Today is Day 52 of the Papa’s Walk Challenge.
On the last half of my walk today, I came across a dead rat on the sidewalk. It was completely intact, but turned over on its back with all four tiny paws fixed rigidly in the air. It was about 10 inches long from nose to tail. It didn’t look injured and I wondered if it had just died of old age.
Rats are maligned by many as filthy pests that spread disease like bubonic plague and rabies. The plague in Europe was passed from rats to humans by fleas. Interestingly, there has never been a case of a human contracting rabies from a rat in all of North America.
Despite their penchant for sewers, rats are clean animals who spend a great deal of time washing themselves. They are also very intelligent.
When my husband and I were first married, we kept a rat as a pet. The minute the rat would hear my husband’s car pull into the driveway, he’d jump up on the side of the cage and wait for my husband to enter the house and pet him. Our pet knew his name, “Rat,” and would come when called. He liked to play with our cat and chased her around the living room. He loved having his tummy rubbed and would curl up in our laps to sleep. The Humane Society has some good information on rats as pets.
Scientific American reported a research study by neuroscientists at the University of Chicago shows that rats are empathetic and altruistic. They’ll even forego food (and chocolate!) to help a fellow rat in distress. Check out the article and video on the NPR website, too. See if it doesn’t change your mind about rats.