Tag Archives: rats

Civilization and Its Discontented Rats

*GUEST BLOG by A Friend of Rats*
—To submit an article/essay/pictorial for guest blog
consideration, please email me at JanSmitowicz@gmail.com—

The city hardly seems like a good place to see non-humyn animals at all, let alone a show of resistance by them. But look closer. The sewers are swarming with creatures who unabashedly gnaw at the cities roots, even as it feeds them. They see no contradiction in their lives. They know that even as you kill The Beast, you use every part of it…
Rats! The most common kind in this country is rattus norvegicus or the Norway (or brown) rat. They probably originated in northeast China, but no one knows for sure. In 1727, huge numbers of rats were reported swimming across the Volga river in Russia, apparently headed west. They later arrived in North America on ships during the American Revolution.

They’re now everywhere humans are; they’ve been living with us in some form for thousands of years. And for nearly the whole time, they’ve been sabotaging our more excessive endeavors. Rats chew through pipes, electrical wires, cement, even lead. As many as 26% of electrical cable breaks, 18% of phone cable disruptions, and 25% of fires of unknown origin are attributed to rats. And of course, they are well-known and feared for their consumption and destruction of our food supplies and the diseases they’ve helped spread around. For these reasons, our attempts at culling the rat population have grown ever more dramatic. In 1948, Warfarin was invented, the first modern anti-coagulant (i.e. causes internal bleeding) rat poison. Elaborate rat traps were created, the kind mostly used today, with a short tunnel leading to some sort of grain that was treated with poison. Rats are “neophopic” which means they stay close to home and generally avoid changes to their environment. They usually prefer to crawl through small spaces and keep at least one side to a wall when walking or running. These new rat traps attempt to take advantage of these traits by being small and snug and staying in one place for an extended period of time, so the rats will become more comfortable with it. The hope is that the poison, which is usually in a small enough dose that it doesn’t begin to work until it’s been ingested a few times, will be taken back to the nest and kill more rats. But rats become immune to the poisons so quickly that new ones have to be invented all the time.

By the 1970s, most rats had become resistant to Warfarin and some were even living off of grain that had been treated with it. No matter how hard people work to get rid of them, rat populations reach staggering numbers. Some research even indicates that if there is a sudden decline in a given rat population, the rats will become pregnant more often and have more babies. This, combined with the fact that a rat can start breeding the year she is born and have 4 to 6 litters of 7 or 8 babies each, means the rat population is huge, and just getting bigger. All those rats are wreaking havoc on cities, despite being supported by them.

Are rats conscious of their dependence on our trash, or their destruction? Maybe not, but they are no less powerful an example that we owe nothing to such flawed systems, even if we were born into them and they have fed us up until now (or continue to). We should work to find new and creative ways to live off the excess of our society, and to get rid of the parts we don’t like, in whatever ways we can, big or small. Like rats, we are complex animals trying to live satisfying lives, while fighting overwhelming and often unseen forces.

We can truly learn a lot from these lovely and fascinating creatures.


Rats–The Best Pets Money Shouldn’t Buy

Death Valley, in the Badwater Basin, lowest point in North America (282 feet below sea level) with my lil traveling buddy!

Chillin in the redwoods ❤


I am a companion rat called Romeo.  The highlight of my day is when my enormous un-furry father feeds me treats—peanuts and pistachios (especially in the shell!  It’s fun to chew them open and retrieve the tasty meat within), broccoli, and bananas are my favorites.  Holy shit, bananas!!  They drive me nuts, and nuts drive me bananas.  Hehe.  That’s a little joke for you.  You think I’m a peabrain, but I see you big un-furry apes killing the life-support systems on your only planet—now that is dumb!  Talk about peabrained, jeez.

When dad is reading, I like to hop onto his chest and stand on my hindlegs and nibble on the edges of his books, especially when they’re ones he really likes, the materialist fool.  He was soooo mad when my cousin chewed up several top-to-bottom inches of Catch-22!  We don’t chew books because they taste good; we chew books because we have teeth.  And it’s fun to work what you got.  Kind of like my dad likes working his cock!  When I see him mating with himself, I feel a little less lonely; we’re also both of us “fixed,” unable to breed offspring, so we’re more alike than you might think.

Sometimes he accidentally leaves things (e.g. canvas bags, the fabric wrappings of ice-packs for his knees, very ripe– and dad-smelling clothes he’d been wearing for many many days) just close enough to my McCage that I can reach out and snag them.  My philosophy is that they must exist close by for a reason; I’ll worry about what purpose they can serve me after I yank them into my mansion, even if it takes a whole night of tugging and pulling and biting and maneuvering.  Do now, figure out why later.  That’s the ideology of this rat in a nutshell.  Mmm, nutshells!


But really (this is Jan speaking now), rats are wonderful companion animals.  I grew up with dogs, and of course they’re the ideal rescued pet, but dogs and cats aren’t for everyone.  When space and/or money and/or laziness—er, I mean, extreme busyness—are considerations, you can’t do better than adopting a rat or rats.  They are adorable, intelligent (that’s right, I have anecdotes to prove it!), extremely curious, affectionate, completely fine with being vegan—as Romeo demonstrated above, they LOVE eating their fruits and veggies!—and very simple to take care of.  Also, they purr!  Well, they rat-purr, which is called bruxing, where they grind their teeth together, a sign of happiness and affection.  What an edifying, lovely sound that is; it fills me with joy to know that Romeo appreciates my massages and neck and ear rubs; he especially enjoys having the top of his head lightly stroked, between his eyes.  That gets him bruxing almost immediately!

If you’re in northern California, you can adopt from my friend Lauren’s wonderful rescue, North Star; in southern California, there’s Wee Companions  based out of San Diego.  Most animal rescue groups are willing to find transport for their newly adopted animals.  Or there’s always the local shelter—often they have rats.  NEVER buy ANY animals from a pet store, please!  If you’re not in California, you could look up small animal rescues online, or go to the shelter, or (and this applies to enterprising Californians as well) you could go to your local vivisection laboratory and rescue some rats from there—I recommend going at night, when nobody else is there.  Wear gloves!  😉

You might wonder what the hell any of this has to do with undermining the industrial megamachine.  Nothing, maybe.  Maybe everything.  Probably something.  See, I truly believe that every act of compassion and kindness matters.  Of course it matters to the individual nonhuman, but I think it goes beyond that.  The dominant culture is built and maintained on violence, on sociopathology, on a complete and utter dearth of kindness and compassion.  Most members of this culture have our compassion, especially for nonhumans, beaten out of us (sometimes literally, usually figuratively through the media, our parents, etc.) as we grow out of childhood.  To reject that socio-cultural inculcation is the first step toward liberation; liberation of ourselves and of all the oppressed, from people of color to gays to women to nonhuman animals to trees and plants and fungi and rivers and natural communities in general.  It’s all connected.  Don’t believe me?  You’re wrong.  I have anecdotes to prove it!

Further, rats are one of the most maligned species of all.  By demonstrating to people how wonderful they are, you make strides toward undoing that inappropriate and unfortunate cultural malignancy.  This is especially important for animal-lovers because rats are one of the most heavily used-abused animals in vivisection laboratories.  In fact, not only do rats and mice represent 95 PERCENT of all animals tortured and killed needlessly in labs, wasting money and time when it could be spent on preventative medicine, they aren’t even covered under the already-paltry Animal Welfare Act.  So one great way to way to undermine the vivisection-industrial complex, which would itself help to undermine industrial civilization as a whole, is to build a larger culture of respect for heavily-abused animals like these.  The dominant industrial culture will be brought down in a million different ways.  Find your way(s) to contribute.  Maybe this can be one of them!  Countless—literally countless—lives, both human and nonhuman, depend upon it.