excerpted from caro's journal: topic: rats

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2008_06_08:14: learning, intelligence, wrongness

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rats
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Misu decided that it was time to learn a new trick. I sit on the floor to have breakfast and tea with them. They have a bad habit of pulling on my sleeves and my hands to see if I have anything that I am not giving them. Yesterday, I was pouring a cup of tea with one hand, while absentmindedly turning my other palm up to show Misu that my hand was empty. To my surprise, he hopped into my palm. This was simply too cute, so I gave him a piece of cat food, then put him down to see if I could get him to do it again. We repeated the trick several times. The other rats wandered over one by one to see what I was so excited about. They watched for a bit, then began to participate. Truffle, of course, tried to get away with the least calorie-expenditure possible, for as long as possible--couldn't he just put his front paws on my hand and crane his neck a bit? There were varying levels of hesitation and mistakes. But within 10 minutes, all six rats had learned to jump into my hand on command, even Truffle. We tried it again at breakfast today. Parfait and Strawberry, the two biggest pigs, decided that it was too much trouble, and they went back to bed instead. But the others were happy to do it. I have to think of another trick to teach them now. Perhaps jumping through rings of fire, or mind-reading, or spelling-forgiveness.