Like Humans, Rats Experience Regret, Study Suggests


Just as humans lament not pursuing a lover or bemoan having eaten that extra slice of chocolate cake, rats may experience feelings of regret, too, new research suggests.

This is pretty interesting. I wonder if they also experience guilt which is closely related to regret? If so, would this have any sort of effect on Catholic theology concerning human and animal souls? Only humans have spiritual souls so shouldn’t that mean that only humans can experience guilt?


Really, this changes nothing theologically either way. Guilt as an emotion is animal in it’s nature.


I don’t think anything will change theologically.

Everything we experience internally or externally as human beings, registers in our heads. Other animals have simpler heads, so they will register similar, though simpler experiences.



Just another of Life"s little Mysteries to Discuss over Tea & Cookies :slight_smile:


These areas of research are exciting! The more we study animal behavior, the more we realize that animals are much more intelligent, communicative and social than we thought. Most scientists have acknowledged that animals experience consciousness. This is huge! We are learning that chickens and cows have sophisticated communication methods. Because of this, some scientists are calling for a re-thinking of how we raise and keep animals for food. One recent study showed that fruit flies–fruit flies!–actually cogitate before making decisions. We are on the brink of a whole new frontier. :extrahappy:

Sadly, I doubt if any of these studies will make much difference to the Church when it comes to her current beliefs about animals, animal welfare and animal cruelty, which is so very sad. There are those of us would like to see her change, and we just do the best we can. Prayers will help.


Could you please explain? Not quite sure what you mean…


Well, it’s not surprising to me that we are learning these things about animals. After all, God is so infinitely glorious that one could only expect to find a big share of His glory reflected in His creatures. :slight_smile:

That said, the Church is probably always going to teach that animals are for food and clothing which they are. Also, the Church already teaches that animal cruelty is very wrong.

[quote=Catechism of the Catholic Church]Respect for the integrity of creation

2415 The seventh commandment enjoins respect for the integrity of creation. Animals, like plants and inanimate beings, are by nature destined for the common good of past, present, and future humanity.195 Use of the mineral, vegetable, and animal resources of the universe cannot be divorced from respect for moral imperatives. Man’s dominion over inanimate and other living beings granted by the Creator is not absolute; it is limited by concern for the quality of life of his neighbor, including generations to come; it requires a religious respect for the integrity of creation.196

2416 *Animals *are God’s creatures. He surrounds them with his providential care. By their mere existence they bless him and give him glory.197 Thus men owe them kindness. We should recall the gentleness with which saints like St. Francis of Assisi or St. Philip Neri treated animals.

2417 God entrusted animals to the stewardship of those whom he created in his own image.198 Hence it is legitimate to use animals for food and clothing. They may be domesticated to help man in his work and leisure. Medical and scientific experimentation on animals is a morally acceptable practice if it remains within reasonable limits and contributes to caring for or saving human lives.

2418 It is contrary to human dignity to cause animals to suffer or die needlessly. It is likewise unworthy to spend money on them that should as a priority go to the relief of human misery. One can love animals; one should not direct to them the affection due only to persons.



Our pet rat regrets that she didn’t get more of the leftovers from our son’s dinner last night. :slight_smile:


Lol… Pet rats are cool. I know a guy who used to have a couple of them. They’re really smart and remarkably clean animals. You wouldn’t think they’d be that clean since they are rats but they are always cleaning themselves. I might consider a pet rat but somehow I think Precious would consider it to be lunch. :wink:


The Church’s ethics concerning animals is conflicting. On one hand, she says that animals are meant to further man’s existence on the planet. We are their stewards as is noted in *Genesis *1:28; therefore, buying a mink coat is considered acceptable. On the other hand, we are not to cause animals pain for the sake of causing them pain. Assuming Church ethicists know the down and dirty of mink farms, how does Catholicism reconcile the two ideas? The inconsistency boggles the mind, not to mention the spirit. Medical experimentation is likewise permitted, but most animal experimentation is needlessly cruel at worst, and unnecessary, at best. The Church tells us that “It is contrary to human dignity to cause animals to suffer or die needlessly” and yet we eat meats and dairy items, the production of which often includes torture and cruelty. I know the Church does not consider this to be a priority, but it’s time for her to review the current science, and re-evaluate her position on God’s creation.


There may be a lot more to this, but this seems like one of those “a lot less than meets the eye” situations.

The article says if rats pass up a more desirable food for a less desirable one, they eat the less desirable and then want to return to the more desirable.

Does this surprise anyone who works with animals? Possibly the scientists should have wondered why the rats went to the “less desirable” food in the first place. But leaving that aside, if the rat was still hungry after the least desirable food, why would anyone fail to assume he would go back to the other food, especially if it was more desirable?

Does this truly evidence “regret” in a human sense, or does it simply demonstrate that a rat will seek out food to eat until he’s satiated, and maybe even until he’s so stuffed he can’t eat any more?


Based on the article, it seemed that if the “more desirable” food item required a longer wait time, the animal would seek the “lesser.”

But of course, it still desired the “better” choice. Animals however, will not wait unnecessarily for food.

I agree that this most likely does not mean regret in a human sense.



They might “regret” not getting all the food they want, but they don’t regret killing poor defenseless little gerbils. Or chewing up expensive shoes.


It was research like this that made me give up my career as a research psychologist so I could become more devout as a Catholic.

LOVE! :heart:


Guilt and regret arent simple emotions, but rather complex ones. Guilt and regret are also closely related to knowing right from wrong.

IMO this would change theology a little.


Only in that religion would have to admit that we are not spirits using bodies to move around, but bodies living a spiritual life. Which some have known all the time.

However, the neo-Gnostic crowd would truthfully rebut that we are not rats, and their behavior does not explain ours.

So it would be a wash.

BTW, there is no direct connection between guilt and regret. One can regret something for which no guilt is involved; conversely, one can admit to guilt for an action they do not regret at all.

So even if nonhumans feel regrets, it does not follow that they have guilt or morality.



I love these studies that help us understand the complexities of the creatures around us. To discover higher emotions in animals is to marvel at how much further our own awareness is than other creatures. The fact that God bestowed intelligence on other animals yet chose us for His highest gifts. He must have a special place for animals, even if such a place is unknown to us. They must be dear to Him as well.

We know they cannot reason as we can, nor can they be made aware of God. Did He make us to love Him and animals to be loved by us for Him? All I know is that teaching a child compassion is easy when you have pets for them to love and care for. This must be innate in us since we are made in His image.

We love our little Suzy rat. She is limited in her understanding of the world, but dear to us just the same. She plays with our cats through her cage and has a little ‘playground’ we put together for her. The average lifespan of rats is 2 1/2 years but we will make sure she enjoys her short life with us.


This will get me in a heap of unwanted trouble, but here goes: I believe animals do have some form of soul. I do not think they stand in the same relationship as we do to God. It’s a mystery. I believe they will be granted eternal life as part of all creation when it is glorified at the end of time. They are capable of a wide range of emotions. Sometimes I think people just prefer not to think of the full ramifications of this, so they ridicule it.

When I was a kid, my stepsister had a pet rat called Papason (“papa-son”). He did freak me out (I had and much preferred cats), but eventually I got used to him. He was one smart animal, could undo his cage door. And he was friendly. Another sensitive subject - rats are actually incredibly close to humans genetically. Rodents are in our branch or group of species, whatever you call it. We are much closer to them, say, then to cats or dogs. That piece of information does wonders for my humility! But it doesn’t upset me the way it does some people. I still stand before God in his image. We hold a special place with him of course!


get me in a heap of unwanted trouble, but here goes: I believe animals do have some form of soul.

They do indeed have a soul. Soul is life.

The Latin word for soul is anima, and an animal is literally a being with a soul.

But not a spiritual soul, of the type that generates our minds.

And the philosophical crowd of course insists that only the human soul is eternal. I have no opinion one way or the other.

Our LORD left the issue open, that is good enough for me.



Tough concept to accept. But I CAN imagine it. :wink:

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