GIVING A RAT’S PATOOTIE ABOUT LOOKING CUTER
by Todd Hartley
I feel sorry for rats; I really do. According to a pet-rescue website, “Rats are intelligent, affectionate, clean animals with lots of personality and enjoy spending time with people.” They supposedly make great pets, and their faces are every bit as cute as those of gerbils and mice. But there’s just something about that tail — that hairless, wormlike tail — that creeps people out.
Admittedly, people also might be a little creeped out by the rat’s association with things like sewers, trash dumps, sinking ships, bubonic plagues and getting cancer in laboratories, but I, for one, would be willing to overlook all of that if only rats had some hair on their tails. If they had furry tails, I’d totally have one as a pet.
I’ve long had a sneaking suspicion that other people feel the same way as I do about pet rats — that if it weren’t for their unattractive hind ends they’d be more popular — and now I finally have proof, thanks to that cradle of seemingly every bizarre trend, the Far East.
The latest big thing in Japan, it seems, is “hamuketsu,” a word that essentially means hamster’s butt. You would be forgiven for assuming that “hamster’s butt” — like “dog’s style” or “camel’s toe” — is an odd euphemism for something more interesting, but I can assure you hamuketsu is no nickname. People in Japan, who are obsessed with all things cute, are apparently really into hamsters’ butts these days.
There’s a hamuketsu Facebook page with 8,000 likes and hundreds of pictures of hamster butts. I wish I could tell you what sort of comments people were writing about all the pictures, but I can’t read Japanese, and the translations, by Bing, are hysterically wrong. (Example, for a gray hamster in a plastic container: “On the cold floor pettanko bike!”)
According to the BBC News, “more than 40,000 copies of photo books” of hamsters’ butts have been sold already. One of the books is titled “Hamuketsu: So Cute You Could Faint.” A spokesman for one of the publishers told The Wall Street Journal, “I can’t stop smiling when I see these bottoms.”
Now, let’s be honest: A hamster is pretty much a rat without a tail. In fact, now having seen lots of hamsters’ butts, I can tell you that if hamsters did have tails, they would have hairless, creepy rat tails. As it is, they have little, bald, vestigial stumps that I find a tad icky, but hamsters were smart enough to ditch the full tails some time ago. Now, as a result, their butts are revered for their cuteness — well, in Japan, anyway.
Obviously, the answer for the much-maligned rat, if it’s looking to upgrade its image, is to start a tail-bobbing campaign and focus its PR efforts on the Korean markets. Given the competitive nature of Asian cultures when it comes to weird infatuations, I think with less tail and the right spin, rats could be the next big thing in Seoul.
Of course, rats being thumbless and presumably opposed to pain, it’s unlikely that they’ll start cutting their own tails off. The cutting, unfortunately, would have to be done by humans. As barbaric as that might sound, there is actually plenty of precedent for it, as millions of tail-deprived Doberman pinschers can attest. And merely cutting tails off rats would be nothing compared with the horrors the poor creatures are subjected to everyday in test labs around the world.
There is a slight chance that by the time the rat’s image makeover comes to fruition, Japan will have moved on to ferrets’ nostrils or whatever the next big trend will be in the world of cute. If that’s the case, we’ll have to see if we can make weasels trendy in Taiwan. At the very least, though, rats will have succeeded in getting rid of their tails, which would be reason enough for me to get one.
So I’m going to move ahead on the rat-tail-bobbing thing and see if I can get it started. I really do think it’s in the rat’s best interests as far as positioning itself for future cute pushes.
Then, when I’m done reviving the rat’s image, or possibly the weasel’s, I plan to move on to another animal that I’ve always thought would make a great companion. That one could prove to be a bigger challenge, however. I’m not sure people are ready for pet hyenas just yet, even if I do cut off their tails.
Todd Hartley and his pet hyenas will be laughing all the way to the bank when everyone wants one.