Naked Mole Rat: Can You Have This Hairless Rodent as Pet?

Naked mole rats are pink, hairless rodents that are native to the Horn of Africa and some parts of Kenya and the Somali regions, where droughts are uncommon and the climate ranges from semi-arid and arid. The deserts in this region are argued to be the hottest places on Earth.

The rodents’ natural habitats can be found where there are plants with large underground roots and tubers, particularly in the grassy parts and semi-arid regions of East Africa, including the countries of Ethiopia and Djibouti.

Also called the sand puppy, the naked mole rat (Heterocephalus glaber) is a burrowing mammal which live in underground colonies, which can spread in an area equivalent to the size of 15 football fields. The appearance of this furless rat could be a stuff of nightmare.

However, sand puppies are intelligent than previously thought and they are characterized by scientist as eusocial animals.

Naked Mole Rat

Naked Mole Rat

(Photo : Photo by Chomez via Wikimedia Commons)

Naked mole rats are unique since they can still survive despite having no external ears and having only tiny eyes, which make them virtually blind. However, their sense of smell is significant and their sensitivity to ground vibrations, according to the Smithsonian’s National Zoo & Conservation Biology Institute.

The natural diet of the furless rodents is high in cellulose and they regularly engage in coprophagy, which pertains to the reingestion of feces. This allows them to maximize their nutrient uptake from their food, according to Smithsonian Institution officials.

In the facilities of the institute, naked mole rats are fed with apples, green beans, carrots, corn, kale, and sweet potatoes, as well as primate biscuits.

Also Read: Pain-Proof Naked Mole Rats May Give Clues to Alleviating Human Pain

Can The Hairless Rodent be a Pet?

Being the longest-living rodents on Earth, naked mole rats can live into their 30s under the right diet and environmental conditions.

Unlike other mammals, these burrowing rodents are unable to maintain a steady body temperature, making them hard to become pets.

Although these wild rats can be kept as pets, experts warn and discourage people to do so. The main factor is that they have very specific diet and habitat.

In addition, naked mole rats are eusocial animals, meaning they prefer to live with other of kins or species.

What are Eusocial Animals?

Eusociality is a social characteristic and is the highest structure of sociality. In the Animal Kingdom, eusocial animals possess the following traits: cooperative brood care, overlapping inter-generational colonies, and division of labor between reproductive and non-reproductive groups.

In a 2010 study published in the journal Nature Education Knowledge, researchers from Arizona State University define eusocial animals as capable of expressing complex behaviors, including decision-making.

As specified by the study, the following below are four characteristics that describe animals possessing eusociality:

  •  Adults live in groups
  •  Cooperative care of juveniles
  •  Reproductive division of labor
  •  Overlap of generations

Among mammals, the naked mole rat is one out of the two species that are considered by scientists to be advances eusocial species, with the Damaraland mole rat (Cryptomys damarensis) being the other eusocial mammal.

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