Searching out rodents across the globe

Thursday, August 31, 2006

 

Tis the Season


If Young Frankenstein had raised rats...



As August melds into September, it's time to start thinking about Halloween. Don't believe me? Just pop into your supermarket to be assaulted by plastic pumpkins, paper ghosts, and my personal favorite; rubber rats. As a collector of all things ratty, Halloween is one of my favorite holidays.

Perhaps it's too far from October yet, but so far I haven't been very satisfied by the Halloween offerings. The rats I've found so far were quite ridiculous; ghoulish scrawny creatures with great bloody fangs (ah, I love when they give rats fangs), lips curled up in a fearsome snarl; and yet, you squeeze them and are rewarded with a pathetic squeak, like a well worn dog toy. All this for a whopping $12.99. I guess I'm picky about my rats. Don't get me wrong, it's not that I want them all to be cute and cuddly-- cute and cuddly is more of a mouse thing than a rat thing. I just wish they embodied a bit more sophistication. There are two general forms of evil: the mindless killing machine evil, like zombies; and the sophisticated mad scientist evil. Rats are mad scientists. (Don't kid yourselves, boys, those rats are really experimenting on you.) I may just have to do some Evil Rat Genius designs..

So, to make a point, I'm going to try to collect as many photos of rat Halloween decor as possible, and I encourage my readers to do the same. Go ahead! Post them here! Or e-mail them to me and I'll post them in a future entry.

Sunday, August 27, 2006

 

On Death



I saw another dead rat yesterday. Not a baby this time but a big husky guy, sprawled out on the sidewalk on Court Street, which is my usual rat sighting location. I find it rather depressing that most of my sightings lately have been of rats of the nonliving kind. When I created this journal I'd hoped to share photographs of my rat sightings, but I'm not quite morbid enough to post dead rats. I think that would mean losing what little fan base I have.

I've been thinking of death a lot recently. Not in the morbid "Oh I'm so goth" kind of way, but more in reflection. My rat Morgenstern died somewhat unexpectedly at the beginning of August, and I suppose I've still been dwelling over that. I remember when my first rat, Voltaire, died. I spent the entire day after crying in bed. With Morgenstern I cried more intermittantly, and it leaves me feeling a bit unresolved. I feel like I haven't fully mourned for Morgie yet.

When I found the two wild rats dead, I felt a sadness, but it was nothing near what I felt for Morgenstern or Voltaire's passing. It's the same as when you see on the news that someone has died. You feel sadness, but you don't mourn for strangers. And yet, if I don't mourn for strange rats, who will? So here is to the trash rats, the alley rats, short lived and unloved.
Even wild rats go to Rainbow Bridge.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

 

Death of a Trash Rat

I found a baby rat yesterday. Or rather, my dog found it. It can be difficult to tell a baby rat from a mouse, but I'm fairly certain this was a rat. It was a bit too large, and the ears too small in proportion, to be a mouse. +

It was dead. Small, defenseless, blank eyes staring, laying on its side in the middle of the courtyard. I don't know how it died. Maybe an animal got it. Maybe it was poisoned. It looked unharmed. So tiny. So still. I felt a wave of sadness.

What to do with a dead wild rat? I've never been fond of burying animals in the backyard. (I saw Pet Semetary one too many times as a child). Whenever a pet dies, I always have them cremated. I couldn't exactly take a random wild animal to the vet to be cremated. At a loss, but unwilling to just leave the rat there, I scooped him up in a piece of newspaper, folded it over, and placed him in the trash can. Trash Rat in life, Trash Rat in death.

I went inside.

A bit later, I was leaving my apartment and happened to glance out the window toward the courtyard. The trash nook was quite visible. Two beady black eyes stared at me, a tiny nose twitched. It was the baby rat, alive as day, gazing at me with cheeky impudence. Then he ducked down into the trash can.

Could it be? Had the little rat been playing possum? Was he really alive? I rushed out to the trash nook and fetched the newspaper out of the trash. To my dissapointment, the little rat was there, dead as ever.

The wave of sadness hit me again, but then it lifted as I realized, not only do I have one Trash Rat-- I have a family. And the little guys are cute as a button. Granted, most people would see that as a very bad thing. Myself, I find it exciting.


+Can you tell rats and mice apart? Take the quiz: http://www.ratbehavior.org/QuizRatOrMouse.htm

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

 

Out of the Trash


The natural habitat of Rattus Norvegicus Trashicus

There is a rat in my garbage. I call him Trash Rat for lack of a better name. I don't actually know that it's a he, as I haven't seen him/her/it close enough to be sure, but for the sake of argument I'll just say him. Trash Rat hangs out in the courtyard, in the little nook where all the trash cans are kept. He's a noisy little bugger; I heard him before I ever saw him. I've only actually glimpsed him twice. Each time I must have startled him, because he dashed out from behind the cans and down into this mysterious square hole that exists for reasons I can't even fathom.



I've considered setting a humane trap for him, lest the apartment managers find out and decide to dispatch of him in their own heinous ways. I'm not sure where I would relocate him though; and besides, it's kind of nice having a rat in my own backyard; or rather, my own courtyard.

 

On the Road with Rats


A close up view of Rattus Inanimatus

Sometimes you find rats in the strangest places. It was early July. Some friends and I were taking a short roadtrip up to Indianapolis, and had pulled into a truck stop for a quick bite to eat. It was one of those bizarre establishments that's part restaurant/part convenience store/part creepy souvenier stand. And what did I spy as soon as I stepped in the door?

Rats.

Granted, I sort of expected to see rodents in a roadside stop like this-- but these were rodents of the inanimate kind, lined up in a big glass display case alongside porcelein dolls and eagle figurines. I was elated. Fake rats are even more elusive than their living counterparts.

I scurried up to the counter to ask if I could buy the rat. The clerk looked at me strangely as she unlocked the display case -- I assume it was a request she'd never before received. I could care less. I dubbed the rat Indy, and he now lives on top of my television. He's the cleanest, healthiest rat I've ever owned, though perhaps not as interesting to watch. But he sure is fun to scare people with -- but again, that can be said about all rats.

Monday, August 21, 2006

 

An Introduction to the Rat Hunter Diaries

It all started with a book: Robert Sullivan's Rats: Observations on the History and Habitat of the City's Most Unwanted Inhabitants. I'd been a fan of rats before this of course, having a horde of my own that I doted on, so when a group of people on my Yahoo! Ratlist Group mentioned this book in paperback, I decided to check it out. I was enthralled. You see, I was always the sort of child that dreamed of going to Africa to study lions. Of course, Africa is far away, and lions aren't exactly friendly, so it was a dream that never really panned out. But rats.. they were everywhere!

Or so I thought. Finding rats wasn't as easy as I'd imagined (unless you count peering into my living room at the fat rats sprawled in their hammocks-- but I was looking for wild rats). It turns out that rats are everywhere until you want one, then they're nowhere to be found. My first "rat encounter" actually wasn't a rat at all. I had opened my apartment door to take out the trash, and shrieked in surprise as a tiny mouse came hurtling toward me. The shriek was short lived-- "Why am I screaming? I have rats." A rather embarassing rodent experience.

It was a while before I saw my next rodent, but I remember the experience quite clearly. It was near dusk as I was walking home from work. I drew level with Court St and was waiting for the light to change when I saw something out of the corner of my eye-- a rat scurrying across the street! Without even looking both ways I took off after it as it ran beneath a car. A man across the street was looking at me in alarm. "That's a rat!" he called. "I know!" came my reply. I was giddy with excitement. My first rat! Still in my nice work clothes, I crouched down on the pavement to get a better look. The man was giving me advice now; "I think he went behind that wheel." A minute later the rat took off from under the car and under a building. I was struck by how incredibly fast he was. None of my rats are ever fast, not even when bribed by treats.

Dissapointed that my experience was over so quickly, I nonetheless thanked the man for his help and explained that I have rats of my own. He told me that rats are quite common in that section of the street.

The idea for the Rat Hunter Diaries formed that night. I wish to seek out these city rats, document my experience, even get photographs if possible. This blog will also contain my reflections on rats, whether they be wild, pet, or "inanimate"; my own explorations into the history of rats; as well as my experimentation with rats in art. I don't know if anyone will read this journal; I don't know if it'll be read by rat lovers only, or maybe others. If I'm lucky, maybe I'll win some of those "others" into accepting rats.

Hey, it beats hunting lions.