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April 1, 2005 11:11 AM   Subscribe

"Rats that survive to the age of four are the wisest and the most cynical beasts on earth. A trap means nothing to them, no matter how skillfully set. They just kick it around until it snaps; then they eat the bait. And they can detect poisoned bait a yard off. I believe some of them can read." Also, they're athletes
posted by Shanachie (58 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite

 
Your first link made me shudder. I loathe rats.
posted by GriffX at 11:33 AM on April 1, 2005


"A third of the world’s food supply is consumed or destroyed by rats."!!!
posted by OmieWise at 11:35 AM on April 1, 2005


I had a pet rat that lived to about 3 and a half...he was smart, but not smart smart...maybe wasn't yet old enough.

I think think the term is Rathletes...
posted by schyler523 at 11:37 AM on April 1, 2005


Sickeningly compulsive.

Rats – fast, tireless runners – will also make use of public transport. Subway workers have reported rats boarding trains to ride a few stops down the line.

A 1998 article that said there were 28 million rats in New York City

...a sniper with a night-vision scope’ is the only way to kill a rat of the semi-literate kind

Indeed.
posted by peacay at 11:43 AM on April 1, 2005


I for one welcome our new... yada yadda yadda
posted by destro at 11:46 AM on April 1, 2005


...they occasionally emerge in toilet bowls, after crawling through sewer pipes, and bite people’s genitals.

Oh, fuck!
posted by 327.ca at 11:49 AM on April 1, 2005


schyler523 writes "I had a pet rat that lived to about 3 and a half...he was smart, but not smart smart...maybe wasn't yet old enough."

Well sure. Your pet didn't get nearly the mental stimulation a wild rat trying to stay alive in the cruel city would have. I mean, you fed him, and you didn't try to kill him, right?
posted by orthogonality at 12:03 PM on April 1, 2005


great Joseph Mitchell quote in the main link. I love, love, love Mitchell
posted by matteo at 12:09 PM on April 1, 2005


The Rats on the Waterfront

From Joseph Mitchell, Up in the Old Hotel. New York: Vintage, 1993.
The brown rat is an omnivorous scavenger, and it doesn't seem to care at all whether its food is fresh or spoiled. It will eat soap, oil paints, shoe leather, the bone of a bone-handled knife, the glue in a book binding, and the rubber in the insulation of telephone and electric wires. It can go for days without food, and it can obtain sufficient water by licking condensed moisture off metallic surfaces. All rats are vandals, but the brown rat is the most ruthless . . . Instead of completely eating a few potatoes, it takes a bite or two out of dozens. It will methodically ruin all the apples and pears in a grocery in a night. To get a small quantity of nesting material it will cut great quantities of garments, rugs, upholstery, and books to tatters. In warehouses, it sometimes goes berserk . . .
posted by matteo at 12:12 PM on April 1, 2005


I've had several rats as pets, albeit of the cute pet-store variety. A friend of mine actually had a sewer rat as a pet. That thing was as big as a small cat and smart as a whip. He was rarely in his cage, preferring to wander around the room, chewing on things and looking tough. He knew how to beg for food and would get onery if you didn't give it up. If he had been a person he would have had an eyepatch and worked as a bouncer. He was heavy and brown and the family dog stayed away from him because she knew the rat would deliver a beat down on her scrawny pomeranian ass. My rats were weaklings compared to the sewer rat.
posted by LeeJay at 12:21 PM on April 1, 2005


It is unreasonable to talk about the intelligence or athleticism of wild rats using examples from pet rats.

Here is an article from Natural History that discusses the differences between wild and pet (laboratory) mice:
Compared with their wild relatives, laboratory house mice are real wimps—slower, weaker, and less active.
...
The greater strength of wild mice makes it impossible to subject them to some behavioral tests designed for the comparatively feeble lab mice. For instance, a standard test of muscle endurance is called the cord drop. The test is quite simple: a mouse is dangled from a taut cord by its front feet—your basic pull-up position—and scored according to how many seconds it can hang on before dropping to the ground. A robust young laboratory mouse is doing well to hang on for thirty or forty seconds. When we tried this test with our wild mice, they simply pulled themselves up onto the top of the cord and walked off. We didn’t actually see them sneer with contempt, but they may have.
posted by MonkeySaltedNuts at 12:22 PM on April 1, 2005


I once read a book called Tales of a Rat-Hunting Man that was pretty amazing, although difficult to stomach at times. It was a great book about terriers, though. The guy killed hundreds of rats, or his dogs did. There was a lot of interesting natural history in it. There are excerpts here.

When I was searching for it I found this picture from WWI rat hunting in the trenches.
posted by OmieWise at 12:31 PM on April 1, 2005


RuPaul Among The Rodents
posted by Armitage Shanks at 12:32 PM on April 1, 2005


A male rat will continue mating with a female rat even if she’s dead.
Are we really all that different?
posted by graventy at 12:34 PM on April 1, 2005


they occasionally emerge in toilet bowls, after crawling through sewer pipes, and bite people’s genitals.

Ugh! Thank god we don't have them here.
posted by Mitheral at 12:35 PM on April 1, 2005


The liver of a rat takes up almost nearly half of it's internal cavity. I'm surprised that rat poison actually works.
posted by PurplePorpoise at 12:37 PM on April 1, 2005


MonkeySaltedNuts: Laboratory anything are generally docile wimps with a terribly short lifespan, little intelligence and horrendous eyesight. They're bred that way (and fortunately for cancer research most rats naturally die of tumors regardless of what they ingest).

In my experience you're very lucky to get lab rats older than 2.5 years. Pet rats from *good* breeders stand a fair chance of making 4 years.

Rats bred specifically as pets are very smart, but it's not the same kind of smart - it's more like a dog smart than an ornery smart. They learn their names, they can be taught simple tricks, etc. Like dogs they can (although I've not seen it often) 'get' basic social indicators like humans pointing at something to call attention to it, etc.

Take all that potential, then multiply the natural selection factor by a ton and focusing strictly on survival via constitution/intelligence - and you start to see why sewer rats can be all kinds of horrendous-astonishing.

While we're on the subject, the role of rats as disease carriers has been greatly exaggerated - loquacious and I did a number of posts debunking the common myths (Black plague, etc.) in the last rat thread.
posted by Ryvar at 12:39 PM on April 1, 2005


Sorry, I just had to post this bit from Tales of a Rat-Hunting Man because it made me laugh and wince in horror:

He had five rats, I had four terriers. He dropped the rats to the dogs, who snapped them up with varying degrees of enthusiasm. When I had spent my 8s he said, 'Half a dollar for the last one and a trick thrown in?'. I was so enthralled with my new found friend that I nodded without even a haggle. He reached over and took my huge hob ferret out of it's 'liner box' and thrust it down inside his shirt to where the last rat lay huddled, sandwiched between his Boy's Brigade belt and his distended beer gut. A battle suddenly broke out and Fred Cleaver's (as my new found friend was called) shirt bubbled and boiled like tight trousers on a fat lady. The battle finally subsided and the ferret began to crunch it's way into the rat. Smears of blood began to appear in Cleaver's shirt,'Any family?' I asked, wondering whether the plague, salmonella, or God knows what had carried them off. 'Me wife's left me,' he said stonily. 'How strange', said my photographer friend sarcastically, but the point was totally missed.
posted by OmieWise at 12:40 PM on April 1, 2005


I really enjoyed Michael Sullivan's Rats, mentioned and quoted from repeatedly in the first link. Like the link indicates, it is a fascinating and disturbing discussion of rats in and around New York City, but he also ties it in to some interesting history. This includes the Hessian mercenaries who fought for the British during the Revolutionary War (who likely introduced the Brown Rat to North America), as well as a discussion of labor rights in the Dept. of Sanitation in the '60s (rat infestations were used repeatedly for political gain).
posted by event at 12:47 PM on April 1, 2005


somehow i suspect that if there was an annual NYC rat-clubbing hunt, very few would object.
posted by flaterik at 12:47 PM on April 1, 2005


Related very good book: Rats : Observations on the History and Habitat of the City's Most Unwanted Inhabitants.
posted by arielmeadow at 12:49 PM on April 1, 2005


"....sneer with contempt...." Hee haw.
posted by wrapper at 12:50 PM on April 1, 2005


Yeah yeah yeah, i realize that my rat was the intellectual equivalent of a slime mold compared to these wild genius rats...but whatever...

I must confess that Hoodwink was a rare escapee from my pet snakes...since he had escaped from the snakes, he deserved a posh rat life. Most of the other rats i bred as "food" were not so lucky. My friends and i would construct elaborate mazes with cheese and nuts as rewards (a well watched cat as the "trap".)

Rat-clubbing, heh. That gives me the mental image of the "bouncer" rat with eyepatch, allowing certain rats into Crumb 54 with the omnipresent house music in the background.
posted by schyler523 at 12:57 PM on April 1, 2005


A while back I found this thread with our friends at the monkey place quite entertaining in a sickening way.
posted by keijo at 1:00 PM on April 1, 2005


So that's how Nicodemus evolved the smarts to help Mrs. Frisby move her house to the lee of the stone.
posted by brownpau at 1:22 PM on April 1, 2005


Anybody remember the rat-hunters in The Whipping Boy?
posted by trappedinabay at 1:36 PM on April 1, 2005


brownpau, thank you for making that reference so I didn't have to.

In a few hundred years, when future archaeologists dig up New York, will they find miniature rat-civilizations under the subways? Electric light, water, radios, etc?
posted by cmyk at 1:37 PM on April 1, 2005


they occasionally emerge in toilet bowls, after crawling through sewer pipes, and bite people’s genitals.

Ugh! Thank god we don't have them here.

You don't have GENITALS??????
posted by kindall at 1:42 PM on April 1, 2005


Rats.
posted by Mitheral at 2:21 PM on April 1, 2005


I have seen a rat leap from a standing start to the top of four foot tall garbage dumpster. They are truly amazing animals.

Henry Rollins has great lab rat stories, from his job as a laboratory maintenance guy when he was a teenager.

There are two reasons I live in the suburbs. One, when I dial 911 the cops are there in minutes, not hours. Two, no rats. I HATE rats.
posted by bukvich at 2:27 PM on April 1, 2005


fascinating stuff, thanks.
posted by Substrata at 2:38 PM on April 1, 2005


I have had pet rats for many years. They make great pets, the ones you get from fancy rat breeders. They really are like little dogs.

The liver of a rat takes up almost nearly half of it's internal cavity. I'm surprised that rat poison actually works.

Rat poison now is often an overdose of vitamin D3, which causes heart failure in rats. I'm not sure about the more traditional poisons however.
posted by veronitron at 2:46 PM on April 1, 2005


I was under the impression that most rat poisons are similar to cement...essentially blocking the GI tract, while also dehydrating the rat...
posted by schyler523 at 2:57 PM on April 1, 2005


Mitheral, as the linked article says, anywhere there are people, there are rats. Clutch your genitals tight!
posted by Hildago at 3:22 PM on April 1, 2005


I know a woman who had a rat that would chew out the crotch of her dirty panties. It was the strangest thing: a pile of clothes on the floor, and nothing else destroyed but the panties. It happened three times before we declared world war III on the fucker(s), but we never caught or killed him; It just never happened again. That he might strike again was quite disturbing for a few months, and the fact that she was 8 months pregnant only made it worse.
posted by brheavy at 3:27 PM on April 1, 2005


bukvich writes....

Wait a sec. Are you the bukvich who posted on a usenet group with a name begining with "a" in the in the alt hierarchy?
posted by orthogonality at 3:27 PM on April 1, 2005


Morality aside, this dialogue is beautiful:
‘What you got in there?’ a man asked. ‘A rat?’
‘Of course,’ Colin said.
‘What’re you going to do with it?’
‘I’m going to beat it to death with this iron rod.’
posted by themadjuggler at 3:53 PM on April 1, 2005


I can confirm the toilet part, though not the genital biting. It came up, hit my ass, then went back down. I saw the bottom disappear after I jumped up. I pissed in the sink for a week.
posted by dame at 3:55 PM on April 1, 2005


Metafilter: I pissed in the sink for a week.
posted by OmieWise at 4:29 PM on April 1, 2005


Metafilter: it came up, hit my ass, then went back down the toilet.
posted by orthogonality at 4:47 PM on April 1, 2005


If they'll eat anything, we should teach them to eat radioactive waste.
posted by hellbient at 5:31 PM on April 1, 2005


whoa, jesus...what a terrible idea.
nevermind.
posted by hellbient at 5:33 PM on April 1, 2005


There are two reasons I live in the suburbs. ... Two, no rats. I HATE rats.
You need to get out in your suburb more (or perhaps not) - just because you don't see them, doesn't mean they aren't there.
posted by dg at 6:12 PM on April 1, 2005


My stars, dame - if it were me that happened to, I'd be posting from the afterlife.

::shudders::
posted by Space Kitty at 6:13 PM on April 1, 2005


I reached into some boxes in the garage once and a rat chomped down onto my right index finger. It was still attached when I pulled it out and I had to vigorously shake my hand to get it off. My finger got infected and there was about a week of scary talks at the doctors office about what might happen to my finger. It's fine now but has lost some flexibility.
posted by caffeineslinger at 7:07 PM on April 1, 2005


The older rat poisons are, I believe, anticoagulants (like warfarin.) They work so well because rats are unable to vomit.
posted by gaspode at 9:02 PM on April 1, 2005


I had a rat once, his name was Von. I took him to school but once he bit through my shirt and made a face at the science teacher. The girls at my table screamed and I was sent to the principal. Von escaped and I never saw him again, I think my cat ate him. What a great rat.
posted by Viomeda at 9:15 PM on April 1, 2005


God how he loved those plastic bubble toys. He headed for the stairs every time.
posted by Viomeda at 9:17 PM on April 1, 2005


Hildago: Mitheral, as the linked article says, anywhere there are people, there are rats. Clutch your genitals tight!

The BBC was overstating a bit. Because of good timing, geography and an active rat control program Alberta, at least, is supposedly rat free.
posted by Mitheral at 10:31 PM on April 1, 2005


bukvich, what suburb do you live in? 'cause we got rats, all right. in our attic. not for long, though . . .
posted by killy willy at 12:11 AM on April 2, 2005


I have a friend who claims to have had a close rat encounter of the porcelain kind. He says whenever he has to use the commode he squats Turkish style, leans forward and keeps his eyes peeled for rodents for the whole duration.

I
posted by Devils Slide at 4:27 AM on April 2, 2005


I
posted by Devils Slide at 4:28 AM on April 2, 2005


They don’t scurry when something bigger comes their way
Don’t pack themselves together and run as one
Don’t shit where they’re not supposed to
Don’t take what’s not theirs, they don’t compare



Rats
posted by LouReedsSon at 7:24 AM on April 2, 2005


I'm glad you dug that one up, keijo. (too html challenged to link to a specific place in this thread sorry) I'm happy to report that the rat was (so far) a one time incident.

And hellbient just wrecked another keyboard for me - thanks!
posted by mygothlaundry at 10:38 AM on April 2, 2005


hellbient, that made me pee a little bit.

I really want a pet sewer rat. I've had raccoons, a possum and a little groundhog for a bit. But never a giant rat. I live in Kalamazoo, no rats here. At least, I haven't seen one. I think if I could get a little baby rat, I could train him not to be evil. That sort of worked with the possum. Do they really get cat-sized? The rats in the pet store are so little.
posted by Baby_Balrog at 12:16 PM on April 2, 2005


Laboratory anything are generally docile wimps with a terribly short lifespan, little intelligence and horrendous eyesight.

Hey, I've worked in a laboratory!

But on second thought, you're right.
posted by ikkyu2 at 9:18 PM on April 2, 2005


One of the few good things about living in Alberta, as Mitheral wrote, is the literal governmental guarantee of no rats. On the other hand, I think they're kind of cool.

... Except for the genital biting.
posted by blacklite at 4:28 AM on April 3, 2005


Instead of completely eating a few potatoes, it takes a bite or two out of dozens.

Normal behavior for a rat - food sampling. They eat a small amount of whatever they encounter, and if they don't get sick they'll come back for more. That way they can handle new foods without accidentally overdosing on something toxic.

Lab rats... Wimps indeed. As much as I liked my pet Ratboy (a Long-Evans, or hooded rat) the little guys I work with now could kick his fat ratty ass, and they're about half his size. Arvicanthis niloticus, Nile grass rats, from Kenya, have been bred in captivity in our lab since about '95. They're definitely fatter than their wild brethren due to the conditions in which they are raised, but they're still surprisingly vicious. I'd handle a lab rat bare-handed, but I won't pick up the guys in our lab without double-layered leather gloves. Even with those on the best way to handle one is sometimes to let it bite the glove and then shake it off into the next cage.
posted by caution live frogs at 5:46 AM on April 4, 2005


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