Larry Young from Emory University, who studies prairie voles, has seen this behavior again and again. To him, it’s a sign that the rodents are showing empathy.
Such claims have proven controversial in the past. For example, in 2012, scientists at the University of Chicago showed that rats will free trapped cage-mates, even if they have to sacrifice a bit of chocolate to do so. The researchers billed these rescues as evidence of empathy—that “rats free their cagemate in order to end distress.”