Rats have long been the go-to test models for use by scientists during experiments. The term “lab rat” is used by people who are not even aware of what types of animals scientists use for experiments. In any case, rats certainly are saddled with what is most likely the most unfortunate job any animal has ever had to fulfill, excepting livestock. However, what makes rats any better than some other intelligent animals that show signs of higher reasoning abilities? As you can guess, scientists prefer animals that are physiologically similar to humans, while at the same time the animal must not be too sensitive to pain. Luckily, for laws concerning the ethical treatment of animals, animals with a high capacity for pain-perception are normally exempt from consideration as test models, but what about raccoons?
Actually raccoons were used by many social scientists during the early twentieth century. However, raccoons were soon dumped in favor of rats. This was not because raccoons seemed more sensitive to the physical and mental pain that sometimes goes with scientific experiments, rather the rats proved far more docile and easier to handle than other, similar animals.
Since raccoons are so talented at quickly adapting to rapidly changing environments the raccoons would sometimes take up shelter within a laboratories ventilation units, after successfully gnawing through their cages that is. I guess there had not been studies conducted at the time that focused on the nature of raccoons themselves.
Eventually, some scientists began to take notice of the common raccoons wily antics, and soon raccoons became the object of study. Researchers learned a quite a few interesting things about raccoons that help explain why they make such terrible “labrats”. One such reason for their complacency stems from their natural curiosity. There is nothing that a raccoon will not explore, including the locks on cages. Raccoons have also been found to hold onto memories, even grudges. In other words, if you are going to make an animal upset with you, don’t make it a raccoon.
Have you ever heard of a raccoon being used as a model for use in a scientific study? If yes, did you feel that the study was humane?