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Rats on the Brain

In the pandemic, reports of rat sightings have risen dramatically. But is it all in our heads?

Illustration by Zach Hazard Vaupen

The rats are everywhere, more of them all the time, in our streets and our apartment complexes, cavorting on picnic tables and playgrounds—or so the pandemic’s hyperventilating news reports would suggest. Is the rodential bonanza real, or are we just noticing rats more? How are outdoor dining, gentrification, and climate change implicated? And why does our anxiety about rats seem to intensify after large-scale disasters? On episode 39 of The Politics of Everything, hosts Laura Marsh and Alex Pareene look into what’s behind our rat fears with Robert Sullivan, the author of Rats: Observations on the History & Habitat of the City’s Most Unwanted Inhabitants, and Liza Featherstone, a regular contributor to The New Republic.


[Clip] Eric Adams: All of us know we’re seeing an increase in the level of rodents. We need to zero in. I had a device that was called Rat Trap. It was an amazing device. We’re going to see about deploying those rat traps throughout the city, particularly in high areas where rodents are a serious problem.

Laura Marsh: New York’s incoming mayor, Eric Adams, has been crusading against rats for a long time.

Alex Pareene: I remember the rat trap he’s talking about because he unveiled it at a press conference, and it was essentially a bucket where the rat is lured to its death by drowning in some sort of mysterious vinegar concoction. The Times literally referred to it as a “ghastly spectacle” with a “stomach-churning odor”—in a piece headlined, “Rats Have Ruled New York for 355 years. Can a Mystery Bucket Stop Them?”

Laura: No one said it was going to be pretty. But I think Eric Adams right now must be feeling like he had an idea whose time has come, because almost as soon as the pandemic started, in 2020, newspapers began to run stories about how in the absence of humans, rats were going to take over. I’m going to read you some headlines from last year. This is from April 2020, one month into the pandemic: “Starving, angry and cannibalistic: America’s rats are getting desperate amid coronavirus pandemic.” Next month, we have “‘Aggressive’ Rats May Increase During Pandemic, CDC Says.” And a great video from Fox titled “Rats growing more aggressive, even eating each other during the pandemic.”

Alex: The involvement of the Center for Disease Control—I was not aware that rats were within their purview—suggests this is not just a New York City problem.

Laura: This is a nationwide problem that affects cities in general across the country. When cities started reopening, as the pandemic entered a new phase, these worries about rats actually didn’t actually go away—they just changed a bit. So we get, in Bloomberg: “New York City rat complaints surge as urban life revives.” The New York Times has run multiple pieces about rat sightings increasing with the advent of things like outdoor dining. There’s been a big increase, they report, in sightings of rats and the number of people calling 311 about them. This is the hotline you can ring in New York for problems that are not an emergency. In 2021 so far there have been 21,000 calls to 311 about rats, compared with just over 12,000 in 2014. And there are even a few people who are really into the rise in rats, like this New York Post piece I found titled “Why I love New York’s massive rat infestation,” which is by a writer who compares himself to the Pied Piper, and who thinks that the rise in rats will keep his rent low.

Alex: There’s a real “Did a rat write this” kind of mood to that. So what’s the deal here? What do we think is going on?

Laura: The question I have is are there really more rats in big cities or are people just noticing them more? And do the reasons for this apparent increase hold up? What does it have to do with the pandemic, or the other reasons that come up, like climate change and gentrification? Is there really a link between rat sightings and these phenomena, or is something more complicated going on?

Alex: Basically: Are rats more out of control now than they were before, or are we just seeing a sort of media-driven rat panic that is disconnected from the objective facts about rat prevalence in our cities?

Laura: Exactly. Today on the show, we are going on a journey, both into the rat kingdom and into human psychology. We’ll be looking at some facts about rats and all the other issues that get bundled up with them. I’m Laura Marsh.

Alex: And I’m Alex Pareene.

Laura: This is The Politics of Everything.


Laura: Our first guest is Robert Sullivan, the author of Rats: Observations on the History & Habitat of the City’s Most Unwanted Inhabitants. We’re talking about rats and specifically the notion that in the pandemic rats have proliferated. The idea is there are more rats and they’re more emboldened than before, as if there’s this new breed of particularly brazen rats. So we wanted to talk to an expert about all of this. Before we dive in, I wanted to ask you a bit about your background. How long have you been watching rats?

Robert Sullivan: I’ve been watching rats for as long as I’ve been trying to seriously watch cities. The first books I wrote were about places that were considered spoiled, ruined, or even devastated. I started thinking about those kinds of places, and eventually you come down to rats. If cities were a theme park run by Disney, then a giant rat that looks nothing like Mickey Mouse would be the kind of theme park character.

Laura: When you were working on the book and you would go out into the field, what would a typical expedition be like?

Robert: Well, a typical expedition would be to go to my alley. I chose an alley that I could go to repeatedly, as if I were a scientist with a kind of controlled experiment. But it wasn’t controlled and it wasn’t in a lab. If I returned to the alley every night and looked for rats, what would I see each time? What would I see that was new about the alley?

Laura: So you have at least 20 years experience with this. We’re talking about the rat situation today, and one of the things that came up in our research was this video from March 2020, right at the beginning of the pandemic.

Robert: I remember this—the New Orleans video.

Laura: It’s in New Orleans. It’s a street at night, and it looks like it might have just rained, there are little puddles. This video went viral last year. I want to have you take a look at this and tell us what we’re seeing.

Robert: Rats in the street. They’re eating what I’ll call food in the center. And then rats over by the sewer, going in and out of the sewer. Rats running back underneath doors, into sidespaces, probably where garbage is. What you might call a big rat in the center there, but it’s actually kind of a standard-size rat, and younger rats around that rat. And here comes a guy walking along—

Alex: The guy in the street is the only human in sight.

Robert: The rats go away to some extent, because they’re not big fans of people, rats—kind of like people with rats. And of course what really happened is that the video started circulating and everybody was sending it around saying, “This is what we’re all in for. Rats are going to take over the cities.” Now people would say that rats have taken over the cities and it’s all out of control.

Alex: What I find really interesting is that this video is on a street in the French Quarter where you would almost never see it empty of people like that. It’s already eerie to see the French Quarter empty of people. So what is the rat activity after a disaster? Is it good for the rats? What do they do after that? How do they adapt when things like that happen to cities?

Robert: Some ecologists and biologists did a paper about rat movement–I think in New York City–looking at how rats moved after the lockdown in March. They kind of stayed local, staying around the restaurants that they would have been around and where food sources were. They don’t travel these huge long distances. There’s a guy named Bobby Corrigan who did a paper on exactly how long they travel, which dispelled the subway tunnel myth. But you’re not seeing a lot more rats, you’re seeing a lot fewer people. If you take New York City, the baseline rat situation is horrendous. If you were coming from another planet and you were visiting, you would see this nocturnal creature and the humans would bring out their offerings in plastic bags.

Alex: Every night.

Robert: Every night.

Alex: Every night they bring out trash.

Laura: Just when they’re getting up. And then they feed them. “It must be some prayer ritual that they do to get the rats going.” So did rat populations go up as soon as there was a shutdown? Yes, in some places. But did they also suffer because some rats had to move into other spaces, because suddenly their food source wasn’t there? Because the garbage was taken away at a restaurant, they had to go find food elsewhere. The population kind of spreads. None of it’s good, but none of it’s new. Just to go back to the video, there’s only one person in there. There are not a lot of people walking around the street is the thing that we’re basically seeing. When there aren’t a lot of people around because something bad has happened, like a lockdown, the rats that are already there will just come out more freely, because there aren’t people coming by for them to scurry away from.

Robert: Yeah, I think that’s the most useful way to read it. I’m not saying that there isn’t an issue and that they shouldn’t be doing rat control on that street, but that we’re seeing an absence of humans. And we’re really seeing where there might be a sewer leak and where garbage is not stored away safely, maybe in an alleyway. But the natural reaction is to circulate rat videos and say, “Oh my God, they’re super rats. They’re the biggest rats I’ve ever seen. We’re all going to die.”

Laura: I think there was also a panic about rats after 9/11. And there was one after Hurricane Sandy, which you wrote about for The New Republic. Is there any kind of pattern to these fears about rats? Do people get anxious about rats after big disasters, for instance?

Robert: I mean, there’s a sort of seasonal cycle of rat panic. It can be a huge, horrible disaster, or it can be a Taco Bell that’s suddenly been infiltrated. I think a Walgreens was shut down in San Francisco a couple of days ago, or some kind of chain drug store

Alex: There was a Popeyes in Washington, DC, that had a viral rat video, but yeah—you just see them periodically.

Robert: That’ll go up on the nightly TV news on one station and the other station will feel compelled to follow. And then the way the news hierarchy works, maybe a newspaper will even do a story. They’ll try to do a think piece on the Taco Bell rat problem. If there’s any seasonal bump of rat sightings in the modern era, say from the 60’s on, you can count on a politician jumping on that and saying that they have the rat plan, which gets you great press because everybody wants to hear your rat plan.

Robert: I think the current mayor of New York had a rat plan, in proximity to his campaign.

Alex: That would be Mayor-elect Adams, whose bucket-based rat plan we discussed earlier.

Laura: What makes rats such a compelling subject for such a wide range of people?

Robert: Rats live in places that we’d prefer not to think about, or that we don’t see, or that we don’t want to see. Rats are in the sort of places that we’d like to pretend aren’t there until we can’t pretend anymore, and then we have to blame somebody. We have to say this is the problem, or that’s the problem. Oftentimes we put other issues on top of the rats, and we say that “Let’s get rid of these people because of the rats.” In the 1960s there was a great report in the New York Times that said, “Upper east side Fifth Avenue residents attacked by rats from Harlem.” I mean, it’s a perfect thing, but it’s just like today. The Times keeps linking to a report that says gentrification causes rat outbreaks. It’s wrong. The science doesn’t really show that. Rats are in places in the city that lack investment and resources. When you come in and say building new houses and construction has caused it, well, yeah, sure. Construction workers can leave garbage out. Things don’t get picked up. That’s definitely a problem. But everybody’s screaming about rats in particular areas where there’s gentrification, where new people who moved in are reporting the rats. Right now, there’s a housing project in the Bronx where they’re streaming rat photos in their kitchens and in their homes, they’re killing rats in their toilets. They put in in October for pest control, but pest control isn’t coming until December or something like that. Everybody’s freaking out about this rat, that rat, because it’s ruining my lifestyle, but it’s a different story where it’s really a problem.

Alex: That is what is so interesting about it, because on the one hand, rats can be treated as a moral panic by the media, using rats as a stand-in for some other concern they have. But then on the other hand, they’re very straightforwardly a story about government investment and competence. They are animals that we have been sharing cities with for a very long time. We panic when they come out in the open and we see them. but they’re not like a sort of result of a moral failing. They’re just a result of bad sanitation, basically.

Robert: Right, right. The simplest things are what makes a city so great and wonderful too. The flip side of that, being connected and knowing your neighborhood and an investment in community, means that somebody says on day one, “I think you have a rat problem” or “we have a rat problem.” That’s really the answer. It’s not “you are causing the rats” it’s “we have a rat problem.”

Laura: I want to talk about the current rat problems, and if New York has a rat problem, how would we measure that? One of the articles that prompted us to start thinking about rats was this piece in the New York Times with the headline “N.Y.C. Rats: They’re in the Park, on Your Block and Even at Your Table.” This piece describes a great leap in sightings of rats, but when you read it, all of the places that have rats are actually outdoors. “We saw a rat in a street,” “we saw a rat in a park,” and someone saw it around a table for outdoor dining. So these are all rats that haven’t entered human spaces and they haven’t gone inside the home. If New York had a rat problem, how would you measure that? How do we typically gauge how many rats there are? It’s a great analysis of that piece, and really what it comes down to is news. Rats are exactly where they were before you read this article. They’re the same. What’s really upsetting about the whole outdoor dining thing—“Oh no, there are rats now, it’s outdoor dining”—first of all, there was never any outdoor dining in sections of the Bronx that now have outdoor dining, which is a great thing. The positives of people in the community seeing each other, eating, and enjoying the socialness of that is probably outweighing the problems with the rats. But there was also a rat problem before this all happened. NYCHA, New York City Housing, has some real rat problems. We’ve had them the whole time, and they’re happening mostly in the disinvested neighborhoods.

Alex: Is there something people commonly believe, or commonly repeat, about rats that is basically a myth that there’s no evidence for? What do people think they know about rats that might not actually be true?

Robert: The baseline rat fact is that there’s one rat per person.

Alex: In New York City.

Robert: In New York City, yes.

Laura: It’s like your soulmate is out there, you’re just waiting to be reunited with the rat for you.

Robert: Exactly. That statistic came from a survey that was done, I think in the teens, in England. They were looking at rats all around the countryside in England, because farming was the big rat problem—as it is for us today. This naturalist back in England did some calculations and estimated the total acres, and it came out to one rat per person over the whole of England. It didn’t match everywhere and he was doing it in a particular instance at a particular moment, but it was just too juicy. It was too excellent. It’s like Taco Bell food to a rat. It’s like fried chicken to a rat. Then in 1949, a guy named Dave Davis, the founder of urban ecology, was in Baltimore. Davis does a study in Baltimore and comes to New York to trap rats and comes up with a statistic: 250,000 rats, or about one for every 36 people. That number goes into the New York database, and the city uses that number for a year or two. But then the pressure of the one-to-one is too much, it’s unbearable. The UN is using the one-to-one thing again.

Alex: The number is just too good. People can’t let go of it.

Robert: There’s a great piece by Joseph Mitchell that everybody probably knows about in the New Yorker, in 1949. He quotes the one-to-one thing, I think that was a few years after the figure had been discounted.

Laura: He was famously not exactly stringent with his facts.

Robert: And then I remember when I published a piece about it—I published part of the rats book in the New York Times Magazine—I debunked this number. The piece was fact- checked, and when they checked my debunking—when it was bunked or whatever—sure enough, like two weeks later, a letter to the editor came in at the Times and said that I was wrong, but it’s really one rat per person in New York and everybody knows it. So I was like de-debunked. It was most excellent.

Laura: Well, Robert, thank you so much for talking to us, for sharing your decades of knowledge about rats. We really appreciate it. Thank you.

Robert: I don’t know that I have decades of knowledge about anything, but you’re welcome. I have decades. “Thank you for sharing my decades” is what you meant.

Alex: Thank you.

Laura: When you start looking more closely at rats and looking at the history of rats, what’s clear is that our fears of rats are incredibly enduring. And the question of whether the numbers are going up, there’s no clear evidence that they are. But what we do have evidence of is that concerns about rats are being had more frequently.

Alex: Well, there’s no rat census, so we don’t actually know. No one’s done a fresh count.

Laura: They have to travel back to their place of birth every 10 years to register.

Alex: After a short break, we’ll be back to talk with Liza Featherstone about what’s underneath our rat anxiety.


Alex: We’re joined now by Liza Featherstone, a regular contributor to TNR who recently wrote about rats. Liza, have you seen any good rats lately?

Liza Featherstone: Oh, I sure have. I live in Brooklyn and there are a lot of restaurants around the corner from me. There are also community gardens. Between the community garden and the garbage piles that accrue by the restaurants it’s a real rat superhighway.

Alex: That’s got to be a rat hotspot there.

Liza: It’s a rat night spot. It’s a destination for the big rat parties. We see quite a lot of rats.

Alex: Your piece says there is a sort of rat panic, the media worries about rats, but you’re saying it’s not just about rats. What is your argument about what we’re worried about when we worry about rats?

Liza: Rats are gross, no question. I don’t mean to minimize that. Their scaly tails offend our sense of what warm-blooded mammals should be like—as humans, we gravitate toward nice, fuzzy creatures.

Laura: Because squirrels are basically the same animal but with a fluffy tail, and everyone is really excited about squirrels.

Alex: It’s a tree rat.

Liza: Everybody loves squirrels. Occasionally some naysayers will point out that a squirrel is just like a rat, as you just have, but it’s really a minority view because of that fluffy tail.

Laura: I do have a habit of pointing that out.

Alex: It’s all aesthetics.

Liza: But also rats are a bit uncanny. We know that they’re very intelligent, a little more than maybe a rodent should be. There’s something a little creepy about that. Most of all, they feel like invaders. They feel like nature in places where nature shouldn’t be, and they’re running around while people are eating in the outdoor dining spaces. They might not get into people’s homes, but they’re not in places where people generally want animals to be. So for all of those reasons, it feels a bit out of control when you see rats. I think rats make a very convenient source of displacement. When we are anxious about a lot of other things, it’s very easy to project those anxieties onto rats. There was quite a lot of worry about rats this summer, which has recurred again. In the column that I wrote on this, I speculated that there was an element of displacement of our fears about climate change in the obsession around rats. At the same time that every major New York newspaper was covering the rat issue, people in major Chinese cities were having to be rescued from flooded tunnels, and people were dying in Germany from climate change-caused floods. It really seemed as though nature was unraveling globally, like the rats were a smaller, more manageable projection for us.

Alex: They’re a more psychologically manageable symbol of us not being in control of the environment than these images of disaster that you’re talking about.

Liza: That’s right. And that’s how Sigmund Freud and his daughter, Anna Freud, identified it within their theory of displacement. When we are faced with incredibly large, overwhelming anxieties, we will often focus on something smaller and more manageable. So as disgusting as rats genuinely are—I don’t like rats either—it’s really not that serious. We could go on living in New York City among rats.

Alex: We’ve been living with rats. That’s what’s so interesting—we’ve been living alongside them for years and years. And what’s interesting, too, is that when you go through the archives, rat stories pop up at times of unrelated crises.

Liza: Right.

Alex: There were rat stories around Hurricane Sandy. There were rat stories around 9/11. There were rat stories around the fiscal crisis. The rats don’t go away in between the crises. They’re there the whole time. But then we suddenly notice them again at these times of much larger concern.

Liza: That’s right. That’s a wonderful finding, and not a surprising one.

Laura: A question I have is when people are talking about sightings going up and in these recent New York Times pieces, they say the number of people calling 311 is going up. Is that because there are more rats or people are just more aware of them? When you’re walking around your neighborhood just after a lockdown and like everyone’s wearing masks and you’re feeling really vulnerable and, and kind of jumpy, maybe—some people weren’t, some people were—and you see a rat, maybe you’re more scared or more uncomfortable than you would be otherwise. Because when I think about my rat experiences in 10 years of living in New York, they’re pretty evenly distributed. They’re in the good times and the bad times. Rats live here and I live here. Anecdotally, I feel like there aren’t more rat sightings, but maybe people who are seeing these rats are freaking out more because it’s another bad thing. We had Trump, we had a pandemic, and now I have to watch this rat cross my path on the street, outdoors where it lives—that’s outrageous. I need to phone 311 and get someone to come and arrest this rat.

Liza: It is funny, the 311 calls about rats.

Laura: It’s like, what does 311 do? They don’t have a squad car that comes out. It’s just like, “Okay, we have noted your complaint.” We’ll collect this data.

Liza: Maybe some active listening: “It sounds like you’re having some feelings about the rats.” In the early 2000s I lived on the Upper West Side and there was a a lovely gay bar that we used to go to in college which is no longer around. There was a block in back of it that we used to call Rat Alley because there were always rats on this particular block, and I remember one time walking with open-toed shoes and having a very unpleasant near-encounter. I feel the same as you, Laura, that one sees rats in New York City at all different times. But there’s no question that there are more right now. The outdoor dining sheds are creating their own rat attractions. I don’t know if the rat population has increased, but—

Alex: Maybe human-rat interactions have.

Liza: Exactly. Human-rat interaction, which is something that we generally want to keep to a minimum, has increased. There’s no question about that. Rats do, though, make such an effective displacement of larger concerns to the degree that Freud even had a patient that he referred to in his writings as Rat Man. The man had such overwhelming sexual anxieties and displaced them into fears that rats were going to nibble over his body when he was asleep. In some sense, we’re all Rat Man right now.

Alex: We were talking about your argument that concern about rats is a sort of displaced anxiety about climate change. I was joking that that’s the left-wing displacement—there’s a completely separate “rats as unclean invaders” that is the sort of right-wing, New York Post version of it, where rats are the stand-in for all these other things that are wrong with the world.

Liza: Yes, I would definitely agree with that. I actually think, though, that even people with right-wing politics have climate anxiety, and they are just in denial about it.

Alex: About the source of that anxiety, sure.

Liza: However, I definitely think that we are displacing different things depending on where we are on the political spectrum. And sure, for the New York Post and its readers, they fear that the 1970s are coming back and that there are all kinds of crime and urban chaos. And then there’s a concern that is neither left nor right exactly, but a lot of the people complaining about rats are also saying “There are all these people in our neighborhood that we don’t recognize,” and the rats make a convenient screen for those concerns.

Alex: That’s a lot to put on the shoulder of a poor little rat.

Liza: I know, I know—but they are really smart little fuckers.

Laura: Well, one thing I’m curious about is we have all these problems, and rats are gross, and we’ve talked about that a lot, but it also strikes me that we kind of love rats. We were really excited to do this episode. Every single person I’ve mentioned it to is so eager to volunteer their greatest rat story to me. What would Freud make of that?

Liza: Yeah, we want to read about them, talk about them. I think part of what’s so weird about rats is the sort of respect that we have for them. They’ve got a lot of moxie in the way that they are just obvious survivors, and we’re all out here trying to survive New York City, and a complicated historical moment as well. There was a wonderful video, it was a TikTok, I’m sure you guys saw it, about all the flooding in the subway. The last shot was a swimming rat. He was just literally swimming freestyle. The whole TikTok was wonderful, but the reason it went viral was for that last shot of the freestyle rat, because he just exemplified the way everybody was just trying to get through this storm, and there was a kind of identification with him. Until recently—and that sort of changed with the pandemic, which is another story—we didn’t see many animals in New York City, so we’re a little bit alienated from animals, which we generally like.

Laura: It’s rats or pigeons—those are the only two choices you have if you live in New York and you want to see animals.

Liza: Exactly. It’s a love/hate relationship, in a way. We have a kind of respect for them as fellow urban survivors.

Alex: I feel like because we’re inextricably linked to rats, they follow us around—

Liza: That’s right. Human civilization equals rats.

Alex: I feel like we have this sort of like a movie-villain relationship with them where we’re thinking, “We’re a lot more alike than you think. We’re not so dissimilar.” And we find that both repelling and kind of fascinating, because they are what you said: They’re smart and they’re survivors.

Liza: And that’s another element of the uncanny—the unexpectedly humanoid aspects.

Alex: Liza, thank you so much for talking to us today.

Liza: Thanks so much for having me.


Laura: We’ve talked a lot about the problem with rats, and what’s clear is rats aren’t going away. There’s actually only one place in the world I’m aware of that has a zero rat policy.

Alex: I don’t know if you’ve ever seen it, but this map goes viral every now and then. It’s rat population worldwide, and there’s this one pocket where humans live and rats do not. It’s Alberta, Canada, which has had a zero-tolerance rat eradication policy since the 1950s.

Laura: It doesn’t surprise me that this would be in Canada, a well-run country. The rest of us have to live with rats. But we don’t necessarily have to live with these rat panics. So I want to close this episode by taking us back to a simpler time. I’m going to send you a link to a video. Let me know when you’ve got that.

Alex: Aw, it’s Pizza Rat! There’s Pizza Rat carrying an entire slice of pizza down the stairs in a New York city subway station. The title of this video—I never really registered how funny it is—is “New York City rat taking pizza home on the subway.”

Laura: It is a whole slice of pizza, as if he went to a dollar-slice store and paid his dollar for this slice of pizza.

Alex: One reason I believe it went so viral and was so beloved was that the slice of pizza is the size of the rat.

Laura: Yeah, it’s cute because it’s the same size.

Alex: You’re happy he has so much.

Laura: It’s like when you see an ant carrying a leaf and you just admire nature because animals can do these things. So tell me: What do you remember about the national mood at the moment that this video came out?

Alex: Well, it’s funny. Pizza Rat came out in 2015. We were talking about videos in which you identify with the rat, and I think the difference between 2015 and now in the national mood—or maybe the international mood—is that in 2015, we were delighted with and identified with this little rat carrying a slice of pizza home on the subway, perhaps home from his stable job in journalism or something like that. And now the rat we identify with is the one struggling to stay afloat in the flooded subway tunnel. I think that is suggestive of how things have gone since the tail end of Barack Obama’s second term.

Laura: Yeah, when I watch this video, I have nostalgia not just for this lovely little rat with its pizza, but also for the moment that that video is from. It does seem like a general rule that the less anxiety there is across the board, the happier people are with little rats. Seeing something scary in front of their path as they go down the subway steps—maybe it doesn’t seem like such a big deal.

Alex: I think that’s really important: If you see a rat and interpret it as a sign of chaos and decline, that’s probably not because of the rat.

Laura: No, it’s not!

Alex: That’s probably because of what’s going on in the world.

Laura: I’m still not pro-rat. Rats are a problem, they have to be kept under control. But they also are not an omen of doom.

Alex: Yeah, we should be clear that this is not a pro-rat infestation program. We just don’t think you should blame your broader apocalyptic feelings on the humble rat.