Neil Gaiman says:

Neil Gaiman says:
pic by Allan Amato

Thursday, February 07, 2008

Rattus Adorabilus


Happy Chinese New Year!
Happy YEAR OF THE RAT.
Yes, I have to say that I am in my element (elephant?) For too long, I have had to endure the revulsion and petty put-downs of the anti-rat majority that surrounds me. Now I can spin around and say "It's the bluidy Year of the Bluidy Rat! Innit! So what're YOU goin' ta do aboot it? Yeh bluidy piece o' ... (rage rage in fake Scots accent)"*

Anyway, I've been a proponent of rat rights since I got turned onto them by a combination of a gfriend who LOVED rats, songs about rats (and mice JT's "One Brown Mouse") and Bryan Talbot's lovely, hardcore comic "The Tale of One Bad Rat" from Dark Horse Comics.

The differences between a wild animal, no matter what its ilk and its domestic brethren basically underline the differences that folk feel about rats. On the one hand you have the cutest, cuddliest most loving of animals, tucked into your sleeve or pocket, nipping chips right out of your fingers and chewing contentedly, delighted at their cleverness. On the other hand (the wild hand) you have a clever, resourceful, slippery rodent intent on the survival of itself and its progeny.

What's the diff between how a wild animal works at survival, and thus lives on the fringes of our world, and say the domestic creature that curls happily at our feet, eager for a bit of attention and a scratch behind the ears? Compare wild dogs with domestic ones; wild cats with their slacker cousins. Yes, wild rats with those that have been tamed.

(For comparison, I present WILD, DOMESTIC & BABY DOMESTIC animals of the canine, feline and rodent variety.)

Rats are smart, can learn their name (unlike many "pocket pets" of the hamster/ gerbil/ variety), learn tricks, are quite clean (groom themselves all the time), enjoy the company of people, especially if there aren't any friendly rats to hang out with and are affordable, easy to take care of and utterly satisfying as a pet. They can even be litter trained! (Traditionally, one puts out small pans of litter for them, but there's a video on Youtube of a pouched rat using a toilet!)
They have a horrible reputation because of the continued resourcefulness, and fight to survive that their wild ancestors and cousins possess. Rats, because of their intelligence and tenacity are very difficult to outwit, capture, poison and kill. They live alongside us because it is convenient for their survival to do so. Where else can you get food, warmth, cover and (relative) safety in which to raise your babies? If our fates were reversed and humankind lived in the walls, I'm sure we'd be much the same pest to our giant Rat Overlords. (Check out "Of Men and Monsters" by William Tenn for a feel of walking a mile in teeny tiny rat shoes...)

Anyway, I'm not going to change the opinion of the die-hard rat-hater, or genuine rodent-o-phobe. Especially if you're from a country where you're in direct competition with these guys for survival and they're wrecking your grain and giving you a hard time.

If, on the other hand, you hate rats "just cause" or "because of the tail", perhaps you can be swayed. Do some research; cruise the web. Check out how Gambian pouched rats are saving peoples' lives by helping with mine detection in war-torn countries (Excellent video about them being used in Mozambique.) Read "The tale of one bad rat". Read Robert Sullivan's "Rats". Open your mind to the possibility that a pet doesn't necessarily have to star as one of the good guys in cartoons to be a suitable pet for a child. I would bet money that more kids get savaged by gerbils than by pet rats. Seriously!
Check out the various ratteries near you and other pro-rat sites to read stories and see pictures of domestic rats. There is nothing cuter than a 4 week old rattie baby. They look like Hamtaros. Really. Baby rats look just like puppies. Except you don't have to walk them when they get bigger (unless you consider letting them explore your couch, walking :-)

At this point, you probably think I have exhausted my ratness. However, I have barely tickled the surface of this subject. (Most people probably left the building during my rant in brogue.) The next bit of the Blog deals with the interesting mythology of rats, with regard to the Chinese Year of the Rat and their position in the first house of the Astrological wheel.


..."Fable has it that all the animals were asked to report to the Emperor on Chinese New Year day. Only the first twelve to reach the palace were to be rewarded with a year named after them. Since then, each year has been represented by an animal with its own distinctive characteristic and fate...people born in each animal's year would have some of that animal's personality. Those born in rat years tend to be leaders, pioneers, and conquerors. They are charming, passionate, charismatic, practical and hardworking"...



Zodiac Location: 1st
Ruling hours : 11pm-1am
Direction: North
Season and month: Winter, December
Chinese Lunar Month For The Rat: December 7 to January 5
Gemstone: Garnet
Colours: Black, red, white
Lucky Number: 11
Polarity: Yang
Element: Water


Positive Traits: Meticulous, intelligent, shrewd, compassionate, charismatic, charming, ambitious, practical, industrious, honest, eloquent, versatile, familial, creative, hard-working, neat, organized, lovers of music, loving.
Negative Traits: Controlling, obstinate, resentful, little humour, manipulative, cruel, vengeful, power-driven, critical, possessive, stingy, bossy, fickle, defensive

Compatible with: Dragon, Monkey, Ox
So-So: Snake, Rat, Dog, Tiger
Incompatible: Rabbit, Rooster, Horse, Pig, Sheep

Year of the Rat Zodiac & Astrology for 2008.
Check out Wiki for more on fancy rats, as well as cute rat pictures. There's also a page on Gambian rats there too!
Fascinating page on rat biology & behavior, written and compiled by Dr. Anne Hanson.
Delightful video of rats fishing ice cubes from a glass, courtesy of Carole Nelson at Lil Ratscals Rattery.
American Fancy Rat & Mouse Association link.
Thanks Mary for letting me know about Google's cute Rat icon! :-)

* I blame the outrageous accent on reading a pile of Lee Kennedy's fantastic comics online this morning. Then reading more from The Girly Comic...
these things happen...

7 comments:

Carol said...

Suzanne, that is such a great post. Loved reading it :)

Patti said...

Love pet rats! I've had three of them and it's astonishing how cute and sweet they are. Chuck, Rizzo and Larry...I miss you!

Suzanne Marsden said...

Thanks for the kind words Carol! It was a joy writing about one of my favourite subjects. :-D

Suzanne Marsden said...

Thanks for the thumbs up for rattie kind, Patti! It's so sad that they have such short lives. I will miss all of my special sweeties very much, especially Meissa, my Dumbo Rex *sniff*.

Patti said...

I had Dumbo Rexes too!! They also had Siamese blue point markings. Very pretty. Chuck was such a clown. Larry was an old fart. I should've named him after the old fart on Laugh-In who used to get walloped by Ruth Buzzie's purse all the time. I got them from Carol, the rat lady in Orleans. Did you get yours there too?

Suzanne Marsden said...

Sound like lovely ratties Patti. Yes, I got Meissa from Carol as well as another rex named Jewel. Such wonderful, loving rats.

Mick said...

hey there how ya goin'? Great pictures and a tod load of gunf to go with it.

All the best to ya- Mick