The latest viral sensation is a double-misnomer: “Shower Rat” is not taking a shower, and it’s not a rat.
The video, which comes from Peru, features some sort of rodent covered in suds, rubbing its body like one would to lather soap in the shower. As much as it is interesting to watch a “rat” act like a human, that’s not what’s happening.
First, rodents don’t need to use soap. In fact, rat enthusiasts are concerned for the welfare of the animal: rats clean themselves by licking, so pouring soap on a rat isn’t good for them. The animal doesn’t appear to be being rinsed off, either, just soaped-up, as Gizmodo points out.
Furthermore, the animal is definitely not a rat. It’s a pacarana, a different type of brown rodent from South America.
“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.
“There is just no other rodent that would fit all of those features, and the fact that this video was taken in Peru where pacaranas are known just seals the deal.”
“Both pacas and pacaranas are some of my favorite species for how weird they are, so I took notice of this post today,” Krentzel said. As he explains, pacarana are arboreal, meaning their habitats are in trees. Pacaranas are also fairly comfortable standing on their hind legs, and many online videos of pacaranas show the rodents in upright stances.
That stance made it a star in the “shower rat” video. “It makes sense that this animal could wash itself like a human because it needs that forelimb mobility for foraging and food processing,” said Krentzel.
The animal in the video, standing next to a drain, is larger than a rat and has a very large face. Also unlike rats, it doesn’t have a long, snake-like tail.
In short, this is a young pacarana that someone covered with soap, which it’s trying to get rid of in the video. It’s interesting to look at as it sits on its hind legs, but Krentzel notes that this kind of washing isn’t natural for it. Rather, it’s unsafe and potentially inhumane.