Working rat

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This article is about rats working outside the scope of model organism. For genetic, medical, and psychological testing, see Laboratory rat.
A HeroRAT can sniff sputum samples to detect tuberculosis.

A working rat is any rat which is trained for specific tasks as a working animal. In many cases, working rats are domesticated brown rats. However, other species, notably the Gambian pouched rat, have also been trained to assist humans.

Domesticated brown rats as working animals[edit]

Pet rats Rattus norvegicus, such as fancy rats and lab rats, have been trained for various jobs:


In the Netherlands, police have begun using brown rats to sniff out gunshot residue. Ed Kraszewski, spokesman for the task force, has said that the rats are easier and cheaper to train than dogs.[1][2]


Rather large mice and rats performing in a Chinese street circus troupe, as seen by Johan Nieuhof in 1655-57[3]

Rats have been trained to appear in magic acts, music videos, movies, and television shows.[4] Samantha Martin, a professional animal trainer, has claimed that rats are one of the easiest animals to train due to their adaptability, intelligence, and focus.[5]

Laying computer link cable[edit]

By being trained to carry a string through holes in walls, a rat can help economically wire a building for the Internet; afterwards, people use the string to pull the computer link cable through.[6]

As therapy and assistance animals[edit]

Rats are used as therapy animals for children with developmental disabilities. Their small size may be less threatening to some children, and therapy centers with limited space can easily house a few rats.[7]

Rats have been trained as service animals, to identify damaging muscle spasms for people whose ability to sense this has been compromised by their disability.[8]

Gambian pouched rats as working animals[edit]

Main article: APOPO

A Belgian non-government organization, APOPO, trains Gambian pouched rats (Cricetomys gambianus) to sniff out land mines and tuberculosis. The trained pouched rats are called HeroRATS. Hundreds of thousands of people world wide commit to "adopt" rats and pay to support them.


  1. ^ Dutch cops are using brown rats to solve crimes. The Associated Press. Thursday, September 5, 2013. [1] (Retrieved on 2013-10-23)
  2. ^ Ratten helpen politie met sporenonderzoek. Nederlandse Publieke Omroep. 5 september 2013. (Retrieved on 2013-10-23)
  3. ^ Lach, Donald F.; Van Kley, Edwin J. (1994), Asia in the Making of Europe, Chicago: University of Chicago Press, ISBN 978-0-226-46734-4 . Volume III, "A Century of Advance", Book Four, "East Asia". Plate 364. In the caption, Lach and van Kleyn identify the performing animals as mice and rats.
  4. ^ Hare, David. (2003-2-27) The Rat Lady: A day in the life of Cathe Boudreau Alleger Las Vegas City Life. (Retrieved on 2009-3-10)
  5. ^ Wilson, Stacy Lynne (April 20, 2007). "Samantha Martin: Exclusive Interview". Animal Movies Guide. Running Free Press. pp. 365–366. ISBN 0-9675185-3-9. 
  6. ^ Irvine, Martha. (1997-10-11) A Rat's Trail Rattie helps wire computer systems by going where no person can. The Kansas City Star, Page E3.
  7. ^ Panchak, Pam. (2008-6-12) Rats are bringing out best in kids with autism. Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. (Retrieved on 2009-3-8)
  8. ^ Peter Day (2010-8-15) Change in ADA regulations concerns local service-animal owners. Victorville Daily Press. (Retrieved on 2010-8-18)