Bryson on rats being more common than we wish

by Mr. Sheehy

Almost everything that could be said of mice applies equally, but with multiples, to their cousins the rats. Rats are more common in and around our houses than we care to think. Even the best homes sometimes have them… . We associate rats with conditions of poverty, but rats are no fools: they sensibly prefer a well-heeled home to a poor one. What’s more, modern homes make a delectable environment for rats. “The high protein content that characterizes the more affluent neighborhoods is particularly enticing,” James M. Clinton, a U.S. health official, wrote some years ago in a public health report that remains one of the most compelling, if unnerving, surveys ever taken of the behavior of domestic rats. It isn’t merely that modern houses are full of food, but also that many of them dispose of it in ways that make it practically irresistible. As Clinton put it: “Today’s garbage disposals in homes pour out a bountiful, uniform, and well-balanced food supply for rats.” According to Clinton, one of the oldest of all urban legends, that rats come into homes by way of toilets, is in fact true. IN one outbreak, rats in Atlanta invaded several homes in wealthy neighborhoods, and bit more than a few people. “On several occasions,” Clinton reported, “rats were found alive in covered toilet bowls.” If ever there was a reason to put the lid down, this could be it. (240-241)

Bryson, Bill. At Home: A short history of private life. New York: Doubleday, 2010.

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