Wednesday, February 4, 2009
The Misunderstood Rat Tail
By Shellyane Bryan
A rat owner from England shares tales of living with her first rat, Queen Dumbo Duncanson-Bryan, and a rat named Mouse.
Photos Courtesy of Shellyane
Rat tails can make some people squeamish, but not a rat lover.
I understand the stigma that surrounds rats. Mention rats to the average Joe, and the image instantly conjured is that of the fearsome, wild rat — the kind that carried the plague around the streets of London in 1665, or the kind that made women of the 1920s leap onto chairs brandishing a broom. Personally, I blame fleas for the former. It’s not like a rat could wear a flea collar at the time, is it?
Yet, to be honest, I wouldn’t want a wild rat anywhere near me (except for maybe this monster, discovered in Indonesia a couple of years ago). My little Dumbo wouldn’t stand a chance against one, let alone baby Mouse who is barely larger than the adult-sized Leon the Hamster. Dumbo is also a coward and runs at the faintest unusual sound.
It’s difficult to get those who still believe the rat to be vicious pests and a carrier of disease that domestic rats are one of the friendliest, most affectionate and most amazing pets to own.
Interestingly enough, the most typical reason for disliking rats is the tail. “I can’t stand the tail! If you just chopped off the tail, it might be cute. It would look more like a hamster then!” One point for Leon the Hamster, no points for Dumbo the Rat.
My mum is one of those people who shudder at the sight of a rat’s tail. Before I got Dumbo and Fidget, she loathed rats. She was distinctly unimpressed when she discovered I’d bought a couple rats. Saying that, even she can’t resist how sweet Dumbo actually is. Mum couldn’t believe it when she found out that rats lick out of affection and that Dumbo sits and licks my hand for a good half an hour. These days, mum gives Dumbo’s head a brief stroke. But she absolutely will not hold her under any circumstances, all because of Dumbo’s tail!
Yes, a rat tail is a little strange. It’s not like the tail of a squirrel or a chinchilla, or even a ferret, covered in fur and just as cute as the rest of it. It looks naked and snake like, but without that long, leathery tail, the rats of the world would have absolutely no sense of balance and, much like the hamsters of the world, would throw themselves off the edge of things like they have no will to live. And yes, sometimes the tail even freaks me out a little, but it’s really not so bad. There’s something nice about the way it coils around my arm when Dumbo is poising herself to make a frightening leap for a passing shoulder. Dumbo can jump over a meter across and upward, something I taught her to do when she was just a baby. She really is a phenomenal creature, and there is no way she would be able to perform such death-defying jumps without that strange, leathery tail.
There is an entire site’s worth of information just on rats and their tails, which can be found right here. Fascinating stuff!
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The Misunderstood Rat Tail