National Geographic : 1977 Jul
"Best-educated rats in the world," boast the sixth-grade students of Artondale School at Gig Harbor, Washington. Their stunting, problem solving trainees perform in public in a program called "Rats Galore." Guarded by Eric Pedersen, a domesticated Norway rat named Madame Curie creeps along a tightrope, using her tail for balance (above). Like most other rats, Squeaks (above, right) traverses the rope in more pedestrian fashion, paw over paw. Superstar Madame C., possessor of superior coordination and rat acumen, pushes a ball up a ramp (below) and, for the finale, climbs the inside of a stovepipe, pulls down a tethered balloon, and sniffs at her reward, a peanut-butter sandwich in a blue cup (right). Tractable, small, possessing body tissues and feeding habits similar to man's, domesticated rats make ideal animals for research into human diseases. One laboratory study suggests that the human condition may not be limited to humans subjected to stress, some rats turned to alcohol.