Friday, April 20, 2012

A to Z: Rats

Rats are one of my favorite animals.

They are maligned by our culture unfortunately.  Many people have a phobia of rats, and many more see them as vermin: dirty pests.  It's a shame really.  When rats are dirty it is because they live in close proximity to us.  And any animal can carry a disease... humans are riddled with them!

I've had many pet rats in my life.  I've found them to be very sweet and playful.
One especially was very well behaved: I could leave the house with her, she'd sleep in a pocket of my jacket, and from time to time climb out, up to my shoulder to ride around and see the world.
Rat Facts:

Rats are one of the most successful mammals on the planet.
It's estimated that their world population is about 5 billion, putting them at a population second only after us for most prolific mammal.  It seems that rats can live anywhere we live: country, cities, even on our ships.
Evolutionary, they have been around a lot longer than us, and while they aren't in the running for smartest mammal they do share some interesting similarities with us:

* They are smart: the can problem solve and have good memories.
* They are kind: there was a study that showed that rats in a cage would pull a lever to dispense food in the
    neighboring rats' cage, though they would not get this food themselves.  It seems they are at least as kind
    and generous as humans are to each other, maybe more?
* They have humor, or at least they laugh.  It seems rats are ticklish and when tickled they laugh.
    Even more so with young rats, who laugh even more when they wrestle: just like human children.

Pound for pound they are a lot more impressive than human beings.

* Rats can chew through walls, concrete and metal.
* They can swim for up to 3 days.
* They can drop from 50 feet without injury and jump 8 feet horizontally and 3 feet straight up.
* An average rat can squeeze through an opening about the size of a quarter (2.5cm diameter).

If we humans kill ourselves off, I think rats are poised to evolve into a sentient civilization bearing species.

Rats in Media

Most movies about rats perpetuate the fear of rats: Ben and Willard come to mind.
It's slander against the rats, but usually pretty fun anyway... I'm rooting for the rat!

Rats are naturally very clean.  When in movies, to make the rats look slimy & filthy, to create that 'sewer rat' look, they wet them down with grape juice!

Rats have also been featured in animation, such as The Rats of Nimh, based on the novels, where the rats had an impressive society.

There was another animated movie, based on a novel, I saw when I was a kid, 'The Mouse and his Child" about a wind up toy mouse & his child, thrown away, and once delivered to the dump, became enslaved by the rat empire.

One of the darker books I've ever read was 'Dr.Rat'
It's about a lab rat who goes insane or suffers from the worst case of Patty Hearst Syndrome ever.  
The Rat decides the bizarre experiments being done are wonderful and when the lab is closed gives speeches to the other animals about how lucky they are to contribute in the way they do, and goes into a lot of detail about what those experiments are.  Not for the feint at heart. 

Rats in Religion

In India, the temple to the goddess Karni Mata is home to more than 15,000 rats.
Not pests: welcomed divine guests.  I really want to go there! Someday.
Karni Mata Temple entrance

Food and milk are set out for the rats.  You can visit and be with them!  It's good luck if they walk across your feet or crawl on you. It's especially good luck if you spot one of the few white rats:

But to my mind, they're all pretty cool:

Rats in Gaming:

Probably the most well known rats in gaming are the Skaven from Games Workshop. 

With a world-spanning empire of tunnels that underlay all the cities of the human nations, the Skaven are a force to be reckoned with.  In my opinion, the Skaven are the most interesting and creative of GW's creations. Most of their concepts are rooted in Tolkien, Heinlein and other authors, but the Skaven might be their best developed nearly if not completely, original idea.  I have always been tempted to build a Skaven army, but I don't care for how they play. So I try to get the rat-itch scratched through Blood Bowl, Mordheim and other skirmish games.

Check out the "Hall of Fame" page at the top of the blog and you'll find a lot of Rat BB teams! 

For straight-up rats, my favorite rat miniatures are the Giant Rats from Otherworld Miniatures:
I bought some of these, the set of 20. Really nice minis!
I haven't had time to paint mine yet, they're currently about 1/3 to 1/2 painted.  
They come with these nice dungeon floor tops for the bases- I didn't use them on mine, since I have another use for the rats, but since they're separate pieces, I have a lot of nice dungeon bases now!

Remember the Rat

If you weren't a fan of rats before, I hope you give them a chance.
Maybe if their tail was 'fancy' like their cousin the squirrel they'd have less PR problems.

Here's a glimpse of the Rat Temple, enjoy!

And couldn't resist slipping this one in...

This has been an A-Z Challenge post. 
For the month of April there will be an update for each letter within the theme of: Things that influence and inspire me, or the converse: things which I find distressing or make me want to rail at the world.
Some of these will pertain to the miniatures hobby, but many will venture off to atypical territory for the duration of the challenge, then it will be back to normal with mostly minis and an occasional blithering.
You can find out more about the A-Z challenge my clicking the logo at the top left of the page. 


Amanda Heitler said...

Great post. I'm also a fan of rats and would love to keep them. Can't be done with the incumbent cat, but one day.

Mr. Lee said...

Good post, agreed that Skaven are probably one of the better thought out armies of GW, and that they have such potential in gaming. Just not really a fan of them myself.. to each their own. :)

Henry's Tat said...

I love rats! I have 4 of the little buggers, and hope that one day they will be the spearhead of my skeven army.

Paul of the Man Cave said...

I loved the Rats of Nimh and the Rescuers as a kid! And Skaven were my first Blood Bowl team :-)

Lead Legion said...

I love rats too - but I'm not sure how they would get on with the girls (my two ferrets, Lyla and Stephanie). They seem to get on well enough with the neighbours cat right enough, but then, the cat is fairly terrified of them.

Spacejacker said...

I had a rat that my cat brought in for 6 years, she was so tame that when my mum left her out in the yard one day, she came back and sat by the back door. I had another rather fat male in the 90's who was also very good natured. I'd never go back to rats after owning my dearly missed ferret though. They are the best pets one can have IMO, and I'm really looking forward to adopting a kit when I get home!

Lead Legion said...

Something else for you to look forward to then. Post up a few pics when you get her (or might it be a him)?

Laughing Ferret said...

Amanda: I guess it depends on the cat.. I had 4 rats at the same time as a cat and they got along fine. My current two cats would be no threat to a rat... once it took them many hours to work as a pair to try to take down a moth- after several hours they still failed.

Henry: They might enjoy getting up onto the battlefield ;)

Paul: Imagine if they were more rat-appropriate in Blood Bowl.. they could all leap, all count as stunty for the purpose of dodging since they can get through tight spaces & are good at mazes... I think humanity would be hopelessly outclassed if there were 5 foot tall rats.

Lead: My cats were tormented by my ferret. She loved to chase cats, jump on them & try to wrestle.. the cats weren't so keen on it. Not sure a rat would stand up to that kind of play with a ferret. It'd have to be chaperoned play for sure.

Spacejacker: That sounds great! Yes, hope you'll show some pictures of the ferret when you get one. They don't have pet ferrets in UK? For me, I'm not ready to get another ferret yet- still too soon.

Donna Sexton said...

I have to admit that I'm afraid of rats. I'm also afraid of mice. I think it's that they move so quick that they startle me. Very interesting post.

tomogui said...

Otherworld, not Underworld!

I love rats too. And The Mouse and his Child. I'm really enjoying your weird choices for this A-Z series.

Laughing Ferret said...

Donna: Interesting... I've always been interested in what humans are afraid of.. isn't it odd? I mean, we're so much bigger than most creatures we're afraid of. A rat could hurt a person, but we'd not have much trouble crushing one, so it should be more afraid of us than we are of it. But lots of people are afraid of them. Some instinct says 'fear it, stay away' maybe because of disease? Like how many fear spiders, maybe an instinct because of poison. Me, I have an unnatural and uncontrollable fear of bees. If there is a bee around I won't be: I'm gone.

Tomogui: Thanks! Glad you've been enjoying it. Thanks for the catch too, I probably still had my Underworld BB team on my mind :)

Spacejacker said...

There are plenty of ferrets in the UK, but its been too soon for me as well, plus Australia is not a very easy place to import a ferret into... Huge quarantine period. I may wait a little longer as we may move to San Francisco in the next couple of years and you cant get a ferret through customs there at all.

Laughing Ferret said...

The slim chance I may move from the US has kept me from considering another pet, as well as other purchases too. If you move to SF, yeah that'd be a problem. California (I'm pretty sure) is the only state in the country where ferrets are illegal to have as pets. Didn't stop me or many others, and you can get all the ferret goods you need in pet stores and a lot of vets will treat ferrets here.

S. L. Hennessy said...

Don't laugh,but I used to have a pet rat. Call me crazy but I think they're kind of cute. Maybe because I always LOVED The Rats of Nimh.

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