Underdogs of the Animal World: Brown Rats
So, rats are awesome and we can all go home now, right? Okay, fine, I suppose I might have a teensy bit more convincing to do. But look at their snuffly little faces, with the whiskers and the eyes and the fluffiness. Totes adorbs, yes? You people are a tough crowd. We’ll focus on the brown rat for this article, though we might come back to the black rat, mainly because its Latin name is Rattus Rattus, and that makes me stupidly happy, but we’ll see. The brown rat is otherwise known as the common rat, street rat, sewer rat, Norway rat, brown Norway rat, Norwegian rat, Hanover rat or wharf rat. Funny enough, they’re not really from Norway.
Brown rats are actually from China, although they’ve now fully integrated themselves into every part of the world, apart from Antarctica and Alberta, Canada. The province actually set up patrols along the border to keep them out, and there’s a $5,000 fine (or 60 days in jail!) for anyone caught owning one as a pet. Crazy!
Like Napoleon Dynamite says, you gotta have skills, and the brown rat more than has that covered. Rats are basically Superman without a cape. They are fluffy Supermen with a tail instead of a cape, specially designed for fighting crime. They are hated by many, loved by few, but in their essence, they are Superman. Okay, fine – they’re not Superman at all, that’s just silly. I wasn’t fooling anyone with that thread of consciousness. Let’s move on, shall we? Yes, let’s.
Brown rats are pretty freaking awesome at life, and that’s why there is a fictional pipe-playing dude who is the only one who can tell these critters what to do. Their sight is a bit dodgy, since they basically have the equivalent of human colorblindness, but rats can see UV light, swim like Michael Phelps, (if Michael Phelps wore a faux fur coat and doggy paddled through a sewer) and dig a LOT of tunnels. Scientists are also arguing over whether or not rats have metacognition, which in simple terms means that rats know that they know stuff. It’s like being aware that the perty lady in the mirror is you and not some random who’s crept into your bedroom and stolen all your makeup, which avoids a lot of cosmetic-related rat bust-ups. Brown rats can also speak ultrasonically, which is on a frequency too high for us puny humans to hear, meaning that they can gossip about us any time they want, and we will have no clue.
The best thing about brown rats is that they know how to have a good time. They don’t waste their lives wishing they’d been born as a dog, or a llama, or Beyoncé, they just grab the moment and nibble through its power cables. You’ll know when a rat is having a good time, because it’ll start to giggle. Ok, so since they’re all ultrasonic, you might have to get yourself a special bat-detector to hear it, but it is SO worth it. Rats laugh when they’re tickled, when they’re mating and when they play fight, but, just like humans, as the rats get older, they’re less likely to laugh, unless they’re watching Pitch Perfect and snorting diet soda out of their nose at regular intervals. Another true fact right there.
Rats are omnivorous in the truest sense of the word, meaning that they will pretty much eat everything and its grandma. Martin Schein, founder of the Animal Behavior Society and all round good egg, studied brown rats and what they like to eat for his aptly-named paper “A Preliminary Analysis of Garbage as Food for the Norway Rat”. Martin discovered that rats are just like us, in that they love, love, LOVE mac ‘n’ cheese and popcorn, but would rather eat actual garbage than chow down on celery, which is good, since celery isn’t really a veg-out-on-the-sofa-and-watch-Rebel-Wilson-evade-exercise-whilst-we-also-evade-exercise-in-a-neverending-mirror-movie-madness-with-snacks food. Unless there’s dip. Rats also like dip.