Even with the existence of animated pro-rat propaganda like Ratatouille, humanity at large doesn’t tend to look kindly upon the rat. Innately, we understand them to be untrustworthy. Always scurrying about, conducting their furtive (and likely sinister) business in the shadows, stealing entire pieces of pizza.
Unless you’re one of those people who have a pet rat they keep on their shoulder at all times to make up for a deplorable lack of personality, you’re never too happy to see a rat. We see them as harbingers of disease and filth (and again, they might steal your slice of pizza). A lot of this bad reputation comes from their association with the Black Death – and by association, I mean we are all under the impression it was all their bloody fault.
In the mid-14th century, the plague wiped out a stunningly not-inconsequential 75 to 200 million people in Europe and Asia, supposedly spread by rodents and the fleas they so generously carry around with them like a disgusting organic bus. A new study, however, has suggested it was more likely to be fleas and body lice carried by humans, meaning we might all owe rats a big ol’ apology.
As CNN reports, a study from the University of Oslo used mathematical modelling to determine what would be the most likely disease vector, based on the available mortality data for nine separate outbreaks in the plague’s second pandemic.
Rats are still, admittedly, kind of gross, but if you know one, maybe apologise for slandering its kin for the last several hundred years. That was pretty rude of us.