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A Brief History of Man and Rat

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Posted on : 9:30 AM | By : Nic | In : ,


The history of the struggle between man and rat has been long and dangerous.... for man.  Many people, dreaming of the country, imagine an idyllic green countryside, cosy fires and innumerable lambs dotting the grassy hills.  They forget to paint in the manure, the insects, and the rodents.  When you live any distance away from an urban area, there are a hundred times more bugs.  At least.  It is also guaranteed that at some point a rodent will make its way into your home and decide it likes you.

Rats are not big versions of mice.  They are two entirely different things.  A mouse will run along a wall, hit a corner, and run right back the way it came because it is timid and doesn't have the critical thinking skills to look around and examine its surroundings.  A rat, on the other hand, is smart and confident.  It will stroll in, check out the scene, and may decide to relax by the pool and have a drink while you are away.

We thought we may have killed 'the rat'.  What we have discovered is that this is not a few rats, but many rats, sending one rat into our bus every day to bring back whatever we have left in payment for their little rat mafia.   Yesterday, I was sitting at the computer and Ana came into the front of the bus quite loudly and talking, and suddenly yelled out, "The RAT!"  We all froze, and I quietly ran up to see.  Sure enough, a rat was strolling in quite cheerfully.  He looked up at me, then went along his merry way to find whatever we had left.  Obviously they liked our rat poison and wanted more of it.  I got a little closer, and looked around for a weapon.  A broomstick?  Not lethal enough.  A shoe?  There were only children's shoes.  The only thing that would kill was a hatchet.  The handle was so short though!  I hesitated only a moment, grabbed it and tried to aim for the neck.

My short sighted lack of depth perception landed my blow in the middle of his back, which broke his spine but left him in pain, and I had to hit him again.  I flipped him on his back with a piece of bus metal laying nearby and as I saw his mouth hang open and his little rat teeth sticking out, it struck me that while this rat may have been using me as part of a big experiment in a Douglas Adams-like conspiracy, killing him was futile.  Another rat would replace him tomorrow.  We left another pile of poison out, and it is gone again today.

This isn't unusual and everyone that I told had their own rat story.  One person happened to have a shovel in their hands, another a rake. Rats and man have always been fighting.  In the 1600's fleas carried by rats that were living prolifically in people's houses ended up killed 1/3 of Europe.  One-third!  One of the reasons there were so many rats is that people were superstitious and thought cats were evil.  They killed cats, and the rats laughed as the people died.

I knew rats were smart, but coming face to face with the enemy really proved this to me.  I felt bad after I killed such a worthy opponent. After doing some research, it is interesting to know that rats have metacognition, an ability only found in humans and some primates.  This means that rats are aware of themselves and their own thought processes.

It doesn't stop many cultures from eating rats, and the rats don't really care that they are invading our homes so it's a strange situation.  This isn't an insect that comes in and needs to be squashed... this is an intelligent creature that doesn't care that it is taking your stuff.  The Chinese respect the rat - if you were born in the year of the rat, you are said to be creative and ambitious, honest, generous... and wasteful.

Amazingly, I almost almost wanted a pet rat, just because of how smart they are.  Apparently, rats laugh when you tickle them.  lol:

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