I’m sure you have read about the Lyubov Orlova, which over a year ago was abandoned in Newfoundland because of a dispute over debts. On its tow to a salvage yard in the Dominican Republic, the ship broke free and became adrift. At first it was thought to be heading towards the British Isles however, it is now widely believed to have sunk. The most recent reports suggest that rats cannot live more than five days without water.
This story had me thinking about rats in general and rats along Gloucester’s waterfront, which in turn led to thinking about one of the many reasons why I love cats.
The Norway rat (Rattus norvegicus), also known as the brown rat, sewer rat, common rat, and myriad other terms of non-endearment, is native to northern China. The species found its way to Eastern Europe by the early eighteenth century. By the year 1800, they occurred in every European country. First sightings of R. norvegicus in the New World were reported in the 1770′s as ship stowaways.
During the Middle Ages cats were reviled and killed en masse. In the few regions where cats were not killed there were far less fatalities from the pandemic Black Death, which killed roughly half the population of Europe. Had this fear of cats not existed, populations of the Black Rat (Rattus rattus) would have been minimized, lessening the spread of plague infected fleas, carried by rats.
Rats are one of the world’s most successful mammals, second only to humans. They live everywhere except Antarctica.
All images courtesy google image search.