I have kept rats for a long time. I got my first one in high school, and was instantly hooked on keeping them as pets. It’s amazing how smart and affectionate these tiny creatures are.
To demonstrate this- I attempted to classically condition my rats to respond to a clicking noise.
This process started when I noticed all three of my rats responded to the noise of the cage door being opened. This is a common behaviour I have noticed in most of my rats (over ten years, there have been a lot of them).
Whenever the cage door is opened, all three rats come out. This happens because they know when the door opens they will receive treats, and affection from me. Soon enough, if the cage door was opened, even if I was not coming with treats, the rats would still come out expecting food. This started to look a lot like classical conditioning.
Classical conditioning is learning by associating one event with another (Rathus, Veenvliet, Maheu, 2014)- a famous example of this is Pavlov’s dog.
The plan was to get my rats (Kitty, and Kyrie) to associate a clicking noise (either a snap of my fingers, or a pen clicker) with food, and affection.
When rats smell treat -> Rats come
Human uses clicker -> No response
Human uses clicker and immediately presents food -> Rats come
Human uses clicker with no food or affection -> Rats come