Nobody wants rats in the subway for some reason.
We've tried trapping them, poisoning them, sterilizing them, siccing dogs on them, stabbing them with pitchforks. Something bothers us about their bald tails, snaking out from fuzzy bodies the color of recycled dishwater.
And yet Rattus norvegicus -- the common subway rat -- persists, most recently making a widely publicized appearance on a Brooklyn-bound A train last month. How the passengers shrieked! How dare that rat scavenge for food in our ever-pristine subway rail cars?! Maybe we're overreacting just, like, a little? A little?
Sure, rats have caused more deaths than all the wars throughout human history. Yes, they carry the plague, leptospirosis, tularemia, and a couple other things that are totally treatable with antibiotics nowadays. But with perhaps as many rats in New York City as there are people, or possibly over three times more -- no one's done a proper rat census -- isn't it time we, the residents of this grungy, gritty city learned to appreciate our grungiest, grittiest neighbors?
They're the truest New Yorkers out there. Here's why.
Rats make the best of what they got out of the New York real estate market.
Rat Fact: Rats can survive a fall from up to 50 feet.
Somewhere between our street-level Shake Shack detritus and the subterranean Mole People creep the aforementioned unknown quantity of rats. Down in the subway, they have made a home, sweet home out of that dark chasm encrusted with a century's worth of grime and dotted with pools of oddly colored liquids. And you know what they do in the face of such a dismal abysm? They keep on keepin' on. And not only that -- they're thriving down there in that inhospitable hellhole, because they've embraced a life of minimalism.
What an impressive thing in our overworked, overly stressed city, to not crave amenities. To a rat, happiness isn't a destination -- it's a journey. It's a way of life. It's a choice. Besides, as soon as they poke their heads above ground, it's a lot easier for us to kill them.
They have a love/hate relationship with the trains.
Rat Fact: Rats are expert swimmers.
Like anyone in this city, rats spend a lot of time underground out of necessity. Indeed, the subway is an excellent way to get from place to place -- from one discarded-pizza-filled subway platform to another -- truly a modern marvel of transportation. Rats love it!
And also, they don't. The trains are loud, full of commotion, unpredictable strangers and never there when you want them to be. Rats aren't huge fans of the trains -- all the noise puts too much stress on their tiny ratty selves. The tunnels promise such convenience! But the trains? A headache. Amen.
Dark colors are all they wear.
Rat Fact: Rats cannot vomit.
Black, as everyone knows, is the official color of New York City, because we all find it's best to coordinate our outfits with the city's grime. Rats get this. They know it's best to complement their surroundings. And so they do -- wearing a coat of dark blackish greyish brownish fur, they're barely distinguishable from the subway track filth. Très chic, they are.
But they have their own style, too. (You can call it awww.)
Rat Fact: Jack Black, Queen Victoria's official rat catcher, had a side hustle -- he used to breed some of the animals he caught to sell as pets.
Look at this rat. LOOK at it. Do you see those eyes? Do you see those sweet little eyes that could not possibly mask some sort of nefarious scheme to give you medieval diseases? Those eyes are too adorable to mean you any harm. Perhaps, much like the city, you've got to look past the unpleasant bits to appreciate it.
They eat local.
Rat Fact: Rat teeth can chew through walls, plumbing and concrete.
You want a sustainable city? This is how you get a sustainable city. Kind of. Maybe you separate recyclables because the environment or whatever, but while we're all out throwing away around 7 million tons of stuff that won't get recycled, guess what your four-legged foes are doing? Following you around, picking up trash with their mouths. While there's no data on how much waste, exactly, is disposed via rat, with as many as 28 million of these roaming garbage disposals in the city, it probably amounts to, like, something.
They're always on the go.
Rat Fact: Rat teeth can chew through walls, plumbing and concrete.
Oh, you think just because they're not "people," rats just lounge around all day doing nothing? Check your human privilege. It's a busy life, being a rat. They've got to forage around for your trash. They've got to stay off the actual tracks. They've got to produce, like, seven litters of a dozen pups each by year's end. They've got stuff to do, you know, and places to be.
They're not as cutthroat as they look...
Rat Fact: The Karni Mata temple in India is home to some 20,000 rats.
People think rats carry rabies, but rats don't carry rabies! Usually. Even when they do, it's reeeally rare to pass it along to humans. You'd sooner be foaming at the mouth thanks to a stranger on the 6 train than a rat. There. Go forth and spread your newfound knowledge.
It's actually been argued that rats are the planet's most successful mammals. So there's a reason we use these guys for all our mad science experiments -- they're like tiny humans stuffed into furry suits. For all their nasty (and again, treatable) diseases and "creepy" hairless tails, we're both just highly evolved clumps of sentient space dust coexisting on Earth. Our insides are all basically the same to researchers, so the cousins of subway rats have probably SAVED as many lives as they've taken. Ha!
Because inside, they're real softies.
Rat Fact: Rats are social creatures that prefer company to being alone.
Yet for all their hardiness, rats are not without compassion. In this one study, rats helped other rats out of a trap and shared their food even when there was no clear reward for their empathy.
Rats have so much love to give. A rat, for example, would happily shop for groceries with you, pick up a donut, go out for dinner, whatever your friends who live 50 minutes away by train can't! Now, we're not saying this is "sanitary" or "a good idea" -- we're just saying that maybe you're being a little judgey.
Sometimes, they eat each other; sometimes, they help each other. Who else does that? Oh, yeah. The people of New York. Bam.
Basically, they're just looking for a connection.
Rat Fact: Rats have belly buttons.
A few years ago this little guy made national headlines. Its crime? Being TOO FRIENDLY. Rats, as we already established, don't even like subway cars. So what does it say that this one climbed aboard and started checking the place out? It was foraging for food, maybe. OR. OR it was trying to befriend the nice man sitting in the corner all by his lonesome, which, to be fair, does violate subway etiquette. But can you fault it for trying to be a buddy? No.
Oh yeah, and rats LIKE TO BE TICKLED. They LAUGH. Because they're HAVING FUN WITH US. And you want to poison them! Monsters.
In any case, subway rats live in the walls underground, so they're very nearly impossible to get rid of completely. We're kind of stuck with these little guys.
Which is totally fine. They were made to live here.
Full disclosure: Not a subway rat. Still hilarious.