Why are some rats not afraid of cats?

Discussion in 'Health & General Care' started by SQ, May 20, 2019.

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  1. May 20, 2019 #1

    SQ

    SQ

    SQ

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    Rats are prey animals and normally become frightened or terrified when they smell a predator such as a cat

    Please see the article: https://www.scientificamerican.com/...infected-rats-love-their-11-08-17/?redirect=1

    Is this brain parasite ok and harmless in rats???

    I have no idea but …. it causes cysts in the brain, is a "long term infection" and long term infections can cause various health issues such as neurodegenerative diseases and brain inflammation
    see https://nutritionfacts.org/video/toxoplasmosis-a-manipulative-foodborne-brain-parasite/

    and https://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0023277

    I guess the good news for rat owners (and other humans) is that an infected rat needs to be eaten in order to spread the parasite dormant in their brains - which is why infected rats and mice like predators such as cats
     
    Last edited: May 20, 2019
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  2. May 20, 2019 #2

    The_Hoard

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    My cats are terrified of my baby nuggets. They showed some insane intrest in meeting them so i put my cats on a leash and, while holding him in my lap, let my ratties come up to me to say hi to the giant rat on his own. The second my rat, Rous, touched my knee, my cat Pippin booked it for the door XD needless to say, I am not worried for my ratties safety around my cats!
     
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  3. Nov 23, 2019 #3

    PiddlePod

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    Our kitty Opie and our lovely old lady Lilly (she passed away at 23.5 years old in 2017 :() are terrified of our ratties! I'm certain it's because Pod (our agouti hoodie, he passed away at 3.5 years old :() was such an outgoing and fearless rat and was our designated cat antagonist lol. Pod was our rescue buddy and catalyst for rescuing more rats (poor buddy was a lone rat for a year before we adopted him) so that he wouldn't be alone.

    On the second day at our home he climbed up onto my husbands shoulder and launched himself into the air trying to get to the couch half way across the room where Opie the cat was snuggled down for a nap...my hubs and I did a :eek: and before we could rush over to scoop Pod up, that little stinker landed literally right next to Opie, shook himself off and then trotted up to Opie's sleeping head and gave his ear a nip! (Thankfully it was just a pinch and didn't break the skin) :eek::( When Pod let go of Opie's ear, he just turns around and starts grooming himself like it was no big deal.

    Meanwhile we're freaking out and poor Opie turns his head to look at Pod cleaning his booty, then turns his head to us as if to say "what the hell is that thing?!" and makes this sad, confused "mmrrrph!". So, Opie hops to his feet and dashes away into another room while I swooped in and picked up Pod! Pod was fine of course and seemed very proud of himself, and Opie was fine, no injuries just traumatized.:) ;)

    Im pretty sure Opie snitched on Pod to Lilly because ever since then, both kitties went out of their way to avoid Pod and the other ratties once they moved in. :p Lilly has been gone for a while but Opie still avoids our last two ratties. If Opie sees Beans or Pi out on our laps, he will chirp a "brrrrpt..." and dash away in the opposite direction hehe.:rolleyes:

    It's comical to see how afraid most cats are of ratties. I'd be afraid too though if I were a cat-- I'd imagine that rats look big and scary to a cat, count in their lightning reflexes and sharp little nails and teeth...;)

    It's very interesting to read that article about the toxoplasma parasite... makes me wonder if Pod had bugs in his noggin because that little guy wasn't afraid of anything!
     
    Last edited: Nov 23, 2019
  4. Nov 23, 2019 #4

    Kye

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    Well all of my rats have it then. They go to the cats AND dogs. I'm not convinced that this is completely true or ALL the rats I've seen have it. I think it's simply the fact that our rats feel safe with us so they aren't afraid of potential preds. Now I'm not saying that there isn't such thing as it but I don't believe that the tons of rats I've seen have it..
     
  5. Nov 24, 2019 #5

    PiddlePod

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    I'd say that it is very possible that Pod had bugs in his noggin. I'm basing this on what we knew about his history before we found his cute little face poking out of a hammock at the shelter.:) Podrick came from a pretty terrible home situation. His previous family dropped him off at the shelter along with their 2 dogs and 3 cats. The poor little guy arrived there in a small, filthy cage full of poops that we were told likely wasn't cleaned for months:(. The dogs were fine but they told us that the cats were "outdoor cats" (IMO cats should never be left to roam outside) and had to be treated for ear mites, fleas and one even had a tapeworm. :eek:o_O

    When we first met lonely Pod at the shelter, the volunteers told us everything they knew about him and even mentioned that his previous family eventually returned to the shelter 2 weeks later to take the 2 dogs and 3 cats back home, but they left little Pod behind. :( So very sad BUT awesome for Pod and for us since we ended up going back to the shelter the very next day to adopt our little guy. He was a whole $5, though he was worth a million dollars. :D

    I've known about toxoplasma gondii for some time mostly because the parasite is so fascinating! It is incredible how it targets the neurons in the brain that implicate fear and attraction. It is so specific in its action that T. gondii remarkably has no effect on learned fear, behavioral anxiety, olfaction (smell), nor nonaversive learning. Scientist's also believe that T. gondii can adversely affect the human brain and it is believed that the infection can make people more impulsive, can lead them to engage in risky and dangerous behavior and may even expose the brain to developing mental illness such as schizophrenia. Scary stuff but also really cool!:)

    I wouldn't be surprised if the 3 cats that lived with Pod for the first year of his life had T. gondii. Pod had some weirdo behavior like being obsessed with our kitty's and our kitty's litter boxes. If Pod managed to slip away for a moment the first thing he would do is bound toward the litter box. There were a couple of times when Pod was just too quick and actually managed to climb into one before I had time to snatch his little cat-turd obsessed booty out of the litter box! So I'm assuming that his previous family didn't have a problem with him rolling around in their litter boxes at home :eek:o_O...and with 3 outdoor cats, Pod could have easily picked up T. gondii at some point. Podrick was the most fearless rat that I have ever met. Nibbles, Peepers, Beans and Pi all had/have a very healthy fear of cats, unlike Podrick the Fearless lol. To this day Beans and Pi are anxious with Opie prowling around, even after living with Opie for two and a half years. :) IMO it is very possible that there are pet rats with active or inactive T. gondii infections. Even after the parasite is eliminated from the body the neurological symptoms still persist.
     
  6. Nov 24, 2019 #6

    church

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    my first experience seeing pet rats was watching two little rats and a kitten play together in my friends living room. never in my life had i imagined such a thing could be....
     
  7. Nov 26, 2019 #7

    DanielZielwolf

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    I don't see how domestic rats that spend their time indoors can be exposed to toxoplasmosis unless they are somehow exposed to cat poo. (Maybe possible if you clean your cat's litter box then pick up your rats without washing your hands first.) I would have assumed they need to be in the wild to become part of the toxoplasmosis cycle.

    Of the ten rats I've had none have been scared of my cat, except for two who were juniors when I got them who were initially wary but then just got used to him and eventually became quite good buddies. Usually my cat is the one more suspicious of the rats. The other rats I've had have all been mature rescues and most of them notice my cat with curiosity and try to check him out at which point my cat usually gets nervous and runs away. A couple have just not been interested. None have been scared though. I think this is because domestic rats have had most of their fear bred out of them. Besides that I have heard a grown rat can do considerable damage to a cat if it comes to that. Cats jaws are not strong which is why they play with their prey apparently to tire them out so they can't injure the cat when it comes to the kill. I can't imagine a cat "playing" with a wild grown rat for an hour and getting away with it without severe injury though that's just my assumption. However my cats have brought wild mice back home but never a wild rat. We assume rats are prey for cats but I doubt this, except for babies. And those infected with toxoplasmosis! Uninfected wild rats are too vicious and large. Cats much prefer mice.
     
    Last edited: Nov 26, 2019
  8. Nov 26, 2019 #8

    ViciousCurse

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    You'd be amazed how complex parasites can be to find the perfect host and how many hosts they'll go through. A perfect example would be a nematode (can't remember the name) here in Minnesota that was discovered from finding frogs with extra limbs.

    This specific nematode traveled from snail to frog and then to heron. The heron was the organism in which they reproduced in. If I remember correctly, the theory is that frogs with extra limbs were thus eaten by the heron more due to their physical ailments, which then got the nematode into its desired host.

    At least if my Ecology class is right, parasites often don't want to directly kill these hosts since species such as the rats and frogs are just stepping stones to the cats or the heron.

    However, I don't think every rat that is not scared by cats is infected. You may just have a rat that is insanely brave without this parasite.
     
  9. Nov 27, 2019 #9

    Kye

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    We have wild rats in our wood pile and our cat (now indoors) would hunt them all the time.! He's not a very large cat either I think it's the claws that does the most damage and he never came back with any wounds. Off that topic though the wild rats are wary of the cats that roam around.. So my wild rats might just not be affected- I'm not sure though.!
     

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