“Rats survived so well because they were rats. They knew when to keep quiet and they knew when to squeal.” —Danielle Bennett
Society loathes the rat! Like its close counterpart for being loathed—or feared– is the wolf who, even in fairy tales is always pictured as “the bad guy,” and so, also, is the rat always the creature to be loathed, hated and shunned. It is considered the harbinger of disease. In addition, in modern times, as well as in ancient times, the rat was viewed as a pest that destroyed stored grain.
Rats were even blamed as the main culprits for spreading the Black Plague that decimated Europe during the 13th century. The nursery rhyme, “Ring Around the Rosie,” although today it’s sung by children playfully dancing in a circle, singing “Ring around the Rosie, A pocket full of Posies, Ashes Ashes, we all fall down,” it has its morbid origin in the Black Plague period. The “rosie” referred to the black, pussy sores that would appear on the infected bodies. “Posies” is reference to people who would carry posies (flowers) around to help them cope with the smell of dead bodies everywhere.” “Ashes signified the piles of ashes from the bodies being burned on pyres.
Although rats have been intertwined in our history, they were especially not welcome guests during the Black Plague period, and probably even today, our loathing for these little critters has its roots in the part they played in he assumed spreading of diseases and destroying our stored grains of our ancestors. However, after all this has been said, the rat is considered one of the ten smartest animals in the animal kingdom! Maybe that’s one reason why it managed to survive in close proximity with man for all these millennia.
“I wouldn’t mind the Rat Race-if the rats would lose once in a while.” —Tom Wilson
But, in all fairness, before we talk more about the rat’s intelligence, we have to first acknowledge the rat’s redeeming qualities for being our historic “bad guy,” and examine the service it plays as an important positive subject, namely, in our lab experiments. The rat is the fall guy in all the laboratory’s “oopses on their road to success, that otherwise, we’d have to suffer ourselves. It is estimated (drum roll, please, for our little heroes) that over 10 million rats and mice are “experimented on” each year to help bring us better health!
Furthermore, in all fairness, it should be noted that rats are not the disease-spreaders that they have been accused of being. Even during the Bubonic plague period, humans, themselves, were the greatest spreaders of the disease, not rats. Rats keep themselves very clean and, similar to cats, spend a lot of time in grooming themselves. It is usually the fleas on rats, not the rats, themselves, that spread disease.
Rats are social animals and communicate with each other using high frequency sounds that are above our hearing capacity. In fact, both rats and mice have been recorded as “singing,” like birds at ultrasonic frequencies! According to a PETA article, “They play together, wrestle, and love sleeping curled up together, much like us, and if they do not have companionship, they can become lonely, anxious, depressed and stressed.”
Rats can show empathy. In one study, “rats experiment, [rats] chose to help another rat who was being forced to tread water.”
PETA also states that, “if not forced to live in a dirty cage, a rat’s skin has a very pleasant perfume-like scent. After engaging in sex, male rats sing at frequencies beyond the range of human hearing, around 20 to 22 kHz.”
A rat’s lifespan is from two to three years, and they make excellent alternative pets, especially in apartments that don’t allow tenants to have cats or dogs. They do require specialized care and need time outside of their cage to be exercised and “loved.” Just like a cat or a dog, rats appreciate being loved, and are very capable of showing affection in return.
“I will not join the rat race because I’m not a rat. And I will not blindly follow a specific faith because I’m not a bat. The only race I’ll take part in is for humans being humane. It’s called the human race, and sadly it’s got the least participants.” —Suzy Kassem