Nearly a half million American families include a pet rat. With so many of these furry little critters living in our homes, it isn't surprising that they've also found a place in our books, movies and culture. However, it's not just the U.S. where rats have found fame. In other parts of the world, rats are part of astrology and religious worship.
Rats have had much fame in television and movies. The most recent rodent stars are Remy and Emile of the 2007 Pixar movie, "Ratatouille." In the 1990 "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles" movie, the turtles' trainer is a rat named "Splinter." The Muppet Rizzo, who debuted in 1980, takes his place among the list of famous rats. In the Fox TV show, "House," Dr. Gregory House has a pet rat named Steve McQueen.
Rats have also found their way into literature. Many of the famous rats from books have gone on to have their stories told in movies. There is the famous rat Templeton from E.B. White's "Charlotte's Web," and Scabbers from the Harry Potter series. Samuel Whiskers was a rat made famous by Beatrix Potter. Robert C. O'Brien's "Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH" received the 1972 Newberry Medal. Ratty was made famous in Kenneth Grahame's book "Wind in the Willows." From a more modern time, we have Ratbert from the Dilbert comic strip.
In Chinese astrology, the rat is given its own year. The last Year of the Rat was in 2008 and the next will be in 2020. Perhaps the most famous real-life rats are the 20,000 who live in the Karni Mata Temple in northwestern India. The rats, called kabbas, are considered holy and are cared for by the temple's priests. The temple is a tribute to the Hindu rat goddess.
In addition to the famous rats, there are the rats made famous by the people who keep them. According to RatsRule.com, there is a long list of celebrities who keep rats as pets, including actress Jamie Lee Curtis, actor Rupert Grint and Grace Slick of Jefferson Airplane/Starship fame. Actor Clint Eastwood is reported to be a rat fancier, even cleaning his rodents' cages himself. At least once U.S. president, Teddy Roosevelt, kept rats as pets.
- Parade: Oh, Rats! Why the Rodents Are Becoming Increasingly Popular Pets
- Disney.com: Ratatouille
- IMBd: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles
- The Muppet Mindset: Rizzo the Rat
- House MD Episode Guide: "Euphoria Part 2"
- Peter Rabbit: The Tale of Samuel Whiskers
- Association for Library Services to Children: Newbery Medal and Honor Books, 1922-Present
- AbeBooks: Wind in the Willows
- National Geographic: Rats Rule at Indian Temple
- RatsRule.com: Celebs with Rats
Bethney Foster is social justice coordinator for Mercy Junction ministry, where she edits the monthly publication "Holy Heretic." She is also an adoption coordinator with a pet rescue agency. Foster spent nearly two decades as a newspaper reporter/editor. She graduated from Campbellsville University, receiving a Bachelor of Arts in English, journalism and political science.