Rats help students understand animal behavior

The Year of the Rat: Rats are in the spotlight in Animal Science

There is a lot of mischief going on in the Animal Science classroom this year and it has nothing to do with cunning students. A group of rats is called a mischief, and this mischief is helping students understand animal behavior and teach them animal training techniques. 

“This year I am focusing a lot on animal training, so it is a lot of work with the rats mostly,” Animal Science teacher Michael D’Abruzzo said. “This is the first year that every student in both classes is assigned a personal rat that they do not share with other students. This is also helpful with COVID since they are not all cuddling up to the same animals.”

Mr. D’Abruzzo said students are “learning different principles of behavior modification and then living it by applying it to their rats.”

Since the start of the school year, students have been working on training their rats some simple commands. Among them are teaching the rats to spin in circles or “give paw.” 

“Hopefully by the second half of the year, as they learn more advanced concepts, they will see fancier things like rats fetching objects or putting ping pong balls into baskets,” Mr. D’Abruzzo said.

Each day students must write in training logs, putting emphasis on words related to animal training. 

“Besides that, they get to live all the real-life considerations when applying the principles,” Mr. D’Abruzzo said. “There is so much more to just understand how training is supposed to work. For instance, if the rat is not well cared for and comfortable with the student, it will not have the motivation to learn tricks.”

When not working with their rats, students are taking advantage of some of the renovation work that took place over the summer in their classroom. The room is now fitted with an extra tub for grooming. Some old closets were also removed making room for some additional animals. Mr. D’Abruzzo said he would like to add parrots to the program’s small menagerie along with some fish tanks.