Once you get a rat, you’ll notice that they can form an affinity to certain things. Perhaps it will be certain games, food or objects. But what about music?
Do rats really like music? Well, studies have shown that rats can learn to love music at a certain age, but without that training, they will ignore it at best. The same study has shown, however, that music can decrease their anxiety and boost their intelligence in certain cases.
Laboratory studies shared some interesting findings about rats and their relationship with music which can be useful to you as a pet rat owner. Learn more about that by reading this article.
Rodents and Music: Development
Rodents are easily frightened by nature, so they prefer peaceful spaces and a quiet environment. However, they can also be taught to love music and enjoy listening to you play your instrument or music player.
Scientists claim that, just like all of us, the brains of rodents develop and evolve through different stages as they grow. Certain periods are better for learning new skills. For example, that’s why children go to school and not grownups — their brains are better prepared and more open for new knowledge.
We also develop our preferences during this time, and that leaves a lasting impression on our personality. The amount of exploration — both in knowledge and likes and dislikes — is limited after this time.
Rodents are pretty similar to us in that respect. So, they can be taught to enjoy music, but they also might develop an affection for a specific type of music. If you get your rat when they are young, they will easily adapt to music, especially if you play it often.
Anecdotal evidence from rat owners shows that they even enjoy the types of music you wouldn’t expect them to — like dubstep or electronic. Some rats have a preference for jazz, for instance.
The Harvard University Study
Harvard University used music to research the developmental periods that rodents go through.
First, they tested adult mice in a setting with two nests where one of those nests had a speaker playing classical music. The adult mice chose the nest where there was no music, which is expected behavior in skittish mice.
However, younger mice, specifically 15-day old ones, were placed in an enclosure where classical music was playing all the time for ten days, and then he let them reach adulthood without the music. When they were two-months-old, he did the same test from the previous example, with two nests, one of which was playing music — the same music they listened to in their younger age.
The results were quite different this time. Mice that were exposed to music in their youth were nesting closer to music at a much higher rate.
Now, you might feel that if the same thing has been done with adult mice — 10 days of continuous music — that things would be different. Well, they tested that as well. They placed a group of adult mice in a chamber with music for 10 days. After that, they chose silent corners again.
At the same time, mice that were too young — less than 10 days old — were also prone to choosing silence over the music. So, there’s a small window in every rodent’s life where they can learn to love music.
The final report confirmed this and stated that at the very least, your rodent could learn not to hate music if exposed to it in their youth.
Can Adult Rats Learn To Love Music?
This same report also stated that there are ways to recreate that critical window in adult rodents as there are molecular elements that prevent the same sort of ability. The neurons don’t make connections anymore.
He tested two groups of mice — one had a genetic mutation, which meant that they could still learn, and the other was injected with a chemical he created. These mice, with their still young brains, helped him understand the learning in mice much better. This part of the study has shown that the mice preferred the music that they exposed to the most.
However, they can’t learn to love sounds. They only liked music, not separate tones. The researchers stated that this likely means that there’s something that attracted the mice to the music.
In most cases, mice don’t listen to music while they grow, but they do learn sounds resembling a song from other mice — that’s how they communicate with each other. The same research has also shown that mice who liked music were less anxious — this was clear in the way they were freely running around, not just hiding in one corner.
So, you can teach your rat to love music — or tolerate it — by playing it often during their youth. They will like whichever type of music you like. But the music will help them too. Your rat will be less anxious and frightened, especially while the music is playing.
The “Mozart Effect”
If you’re looking for more reasons to play some music to your rat or rats, there’s another, an ongoing study which shows that rats can experience a phenomenon often called the “Mozart Effect.”
Listening to Mozart’s sonatas makes them, in a way, smarter. Because of the music, even a few days after they’ve heard it, they can go through a maze much quicker and with higher accuracy.
The scientists behind the program are fascinated by this phenomenon, and they are exploring it further. They believe that music affects certain neuron connections and that this makes them smarter. So, if you play some Mozart to your pet rat, they may become smarter — and even more fun to play with.
Will They Be Scared Of Music?
Due to an increasing number of devices that play sounds at a frequency that only rodents can hear, you might be wondering if the music you like will harm your mice. Most importantly, they will be frightened because of it.
However, you shouldn’t worry. Rodents are afraid only of sounds at a high ultrasonic range, and your phone, device, or instrument won’t be able to recreate that frequency — at least not in the way that will scare them.
Keep in mind that music will startle your rat the first time you expose them to it, but they will end up liking it or at least tolerating it. Rats are mostly afraid of quiet sounds that seem predatory—for instance, the movements of a cat or a bird.
How To Teach Your Pet Rat To Love Music?
Teaching your pet rat to love music is not a difficult job. For one, you should get a pet rat while they are still young. This will make it a lot easier for you to teach them not just music, but a lot of different things.
Naturally, getting a young rat isn’t always an option, especially if you have a rescue rat.
If this is the case, accept the fact that it will take you a bit longer to get your pet rat to love the music you play. But, no matter how old your rat is, the process is simple. For one, just play the music on your instrument or your device. Start with more relaxing sounds and build from there.
Mix different music, from pop to hard rock, depending on what you like. Don’t make a big fuss of it, and don’t force your new rodent friend. They will come around in their own time. Just play some music and enjoy that precious time.
- Hindawi: Regular Music Exposure in Juvenile Rats Facilitates Conditioned Fear Extinction and Reduces Anxiety after Foot Shock in Adulthood
- NCBI: Music Affects Rodents: A Systematic Review of Experimental Research
- University of California Press: Do Rats Show a Mozart Effect?
- Harvard University: Shaping Music Preference in Mice
- Wikipedia: Mozart Effect