This is so new.

This is so new for me... Please join the discussion. I would love to hear your thoughts.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

I think about rats like I think about horses

Pet rats don't forgive as easily as horses, I think. If you punish with pain, a rat recoils and distrusts. She will likely look at you with fear in her eyes, not want to be near you, and show signs of overt trauma. Some horses with a certain disposition may react similarly, but many may not "show" they are learning to distrust. They may appear to not resent a whip, but be affected nonetheless.

In learning to relate to horses without the use of pain, might we be able to draw on how we relate to pet rats without pain?

What is the language of rats? Why even talk about a language? There is behavioral modification training, right? Positive or negative reinforcement, the same principles apply to all animals, more or less? Yet, what particular signals humans use for horses - those positive and negative - if they correspond with the same signals horses use with each other, may result in a conversation, in language. And if there is language, which in the case of horses means body language, there is the hope of communication between two different species. This can happen if both draw on the same set of symbols, gestures, or "words."

All that I just said about language, in this case with horses, is from Monty Roberts, He describes the body language of gestures with horses. Horse to horse. And the potential of horse to human, and then, by extension, human to horse. Join-Up is the communication process he describes. The language is the language of Equus.

As far as I know - and, please please write me if you know differently - we don't have the equivalent for rats. Rats utter almost continuous squeaks at an ultrasonic range outside that of human hearing. And they touch each other as well, with forms of controlling movement (pushing, shoving, holding down), forms of grooming and wrestling. And they "feel" with their whiskers, teeth, and hands. In my limited grasp of all this, I believe our human understanding of the meaning of the various squeaks is primitive.,, has the best description in detail that I know of, of all rat biology/sociology, some ethology. It's important reading if you want to discuss these subjects.

With all the advances in our understanding of the language of horses, what is the language of rats?

I'm feeling a bit shy with all this putting up something public, so I'm going to stop and mull it all over. And snuggle with some rats.

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