Punk and pet rats
Punk: Witches own cats, goths love bats and punks have rats. ‘Tis the law. Now let us learn about all things ratty. Didja know the first fancy rats were Victorian?
When I was a snotty little brat in the eighties, all the cool punk girls I admired seemed to have a pet rat peeking up from under the thick oversized sweaters they all wore (Norway is cold). Punks are awesome, so to me rats were also awesome by association. I really wanted to be a punk and accessorised like crazy. Unfortunately for me, my mum had our house filled with cats (witch!). Small rodents would have had a small chance of survival in my home.
Why are rats a favoured pet by those with a punk lifestyle? Why don’t you often see punks walking down the street with a tortoise or budgerigar? After all, you could paint slogans on the tortoise’s shell and dye your mohawk to match the plumage of the budgie.
I think the answer might lie in punks and rats being somewhat kindred spirits.
The first fancy rats were Victorian. Rats were bred and made to fight for blood sport. Some of the more exotically coloured rats were sold as novel pets instead of being killed in the ring. For some reason, having rats as pets went out of fashion in the 1920’s (which is odd, because – when it comes to style and novelty – it’s not often the Jazz Age misses a trick). Punk does not have Victorian origins, however much one might love to dream otherwise. Steampunk is, unfortunately, just fiction. Nevertheless, the pet rat was revived in the mid seventies, roughly at the same time as the punk subculture was gaining momentum.
Domestic rats descend from the wild brown rat. Although there are some differences, they are still considered the same species: Rattus Norvegicus. This is also happens to be the name of a quite popular album by The Stranglers.
Rattus Norvegicus – the wild rat – is, like most punks, primarily a city dweller. Thrifty beings with a strong DIY approach and little respect for personal property, both punks and rats often make their nests by occupying buildings rather than renting or buy them. They can also be a bit destructive and thus are generally viewed as pests by the greater society.
But what some view as pure vandalism is great art in the eyes of another. It’s all about perception. It cannot be denied that the punk scene has spawned marvellous new stuff, and you’d be hard pushed to find a pet who can rival the rat when it comes to creativity. This is no idle boast; the problem-solving abilities of rats have been thoroughly proven in numerous labs throughout the world.
The long and short of the connection between punks and rats may be that outcasts come together. Both live in a world hostile to them and their way of life, yet they survive. There will never be a rat-free city, and punk is not dead, no matter what they say.
Last but not least, if you consider getting rat or punk friends take care to remember:
They are living beings, not toys nor accessories to make you look cool. They may be tough for their size, but they are still fragile and need lots of love and care to thrive. The better you treat them and the more time you spend with them, the better your life together will be. Getting a friend means you have some responsibility for their wellbeing. Make sure to educate yourself on who they are and what they need. And don’t forget to find a vet who is competent to treat them.
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Punk will eat itself! This lovely punk rat illustration comes courtesty of talented Mookyduke Daniel Borgersen Nesthorne.