A Girl's Guide to Buying A Rat, page 2
How will the rat fit into my wardrobe?
Even if you won't be wearing your rat, it's going to have an impact on your
wardrobe. Rats like to eat things; they also like to line their nests with soft substances and shiny objects. If you care a lot about your grandmother's diamond brooches or your pashmina-scarf collection, but don't feel comfortable putting a muzzle on your rat or having its teeth surgically removed by famous rat doctor Dr. DeSoto, you might consider getting an aging, dieting, or sterile rat (look for rats with grizzled muzzles, missing teeth, visible ribs, and missing or deformed genitalia). If those kinds of rat aren't your style, you might want to reconsider your decision to let a rat into your life!
General precautions you can take to protect your wardrobe include keeping your rat constantly provided with a variety of delicious cheeses and strewing decoy nest supplies, such as broken glass and safety pins, all around your home. It's also wise to choose a rat with fur that coordinates with your favorite color schemes--you don't want those tennis whites sullied with black rat-lint! (This is a good idea for other reasons, too: A maiden who favors Gothic fashion looks much more a propos with a sinister-looking black rat licking the veins of her spectrally white hands.)
How will my neighbors feel about my rat?
Let's face it: Just because something is all the rage among the young and the hip doesn't mean that the old and the staid are going to embrace it, too. One man's trash is another man's treasure, etc., etc. Chances are that the upstanding families in your neighborhood grew up on farms in Oklahoma, where they struggled bitterly against the wild Dust Bowl rats that devoured their precious supply of grain, or in tenements in the Irish ghettoes of New York City, where children kept watch over their sleeping countrymen to make sure that the bold urban rats didn't come to gnaw the dirty flesh from their work-hardened faces. Since their early encounters with rats were nothing if not negative, it's understandable that these people have trouble being open-minded about rats, and they might be disturbed or even horrified if they discover you're the proud owner of one--or several--of their old adversaries.
The good news is, rats don't make a lot of noise or smell too strongly, and they don't require regular walks in the park, so it's unlikely that your neighbors will find out about your rat if you don't want them to. If you're considering a fashion rat, it might be more difficult to conceal, since you'll be literally "wearing your rat on your sleeve," but many old people are used to the idea of furs, and will simply assume that you've given up all that crazy vegan activism.
If you live in a co-op or condo where your neighbors can get you evicted for harboring a rat, you might want to play it safe by being up-front with them about your decision to make a rat part of your life. Consider hosting a series of rat-acclimation parties: Invite your neighbors over for tea and rat-shaped cookies and ask them to share their concerns about rats with you and with each other. Try to address their concerns with compassion and humor, and tell them why having a rat at this time in your life is important to you. Pass around photographs of rats, rat puppets and dolls, and finally a real stuffed rat for them to touch and play with. Finally, when your new rat arrives, hold an "Open Rat" event where everyone can meet their rattiest neighbor and sample delicious Stilton fondue!
How much disease should my rat carry?
This is a tricky question. Like a rebellious "bad boy," much of a rat's appeal derives from its dangerous qualities: the rat's reputation as a bringer of plague and a harbinger of watery graves makes it particularly appealing to would-be tragic heroines with a literary bent. Also, there is something extremely sexy about animals with rabies: Those wild eyes and all that bloody foam are really, really cool. At the same time, many rat-borne diseases can be fatal, and although that might seem cool to you, dying could cut your time with your rat unfortunately short. And seriously diseased rats can pose a threat to less-romantically-minded family members and other loved ones. It's a good idea to have your rat tested for a variety of diseases, including bubonic plague, smallpox, rabies, and strep throat. If it tests positive for any of them, meet with your general practioner and discuss whether it's worth the risk of contracting the disease. He or she may be willing to give you an advance prescription for a powerful antibiotic like Cipro, to use should infection occur.
Will owning a rat affect my relationship?
Definitely. First of all, you'll be spending a lot more time taking care of your rat--stroking it, talking to it, suckling it at your breast, telling it stories, etc.--than you ever spent with your partner, and it's natural for him or her to feel jealous initially. The fact that your libido is likely to plummet (75% of women report that their sexual activity is reduced by 80% or more within five hours of purchasing a rat) and that, when you do want to have sex, it is likely to be difficult and painful (65% of women report an increase in yeast infections, genital deformations, and giant lime walls being erected over their groin areas within two days of purchasing a rat) won't help matters much. Second of all, your rat is likely to feel jealous of your partner unless he or she is willing to spend at least 59% of his or her time stroking and talking to the rat. This jealousy is often manifested in physical aggression like biting or poisoning water supplies. Before you purchase your rat, talk it over with your partner. If he or she is resistant, consider hosting an intimate version of the rat-assimilation described above, complete with sensual massage and Stilton-flavored condoms.
How important is rat-fame to me?
Most rats are not famous, but some are famous. Famous rats include: that rat from Willard, Templeton the Rat, and Ratty from the children's classic Lord of the Rings. These rats may take some persuading, but if you really want a famous rat, it's worth it.