It’s very easy to look at an animal mimicking a human-like behavior and think “Wow! That animal is doing a human thing! It looks so cute and happy” (because humans are so cute and happy, right?) That is almost never the case. If an animal looks weird, it probably is weird—and not in a good way.
Take this new “shower rat” video that everyone is sharing. There is a rat (actually, more likely a pacarana, the South American rodent), covered in what looks like soap, standing in a tub. It scrubs at its armpits and rubs its face. It looks just like it’s taking a human-style shower.
Why does the
rat pacarana look so weird while it is “cleaning itself?” Probably because it’s not cleaning itself, at least, not in the purposely soaped itself up like a human kind of way.
“The movements are pretty strange,” Tuomas Aivelo, researcher in Urban Rat biology at the University of Helsinki in Finland told Gizmodo. “A rat wouldn’t do that unless there’s something it really wants to get rid of. I think it’s soapy all over. That’s probably a problem for the rat. It just wants to get rid of the soap.”
Maybe whatever it’s scrubbing at is uncomfortable, or even an irritant. “It’s totally possible,” said Aivelo, when I asked if the rat was in pain.
rats rodents groom themselves as part of regular cleaning, they scrub and lick and use their teeth. But it does not look anything like what you’re seeing here. Take a look:
I have reached out to the video’s creator and will update the post if I hear back. Sorry to ruin the fun. But no, what most likely happened is that someone squeezed soap onto a
rat’s pacarana’s body. Rats Pacaranas do not normally use soap. The rat pacarana did not like it, and is trying to get the soap off.
Update 10:00AM ET: We updated the headline to make it clearer what’s really going on. Additionally, Fordham University’s Jason Munshi-South had this to add: “Not much to say about this. The whole pizza rat / selfie rat / Zardulu nonsense makes me very skeptical of any of these viral videos. My guess is that someone soaped up that rat and it is trying to groom itself, or it has been trained to act this way. Probably someone’s pet. Hard to know without more information, though.”
Update 1/30/18 8:30AM ET: Several zoologists (and Newsweek’s Kristin Hugo) have noted that the animal’s size, limbs and short tail imply that it’s actually a pacarana, a large South American rodent that is not a rat. The point still stands that it is probably very uncomfortable, rat or no. Or perhaps it’s totally fine and my rat experts were wrong. We’ve updated the post throughout.