The city’s Department of Health has issued a new Guide to Preventing Rats on Your Property. The colorful pdf, filled with simple, children’s-book-style illustrations, tells worried landlords and tenants to look not only for droppings, holes and burrows, but also “runways” because “rats run along the same path many times a day, leaving dark greasy track marks along walls and worn down paths in grass.”
We know, now you’re seeing them everywhere, right? Precautions are pretty much what you’d expect: bin up your trash (“Rats need only one ounce of food a day”), seal up holes and cracks and, in the last ditch, hire an exterminator (it’s illegal to put down your own bait traps, apparently). Disappointingly, there is nothing about shooting rats, as this fellow enjoys (he has also measured them, “photographed them, and stored them away for lizard food… the lizard thought they were good eating”), nor drowning them in anti-freeze, as prefers this one (“The glycol lets the rats to die by drowning, they can’t swim in the mix… my score for a week was 57 rats”).
The most interesting part for us was the page debunking rat myths, such as that major cities have “rats the size of cats” (“When a rat is scared, it will fluff up its fur and look bigger”), underground “rat cities,” etc. We see other sources online also dispute such stories, e.g., that New York has at least one rat per person (Snopes puts it at more like 1:36). The overall effect, which the DOH pamphlet promotes, is to demystify rats, which we count a good thing; though it may over time deprive local columnists of a reliable source of outrage (“Of course, if the Taco Bell rats had been smoking, [Health Commissioner] Frieden would have been there to nail the door shut himself… Instead, he was busy unveiling New York City-brand condoms…”), and abort the development of a new, fear-based scourge of criminals called Ratman, it soothes us and puts us slightly more at ease with the ubiquitous vermin, which should make our inevitable trip to Room 101 a little less unpleasant.
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on October 30, 2008