars are actually less stressed, according to a study from the University of Richmond. 

You might ordinarily think of lab rats as this:

But as an owner of two elderly rats, I know that they are actually quite resourceful, and so does anyone who’s ever spent time around rats. Mazes aren’t the only thing they can do. So the research team, led by Professor Kelly Lambert, came up this time with something a little more involved than navigating a maze: driving.

To teach rats to drive, you need a tiny car, or Rat Operated Vehicle. For the car, the chassis and powertrain came from a robot car kit, and a transparent plastic food container provided the body.

A steering wheel and pedals is probably a bit too complicated for a rat to learn, so the scientists came up with a creative solution: the controls were three copper wires stretched across an opening cut out of the front of the bodywork and an aluminum plate on the floor.

When a rat stood on the plate and gripped a copper bar, a circuit was completed and the motors engaged; one bar made the car turn to the left, one made it turn to the right, and the third made it go straight ahead.

The researchers also collected each rat's droppings at various points during the study to analyze them for metabolites of corticosterone and dehydroepiandrosterone, a pair of hormones. 

The ratio of these two hormones can show how stressed an animal is, and it changed in a pattern consistent with emotional resilience in all the rats over the course of the study.

Rats really do love driving cars! This article makes me think about making my own toy car to enrich my rats and make them less stressed. If you want to make your own toy car for a small animal, such as a hamster, stay tuned for a DIY Mini Car article!

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