Do rodents like rats and mice feel pain?
A recent study published in Applied Animal Behavior Science found some interesting fact out about rodents and their capacity for feeling pain. Rats and mice that are tickled or playfully handled are better able to endure medical procedures. Animals that we handled roughly or without compassion fought against the procedure, and experienced more anxiety. Rats and mice, like all creatures, have the ability to feel pain and pleasure. Researchers have concluded that a rodent in pain expresses its discomfort with narrowed eyes; ears flattened back, a swollen nose and puffed out cheeks. At first scientists questioned whether these rodents’ expressions meant anything to the other rodents. Some scientists believed that they were simple physiological reactions that had no deeper meaning. With further testing, they found that the rats and mice are responding on a deeper level of empathy. This is reasonable conclusions that since people are able to read the visual cues it is only logical that other rats could do so as well.
Science has proven that rodents like rats and mice can communicate with each other through high-frequency sounds. These pitches are usually inaudible to the human ear. Rats and mice form bonds with their mates and families, seem to become emotionally attached and have the ability to bond with human keepers. Not only do rodents tend to express empathy, they can be protective of those they care for. Studies have also shown that when in pain, Rats and mice tend to make facial expressions very similar to their human counterparts. These faces are measured in a precise formula called rodent “grimace scales,” Researchers use this information to help them determine an animal’s pain level by simply by looking at its face. Researchers have also found that other rodents will respond in sympathy to a fellow rat or mouse if it has a pained expression on its face. Some rodents flee an area if another seems to be suffering, others exhibit like symptoms suffered by their compatriot. The act of mimicking pain symptoms is a psychological phenomenon called “emotional contagion”.
Now that we know that rats’ and mice face and body language can tell, another one how they feel could make us questions how we use rodents in labs and medical research. The more we learn about the feelings of animals like rodents, the more we question our research and experiments.
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