While many people are disgusted, if not terrified, of rats, others find them affectionate, loyal companions. And, of those who find them appealing, a few bring them along for rides on city transit.
Of course, not everyone is thrilled about seeing a giant rat on someone's shoulder - especially when it is on a crowded Vancouver bus during rush hour. Sadly, that is exactly what happened to me when I was coming home from work on Monday, June 10.
I was boarding the first door on the 99 B-Line at Cambie Street heading east down Broadway at around 5:30 p.m. I happened to be talking to my father while I was hopping on the bus, and was barely three steps inside when I exclaimed, "Oh my god - there is a giant rat on this bus!"
My dad was at a loss: "A rat - the bus - how?"
I told him I had to get off the phone, because I was feeling extremely anxious. Rats scare the daylights out of me from a distance, but seeing a giant, black-and-white one with a long, cord-like tail making circuits around someone's neck was enough to make me want to jump out of the moving bus. And just to clarify: I've seen pet rats, but this one was enormous.
People around me were equally weirded out (or horrified), and there was even a baby in a stroller right below the action. And, to top things off, when he was getting off the bus (I ran off the bus first because I didn't want that rat leaping on me) he cackled at me like spooking people with his ratty hi-jinx was pure, hilarious sport.
This is a bizarre and uncommon situation. I've never seen a rat on a bus, or even an animal without a leash on a bus, and I've been riding Vancouver transit for roughly 15 years - which got me thinking.
Can rats be emotional support animals?
The answer is yes, and for more reasons then you may have imagined. For one, rats are highly intelligent creatures: they can learn how to roll over, shake hands, and even jump through hoops. In addition, they are exceptionally loving, and reciprocate affection from their owners. They also love to cuddle.
Apparently, these skinny-tailed rodents can even giggle. PETA states that, "Recent studies by Jaak Panksepp, a neuroscientist at Bowling Green State University, suggest that when rats play or are playfully tickled, they make chirping sounds that are strikingly similar to human laughter."
So, it makes sense why someone would want to keep their furry friend with them at all times. However, TransLink notes that there are a few things to keep in mind before you bring your little pet en route.
"Pets, including dogs, cats, rabbits and small fur-bearing or feathered animals are allowed on transit as long as they are in small, hand-held cages. The approved cage or container must fit on your lap and must be fully enclosed with no part of the animal exposed," states the transit provider.
Furthermore, TransLink states the cages must not be placed on the floor and that they must not get in the way of other passengers.
So, in case there's any confusion: it is not okay to keep a rat on your shoulder on the bus.