If you're like every other user of the internet, you probably saw that 'cute' video of a 'rat' 'cleaning' itself the other day. You know, this one:
Well, those words above are in inverted commas for a reason. For a start, once you actually apply some critical thinking to what you're seeing - which, admittedly, very few people actually do when it comes to memes and videos - you'd probably realise that it's more cruel than cute.
It's also the case that the creature in question isn't actually cleaning itself. Nor is it a rat according to some people - who reckon it's actually a pacarana, a South American rodent.
"With the large head size, bipedal position, flexible forelimbs, short stiff tail, and consistent coat color [...] this animal fits the ID of a pacarana," Dallas Krentzel, an evolutionary biologist who studies rodent diversity at the University of Chicago at the Field Museum, told Newsweek.
And as Tuomas Aivelo, a researcher in Urban Rat biology (yes, there's such a thing - who knew?) at the University of Helsinki in Finland, explained to Gizmodo, its actions are probably more a sign of distress than anything to go 'Awwww' about.
"The movements are pretty strange," said Aivelo. "A rat wouldn't do that unless there's something it really wants to get rid of. I think it's soapy all over. That's probably a problem for the rat. It just wants to get rid of the soap."
According to the Gizmodo article, when rodents actually groom themselves as part of regular cleaning, they do so by scrubbing and licking and using their teeth. You know, like an animal, as opposed to washing with soap like a human, as per the viral video.
Which obviously leads to a second question - if the rodent is trying to get rid of something that's acting as an irritant, does that mean it's in pain? The answer, according in Aivelo, is that that is 'totally possible'.
Jason Munshi-South from Fordham University also added the following commentary, just to make it clear that none of this was particularly cute: "Not much to say about this. The whole pizza rat/selfie rat/Zardulu nonsense makes me very skeptical of any of these viral videos.
"My guess is that someone soaped up that rat and it is trying to groom itself, or it has been trained to act this way. Probably someone's pet. Hard to know without more information, though."
All of which goes to show that it probably pays off to actually think about what you're watching on the internet before sharing it. Everyone's guilty of this, but it's actually quite important, because there's enough screwed-up stuff going on already without this kind of thing being added to the pile.
Featured Image Credit: StoryTrender