Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About ... Rats

Rat: How the World’s Most Notorious Rodent Clawed Its Way to the Top

“Rat” isn’t a book for the squeamish. But the morbidly curious will find it a fascinating, in-depth look at the wide world of rats. Author Jerry Langton—a Toronto-based writer who did his field research in sewers, basements, and alleys behind restaurants—covers likes and dislikes, behavioral tendencies, and mating habits, not to mention the long list of frightening diseases rats transmit.

Demonstrating that rodents have gastronomical preferences, Langton even provides a list of favorite—and least favorite—foods. Rats consider bacon grease, scrambled eggs, corn, and macaroni & cheese to be delicacies, but like some humans, would prefer to starve rather than eat cabbage or cauliflower. 

Langton also spends considerable time recounting the myriad ways humans (try to) get rid of rats, methodically reviewing the drawbacks of various traps and rodenticides. As one might expect, the War on Rats hasn’t been successful; wild rats are found in virtually every country in the world and are multiplying at a dizzying pace. 

Since it’s virtually impossible to eradicate rats, Langton’s exterminator friends recommend making your own locale as inhospitable as possible. The idea is to deny the rodents easy access to food, water, and a comfortable place to nest, thus gently encouraging them to go elsewhere. This pest control tactic sounds vaguely reminiscent of President Bush’s strategy for fighting terrorists: “Fight them over there or we’ll have to fight them over here.”