Oh Rats!

Andrea Freedman

In a recent blog post entitled Un-stung Hero I expressed my disdain for bees. Since then a disturbing incident occurred that compels me to talk about another pesky creature, the dreaded rat.

The other day, just as I was entering the bank, I had a strange feeling that I could not quite put my finger on. I noticed a man walking out of the building and an instinct made me walk around to the opposite door in order to avoid him.

After I had made my way into the bank, a lady in line just ahead of me turned around and informed me “That man who just came out of here had a rat on his shoulder!” She was so shaken up by the sight of it she felt the need to unburden herself to a stranger. I was secretly thankful that it not been me who had seen it.

On another occasion not too long ago at the grocery store, when I got to the cashier she was visibly upset. “The customer a few people before you had a rat on his shoulder!” she said. I was horrified yet once again grateful at the same time that I had not been standing directly in the line of fire.

It reminded me of a time when I was a teenager and a guy who went to my school walked around on weekends and evenings with – you guessed it – a rat on his shoulder. I recall one night when he was a customer in the store where I worked part-time and he brought the rat into the store with him. Even to this day I remember it vividly. I was screaming, breaking out into a sweat and cowering behind the counter.

For those of you living in Toronto and working downtown, you may recall a man who used to stand on the corner on Queen Street near City Hall with several rats at a time on his shoulders; somehow this was supposed to be a tourist attraction. Personally, when I first saw the man and his rats it scared me so much I almost ran into moving traffic just so I would not have to walk directly past them.

I do not understand this fascination with rats or why anyone would want to walk around with something so disgusting on one’s shoulder. Many years ago I knew someone who had rats as pets and when I expressed my fear of them he had the audacity to defend them as being ‘beautiful animals’.

Unfortunately, in some restaurants and grocery stores, unwanted rats – and I cannot imagine an instance where rats would not be unwanted – sometimes come along with the territory.

It is bad enough when pest control has to be called in to take control of a rodent problem, but to willingly invite rats into one’s home, especially if that home is, in a sense, shared among several other people, or to bring them out in full view is, in my opinion, unfair and unkind.

I do not think rats or any rodents for that matter should be allowed in stores or public places or where others are forced to share elevators and other common areas. If ‘owners’ of rats argue that restaurants, convenience stores etc. already have rats, that is just more proof of how dirty and unwanted rodents are. Some might argue that rats are clean; then why, I ask, are they so often found rustling through garbage and said to carry disease?

Some say rats are more scared of us than we are of them; somehow I doubt that; except for perhaps one incident. There was a lovely courtyard outside an office I used to work at where I enjoyed many breaks on nice days. It was like a little retreat away from work.

That was, until one day when I saw a huge rat walking around the bottom edge of the fountain in the centre of the courtyard. I screamed so loudly that – and I am not exaggerating – as I turned around to run away, I saw the rat actually jump in mid air.

I realize that there are some people who are not fond of dogs or cats, the more common, traditional house pets. While I do not relish the thought of being slobbered on by a large dog, I would take that any day over being forced to come face to face with a pointy-faced monster, its slimy tail dangling threateningly nearby.

Rat poison was invented for a reason. If you are considering adopting a rodent as a pet and especially if other people will be affected by it, perhaps you should reconsider and leave the rats in their cages or, preferably, in the sewers where they belong!♠

Copyright © by Andrea Freedman 2013

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About andfreed

I am a Toronto based writer of articles, columns, essays and novels.

Posted on October 1, 2013, in Weekly Thoughts and Observations and tagged . Bookmark the permalink. 3 Comments.

  1. This is absolutely heartless. I own rats and while I completely respect that some people are scared of rats, this still gives you no right to write such a harassing post. Rats are clean; if mine are touched by a stranger, they clean themselves exactly like a cat would. They are smarter than dogs. This is a fact, not an opinion- and I can easily vouch for that since my rats know tricks such as stand up, spin, shake, fetch, and place several objects in several different boxes. Yes, I do take my rats out. Not in grocery stores but they do come with me to pet stores, the park, as several other areas. Rats are very clean and do not have as many diseases as several people think. Wild rats, like any wild animal, is liable to have diseases. The black/bubonic plague was not rats’ fault, but the doing of a tick that not only traveled on rats, but dogs and cats too! I completely understand that you have a fear of rats. Some people are just not animal people. But to be so heartless as to judge an animal just based off of the media and not at all by any personal experience simply crushes me. They don’t belong in sewers and it really breaks my heart to hear that. Rats are capable of bonding with a person just as easily as a dog could, and if you would take one moment to simply try and understand that they aren’t nasty and this is just a common misconception spread by media, then maybe you could stop being so heartless and open up a little bit. There is no audacity to defend rats as beautiful animals. They are, and in my mind this fact simply will and can not be changed on the subject. Sure, wild rats are often found in trash cans. But when you are a wild animal, you sort of have to do what you have to do to survive. And even I, a rat owner for 20+ years, cringe a tiny but when I encounter a wild rats. People tend to forget that domestic rats are domestic! Pet store rats are to dogs as wild rats are to wolves. So maybe next time you want to talk about something ridiculing an animal that is smarter than a dog, cleaner than a cat, and bonds so well to its owner that if I were to not interact with them within a two day time period, my rats would stop eating, then I suggest doing your research next time and stop living off the lies that the media is feeding you.

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  2. haha. I literally LOL’d when I read this. I remember a few “conversations” we had about this subject years back. This post made my day. 😀

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  3. Rats are in the squirrel family and are very cute I think, although I have not seen an actual rat anywhere, I see them on television all the time and it’s enough to make me cringe. Hope you don’t encounter any for a long time.

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