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Whenever I tell someone that I love rats I get weird looks, and I suppose this is only to be expected. But I find rats so strangely, darkly fascinating. Did you know that a rat’s skeleton can collapse so that any space it can get its head through the rest of the body can follow? That a rat’s sense of balance is so well defined that it can easily cross a tightrope, scale a sheer brick wall, or land on their feet after falling from a height of 60 feet? Or that one pair of rats has the potential for 15,000 descendants in one year? Admittedly the mortality rate of rats is so high that these kinds of rat-spawned numbers would never occur naturally (in fact many rat mothers regularly eat their own offspring), but the fact that it’s possible is somewhat chilling. Rats could easily take down mankind if they ever had the mind to, it’s true. I’ve read up on the cunning wee buggers. Prepare yourself now, indeed, prepare yourself for an onslaught of rat related facts that will astound!
Rats are nocturnal and have poor eyesight, but excellent sense of hearing and taste. They can detect poison at one part per million in food (so are very hard to poison; if one rat chooses not to eat a poison, or survives eating it, none of its offspring will ever eat it). They are also excellent swimmers, they are frequently known to swim up sewers and drain pipes into peoples toilets, and are capable of swimming and catching small fish. Their teeth are harder than steel, and their incisors which grow up to 5 inches per year, must be kept worn down, They gnaw everything all the time! They can even use the constant clicking of their teeth as a low form of sonar to avoid objects in the dark. Thanks to a flap of skin between the incisors which stops indigestible food going down their throats, rats chew their way through concrete, steel, and whatever else is around. A recent survey in New York attributes rats to 26 per cent of all electrical cable breaks, 25 per cent of all unknown fires, and 18 per cent of all phone cable disruptions within the city. They consume 20-30 per cent of human food produced each year, apparently enough to stop world hunger. Rats are extremely intuitive when it comes to balancing their diets, and despite eating most things, they refrain from eating our refined flour, which is a little creepy. When they are not eating, rats are fucking. Adult rats have sex up to 20 times a day with as many rats as possible, they are one of the few species that have homosexual sex while a member of the opposite sex is available. Male rats that have been kicked out of a colony by more dominant males will form their own all-male colonies in which they have sex with each other. Chances are, if you are in a main city (such as Wellington), wherever you are you will be in close proximity to a couple of rats bumping uglies.
General rule of thumb – If you ever see a rat then there are many more lurking somewhere nearby. We only see the tail end of them, it’s only when their numbers are so high the smaller ones must emerge out in search of food that we see them. Approximately 50,000 reported rat bites occur around the world every year, with others going unreported. Mostly untended infants are bitten, many of them to death, but there have also been reports of bodies found stripped to the bone, or reports like the guy who had his arms amputated by gnawing rats while trapped in a coal mine. Rats seem able to sense when people are helpless, and then they can attack viciously. There are numerous cases of rats forming “rat-kings”, where up to 32 rats have deliberately knotted their tails together – no one can explain why they do this but its no accident, or, after it becoming necessary to relocate a market due to being over run by rats, the rats travelling miles overland and arriving at the new location before everyone else. Freaky bastards, they know shit that we don’t. Utterly destructive creatures, rats can sense disaster before it occurs and evade it, including nuclear explosions. Naturally clean creatures until they come into contact with humans, rats live in Man’s parallel world, our own mirror species – they thrive where we thrive and, as population grows, act as we do. More cunning, more adaptive, more tenacious than man.
In the words of Banksy – “They exist without permission. They are hated, hunted and persecuted. They live in quiet desperation amongst the filth. And yet they are capable of bringing entire civilisations to their knees. If you are dirty, insignificant and unloved then rats are the ultimate role model.”
Yeah man. All hail the rat!