by Louis Spindler
When you think of rats you probably think of them as just a filthy animal living in the sewer and searching for food. But rats aren’t quite what you think.
First of all, rats are in the family of rodents along with mice, gerbils, porcupines, chipmunks, beavers, muskrats, prairie dogs, guinea pigs, gophers, woodchucks and squirrels. Capybaras are the largest rodent and they can weigh up to 110 pounds.
The point is there are many different species of rodents. In fact, there are 4,000 types of mammals and 1,500 of them are rodents.
Rats have managed to reproduce and survive for many years because they are the champions at survival. Rats can scale straight up a wall, and drop from a five story building and live. They can also be flushed down a toilet and survive and they can even climb straight up a drain pipe. Another amazing feat of rats is that they can stand on their hind legs and box with their front.
Also, unlike us humans, rats’ teeth won’t stop growing. If their teeth grow too large the rat will die. They stop this by gnawing which wears down their teeth. Gnawing is very easy for rats because they can gnaw through almost anything, and this is because they have teeth as sharp as chisels. They can bite down at a force of 7,000 pounds. That is as powerful as a fully grown crocodile’s jaws force. By comparison, humans can only bite down at 270 pounds. This means rats can chew through steel and even concrete.
Humans and rats have constantly been at war with each other mostly because we eat the same food and rats steal it. So over the years humans have learned to hate rats. The word rat even means evil, which was originated in Asia. Also in Asia, rats stole a massive amount of food. They stole enough grain to fill a freight train as long as the U.S.. Overall, rats have stolen a fourth of the human food supply. This has caused humans to hate most rodents as we tend to generalize or stereotype rats, or rodents, as evil creatures. Because of this, people have been cruel to rats. For example, there was a very popular sport called rat baiting which took place in America and Europe. People would gather in a large room where there were rows of benches set around a pit. Workers emptied bags full of rats into the pit. Then a fierce dog called a ratter would be tossed among them. People from the audience bet on how many rats the ratter could kill in a certain amount of time. Some breeders would breed albino rats so the audience could see the blood better. In 1895 Jenny Lind killed five hundred rats in just over an hour. Around the same time, Joco The Wonder Dog earned the world record for killing one hundred rats in five minutes. Of course this cruel sport is now illegal and nowadays breeders breed rats for pets not for killing. In fact, more than 550,000 American families own pet rats and mice. From hearing this you probably want to hear a less gross story so that’s what I’m going to do. Rats and humans have also befriended each other. For example, during the Vietnam War there was an American prisoner who was very lonely and he could only talk to the guard. But one day a rat came in and the prisoner fed the rat. Very soon the rat and the prisoner became very close.
Later, the prisoner said, “The rat seemed to understand me when I talked.”
Also, rats have proven themselves very useful. For example, there are landmine problems in many places because in war nearly every army uses landmines. In fact, the world has about 100 million bombs that have been buried causing the death of many innocent people. Thankfully the African giant pouched rat can detect a landmine more easily than a human’s technology ever could. Because of this, people use these rats to detect bombs and every time they find one they get a treat from a trainer. Weighing just three pounds, these rats are too light to set off any landmines. Another example is recently, scientists have used the rats’ marvelous sense of smell to cure TB, a disease that killed two million people in 2005. Because of rats’ amazing sense of smell, they can smell out TB in saliva samples from suspected victims. Laboratory workers can only analyze twenty saliva samples a day with microscopes but a trained rat can analyze one hundred twenty to one hundred fifty an hour.
In many places people eat rats and other rodents. Roman emperors used to serve their guests rodents dipped in honey. Another place where they serve rats is a restaurant in China that has a menu which mentions rat many times. Their menu includes rat with chestnut and duck, lotus seed rat stew, black bean rat, deep fried lemon rat, rat soup (with potatoes and onions on the top). Also there are many other rat-related foods. Some nutritionists think that rats are a solution for solving world hunger because there are so many rats and rat meat is rich in protein. Most people would think it is gross to eat rat but a rat raised for eating isn’t any more harmful to eat than a cow or chicken raised for the same purpose.
In conclusion, there are good things about rats and there are bad things about rats and I think we should focus more on the good things.
Marrin, Albert.(2006) Oh,Rats!
New York: Puffin Books