I've heard that rats are one of the few animals, besides humans, that can demonstrate empathy toward other rats. Today I got to witness it firsthand.
One of my girls, Willow, isn't feeling well right now. I took her to the vet a couple of weeks ago and the vet noticed that her poops were a little wet and stinky so she checked them under the microscope and did a cytology smear. The tests came back that Willow had an overgrowth of bacteria in her intestine, so basically an intestinal infection. The vet gave me Bactrim and some Bene-Bac (probiotic) and suggested I treat all four of my girls, since the two I had at the vet (Anya & Willow) both showed the same thing, so it was likely they all had it. I finished the course of antibiotics and everybody has been doing fine except for Willow. Her stools have gotten even looser and look more like little piles rather than pellets and smell really horrible. Also, I have only been feeding them their Oxbow for the past couple of weeks per the vets instructions, so it's not food related.
So I took her back to the vet yesterday and luckily she gave the doc a nice big stress poo to look at and it stunk to high heaven! Turns out, now she's got an overgrowth of clostridium and is on a different antibiotic. I'm not going to treat the other girls this time unless I see a need for it.
Today, I've been really worried about her. She's pretty much slept in a basket most of the day and didn't even want to come out to play at all. I noticed that all three of her sisters kept going and checking on her. They didn't try to get her up. They would just nudge her and lick her head and then leave her alone to nap. When it was time for her evening antibiotics, she refused to lick them off the spoon which is unusual because she likes the taste. I had to force the meds with the syringe. When I put her back in the cage, she went straight back to her basket to sleep.
Later though, she started to perk up a little and went upstairs to where the hammock is where the girls usually all sleep together. I happened to be standing there at the cage when I saw Anya bring Willow a piece of food and lay it at her feet. She nudged it with her nose and then walked away. Willow picked up the piece of food and went into the hammock to eat it. I was truly amazed by what I'd just witnessed! These sisters who frequently steal food out of each other's hands and now here was Anya being completely selfless and bringing her sister some food while she doesn't feel well. It was the sweetest thing I've seen in a long time. And the way all three sisters kept checking on Willow throughout the day to make sure she was ok, was something I've never seen them do before.
These girls truly do love each other, of that, I have no doubt. But to witness them caring for their sister while she's sick just really blew me away. If anyone ever doubted that rats have the capability to understand things far beyond what we've imagined, I'm here to tell you- it's ALL true!