Rats giggle when tickled.
Source: Original photo by Raul Baena/ Shutterstock
Next Fact

Rats giggle when tickled.

It is sometimes said that there are two types of tickling: knismesis and gargalesis. The former is the “light, feather-like” kind, which doesn’t induce laughter, while the latter is more high-pressure and does cause laughter. And while you may think of humans as the only creatures susceptible to gargalesis, one of our much smaller counterparts is as well: the humble rat. Rats actually love being tickled, especially on their back and belly, and there’s even a specific term for the frolicking they do in between tickles: freudensprünge, or “joy jumps.” Sadly, rat giggles are too high for us to hear without special microphones that can reproduce the sound in a lower register. (That doesn’t make videos of rats being tickled any less adorable, however.)

You can tickle yourself.
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It's a Fib
Because your brain knows that you’re using your own fingers to do it, it’s impossible to be surprised by a self-tickle. The mind “dials down the sensory response” in such situations, and much of the joy (or displeasure!) of being tickled apparently comes from the lack of control.

All of the great apes (gorillas, chimpanzees, bonobos, and orangutans) let out a “remarkably human-like laugh” when tickled, while animals ranging from dogs to penguins appear to enjoy it as well. That said, many humans do not — some find the sensation deeply uncomfortable, and laugh out of discomfort rather than joy. One study in which participants rated how much they like being tickled on a 10-point scale (from very unpleasant to very pleasant) produced an average of only 5. Perhaps surprisingly, people rated tickling others at only 5.9.

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Numbers Don’t Lie
Estimated number of rats in New York City
2 million
Most recent Year of the Rat in the Chinese zodiac
Continent without rats (Antarctica)
Views of the original Pizza Rat video on YouTube
12 million
Male rats are referred to as _______.
Male rats are referred to as bucks.
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Think Twice
Some scientists believe that gerbils, not rats, caused the bubonic plague.

From being associated with snitches to the misconception that they’re dirty, rats don’t enjoy the best of reputations. And while it’s true that they can serve as vectors of disease, some scientists think that rats weren’t actually responsible for the plague that ravaged Europe during the Middle Ages — gerbils were. The theory suggests that fleas carrying Yersinia pestis, the bacterium that causes the plague, jumped from dead gerbils (RIP) in Central Asia to pack animals and then to humans, who then brought it to Europe. Domestic gerbils found at pet stores today aren’t at risk, luckily, and neither is anyone fortunate enough to bring one home.

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