The Addicted Rat
The addicted rat, Rattus norvegicus demonicus, is a subspecies of the common brown rat, Rattus norvegicus. The common brown rat had been used in scientific experiments for over a century, and in the course of those experiments, a number of strains have been cultivated for one or more interesting traits. This is also the case of the addicted rat.
The addicted rat has been used mainly in labyrinth-experiments, where solving a puzzle or finding one's way through a maze is recompensed by a treat, often in the form of food. To discover the extent of the cognitive capabilities of rodents, scientists selected the best performers, and made them do more and more complicated tasks for their reward.
At first, it was believed that the strain thus selected would have higher intelligence than the average brown rat. However, subsequent trials have proven that this is not the case. The addicted rat is in no way intellectually superior to the brown rat. It is, however, much more susceptible to addiction, and thus, has a much stronger drive to solve a puzzle or reach the end of a maze. However, whenever there is no reward to be obtained, the addicted rat performs significantly lower on cognitive tests than a common brown rat.
In 1976, panic broke out in a laboratory in Oslo, as Gunnar Gunnerd discovered that the whole population of addicted rats had managed to escape their cages. Scientists feared that the animal would upset the balance of the local ecosystem, and, due their ease with puzzles and mazes, would be very hard to catch.
As it turned out, the whole population was found one hour later in a storage room where the rewards for the lab animals where kept. Given that the door was locked, and that no air duct was connected to the room, it remains a mystery to this day just how the rats gained access to the treats, or even how they managed to open their cages.
After the episode, the animals were transferred to a safe room, and kept under lock 24/7, to ensure they did not escape again. This precaution, as it turned out, was unnecessary, since all the rats died a few days later, as a consequence of the excessive treat-consumption that had happened during their escape.
The addicted rat fell into disgrace after the Oslo incident, and has been avoided in laboratories ever since. However, Dr. Jensjens Gunnerd, son of Gunnar Gunnerd, and part of a team of human ethology at the Oslo Institute of Ethically Dubious Studies (OIEDS), has recently started to breed them again, and hopes to find clues as to how humans interact while observing their behavior. As far as Dr. Gunnerd is concerned, “the only other species known to mankind that would show this kind of self-destructive behavior is, well, mankind itself.”