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road sage

Dear Human Motorists,

You like to go on about the “War on Cars.” You claim that drivers are singled out for abuse and that municipal governments are making it impossible to move about and federal governments are making it hard for low-income earners to afford to buy an automobile.

Try being a rat.

There is a war raging today in cities and towns across North America (except for Alberta). It’s the “War on Rats in Cars.” Today, drivers seek to eliminate rats from automobiles completely. The problem with automobiles, according to drivers, is not that they pollute or injure people; it’s that there are rats in them.

As temperatures have dipped, the media has been full of reports of rodents occupying vehicles. In November 2023, ABC 7 in Chicago ran the headline, “Chicago rats chew through car wires, make nests under hoods; what you can do.” A station in Washington, D.C. recently warned viewers, “Another thing to watch out for when temperatures drop? Rats in your car.”

The Wall Street Journal published an account of university professor Tom Marion, who has “survived roughly four rodent invasions of his car.” The 62-year-old has tried rodent repellent and peppermint oil and steel wool, but all have failed. “They will find you,” he told the paper, “And they all know each other and they talk to each other.”

Full disclosure: I am a rat, specifically a Norway rat, legal name “Rattus norvegicus.” And if you really want the truth, I can tell you that, yes, we know each other, and yes, we talk to each other and yes, we will find you. We’re smart. We rats like to think of human beings as obsolete rats. I can also tell you we like cars…and trucks…and pretty much any kind of motor vehicle, ideally accompanied by some sort of condiment or sauce.

How cars became tastier and turned into rat food

First, some background: a little more than 10 years ago car manufacturers began using soy-based insulation on their wiring. Soy-based wiring is less expensive to make and better for the environment. How to put this? Imagine if traffic cones tasted like Buffalo wing sauce. You wouldn’t be able to walk a block without seeing two or three people licking them. Soy-based wire is catnip for rats. If you don’t like us eating your cars maybe don’t cover their insides with delicious soy-coated wires. Then there was the pandemic. Lockdowns meant restaurants were closed. You eat at restaurants. We eat at restaurants. Notice a pattern? So, we stayed home and social distanced in your cars, which were being driven less.

Why the rat-hate among drivers?

I suppose it’s because humans are conditioned to hate rats and this extends to rats in cars. We get blamed for the Black Plague even though most of that was bad human hygiene. Besides, that was the 14th century. Can we not let it go?

We rats are not conventionally cute. If panda bears were chewing on automobile wires, you’d be posting videos on TikTok of them gnawing on Porsches and Cadillacs. It’s ironic. People, what have pandas ever done for you? Nothing. Meanwhile, we rats have been carrying a heavy load for mankind ever since the invention of science. Have you or your loved ones taken medication this year? Well, thank a rat that “volunteered” for pharmaceutical testing. Better yet, open up your glove compartment and let one of us climb in.

Besides, is it really that odd that rats like automobiles?

We are essentially the same species. We are both warm-blooded mammals. We live where you live and eat what you eat. We suffer from the same diseases, possess the same fundamental organs and physiology and use hormones to control our body chemistry. Do you believe in reincarnation? I hate to break it to you, but many of you are coming back as a rat (the rest as pigeons).

Rats not only like driving, we’re good at it. Researchers at the University of Richmond taught rats to drive. According to the study, “The research team built a tiny car for the rats out of a clear plastic food container on wheels, with an aluminum floor and three copper bars functioning as a steering wheel. A total of 17 rats were trained to drive in rectangular arenas. Rats who passed their driver’s education were rewarded with Froot Loops.”

Professor of behavioural neuroscience Kelly Lambert said, “We already knew that rodents could recognize objects, press bars and find their way around mazes, but we wondered if rats could learn the more complex task of operating a moving vehicle.”

Turns out we can, and we can also eat the insides of a Prius.

Here’s a tip: Next time you are deciding what to insulate car wiring with, don’t pick Froot Loops.

Why don’t we unite forces? Rats make great pets. We make better passengers than most people. We don’t swear or suffer from road rage. We are good listeners. Find inspiration in the Minnesota photographer who found a mouse in his car and decided to let her stay. He named her Morticia (her real name was Janis, but whatever). She is now his car buddy.

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