This entry is part 15 of 29 in the series Conversari


We were talking about pets. You told me about a family you knew in South Africa who had two rats, which they called mice because the fellow they got them from couldn’t tell the difference. As babies, tiny and hairless, all rodents look pretty much alike. But they grew into black-and-white fancy rats, and their favorite thing was to watch a human taking a bath.

It was a ritual. They would rush into the bathroom, station themselves on either side of the faucet and wait for toes to emerge from the water, whereupon they would lean over and lick them, their tails stuck out behind for balance. Perhaps it was the hot, soapy water they liked. But I wonder whether it didn’t trigger their parental instincts to see such fine litters of five, small and pink and wrinkled.

Were the rats ever disappointed at the lack of response to their licks—the eyes that didn’t open, the squeaks that didn’t come, the single, malformed tooth that wouldn’t chew? I’d love to have rats someday, you said—they’re very clever! But their lifespan is so ridiculously short.

Series Navigation← The Captain’s ReversesExchange →
Posted in

Dave Bonta (bio) crowd-sources his problems by following his gut, which he shares with 100 trillion of his closest microbial friends — a close-knit, symbiotic community comprising several thousand species of bacteria, fungi, and protozoa. In a similarly collaborative fashion, all of Dave’s writing is available for reuse and creative remix under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 United States License. For attribution in printed material, his name (Dave Bonta) will suffice, but for web use, please link back to the original. Contact him for permission to waive the “share alike” provision (e.g. for use in a conventionally copyrighted work).


  1. Wonderful post, Dave. As I said about it on my blog, I need to learn to love rats more.


    1. Thanks, Joe. And thanks for sharing! Yes, it’s funny how an animal that prompts such loathing when wild can make such an endearing pet. Reminds me almost of the wolf/dog dichotomy.


Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.