Searching out rodents across the globe

Thursday, February 15, 2007


The Wide World of Rat Sports

The topic today in my General Psychology was operant conditioning, which reminded me of a wonderful thing I discovered a while back -- rat basketball.

Yes, you can train a rat to play basketball, much like you can train a dog to play basketball (remember Air Bud?). It all has to do with operant conditioning, sometimes known as shaping or conditioning. It's exactly like clicker training in dogs, in that you reward a specific action and build upon that action. A very nice article about clicker training in small mammals can be found here.

The COSI Science Center in Columbus, Ohio features daily rat basketball games. You can watch a miniature clip of the rats playing basketball and get a detailed description of how they were trained here. (There used to be another video about rat basketball floating around the web but all the links I find seem to be broken -- if anyone can direct me to this I would surely appreciate it!)

At Nebraska Wesleyan University, students in the Basic Learning Principles class learn about operant conditioning first hand by training rats to perform stunts in preparation for the Xtreme Rat Challenge (originally known as the Rat Olympics until a trademark dispute) at the end of the semester. The events the rats must participate in are jumping hurdles, climbing a vertical rope, walking a tightrope, lifting weights, and a long jump. At the university website you can view a detailed journal of the process of training the rats. A photographic journal of the 2002 event can be seen here, and photos and video of the 2005 event can be seen here.This site also has videos, although the images seem to be broken.

On a somewhat unrelated note, my scouring of the web for information caused me to stumble upon Rat Olympics, a very cute and entertaining web game.

Pet rat owners are getting into the game as well with a fairly new sport known as rat agility. Rat agility is much like dog agility, only miniaturized and a bit more relaxed. There are a number of wonderful websites out there that include rules and training tips as well as instructions on making obstacles.

The Agile Rat
Tips for Agility Training
Rat Health Care Information: Agility and Obedience
Eva's Rat Agility Page

Sunday, February 04, 2007



Surely you've heard of the ancient poetry form of Haiku? Now witness the not-quite-as-ancient but surely as beautiful Ratku.

Rats will pee on you
But it is all just to show
How much they love you

If they bite your toes
Just remind yourself that
Your toes started it

Try not to wear socks
This will cut down on attacks
Socks are threatening

Oh, and one more thing
The rats would like you to know
They chewed up your blouse

More ratkus can be found here, or you can try your hand at writing one of your own.

Five beats in the first line
Seven beats are in the second
And five in the third.

Rhyme is optional
Rats are required!

So try a ratku and post it here!