Last year was the Chinese Year of the (Quarter) Rat: a review of the last 12 months in rodent news

(Photo: A caged rat vapes weed. | Journal of Neuroscience)
The Year of the Rat started on Jan. 25, 2020 and ended on Feb. 11, 2021, completing the first year of the Chinese Zodiac’s 12-year cycle and ushering in the Year of the Ox.

Legend has it that the order of animals was determined by a race and the rat hitched a ride on the ox to cross a fast-flowing river before jumping off to cross the finish line, according to The Japan Times.

The Hawaii-based astrologer quoted in the article, which was published on Jan. 1, 2020, predicted that 2020 would be a “great relief” after a “challenging” 12 months, and further prophesized that the year would be particularly good for businesses and entrepreneurs.

As we all know, last year sucked in so many ways, with no certainty that this year will be any better, because of the emergence of COVID-19, the overall sickness, death and the millions left jobless following business closures—further proving that astrology is bullshit.

But if it wasn’t bullshit, the rat is supposed to signify vitality, fertility and is often seen as a sign of wealth. The rat is supposed to set the pace for the entire cycle, another horrifying fucking thought if you think about it, if the virus and its threat to society continues to persist.

The astrologer, however, correctly predicted the entrepreneur part, at least in The Quarter Rat’s case. Technically, the website launched in 2019 but it wasn’t until 2020 when we first started giving a semblance of a shit (and believe me, for your own fucking sanity, it’s better that you don’t).

Rats don’t give a shit and that’s why they’re everywhere. They’re survivors, which pretty much describes the resilient folk of the French Quarter. Years ahead, we’ll all look back on 2020 and laugh in sheer fucking madness.

In the meantime, let’s instead look back at the rodent news reported during the Year of the Rat—The Quarter Rat.

Courtesy of Charles Marsala via YouTube.
1. Rats took over the French Quarter during the (first) COVID-19 lockdown

It’s nothing new that rats took over the French Quarter, they were always there. The lack people people during lockdown just made them more visible.

Closure of restaurants and nightclubs, however, during the initial lockdown meant no garbage, a food source, sending rats scrounging for sustenance in the empty streets

But now, as if Quarter Rats didn’t already have it bad, they are disappearing because the city’s Mosquito, Termite and Rodent Control Board workers has taken advantage of the opportunity to reduce the population in the French Quarter, according to Director Dr. Claudia Riegel, who was interviewed by WWLTV last month.

The actual graphic used by the CDC.
2. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention warned us of aggressive, hungry rats

Where’s the news? Rats gotta eat, too.

“Who loves smoking weed and devours garbage? This guy.” Graphic by Eric T. Styles.
3. Rats love to smoke weed

A study published February 26, 2020 in the Journal of Neuroscience showed that rats exposed to cannabis vapor act like humans who smoke weed. No shit? They also eat trash and breed rapidly, which humans also love to do.

In the study, rats were conditioned to poke a vaporizer with their noses to release small quantities of weed vapor containing varying levels of THC and CBD, which they inhaled during timed sessions over several consecutive days, up to 26 days in some instances. What were the results? Read them here for yourself!

“Stable rates of vapor delivery were achieved under each reinforcement schedule,” the study said, adding that “acute withdrawal from cannabis vapor does not elicit anxiety-like behavior.”

Unfortunately, some of the rats were killed to examine their brain tissue for effects of weed vapor. Up to 111 million rats and mice, or 99% of lab animals used in of experiments each year, aren’t covered under the Animal Welfare Act, which enforces humane practices on animals used in biomedical research, according to the journal Science.

In a separate study, also conducted at Washington State University, weed vapor blunts stress reactivity in female rats. Hmm.

And in another experiment, rats injected with psilocybin (the psychoactive chemical in magic mushrooms) showed long-lasting, positive changes to the brain that could aid in developing treatment for certain mental health disorders, according to the Journal of Psychopharmacology.

Courtesy of Brett Jordan | CC Flickr.
4. Rat awarded gold medal for sniffing out landmines in Cambodia

Magawa, an African giant pouch rat, was awarded a prestigious gold medal by the UK veterinary charity PDSA for his “life-saving devotion” to sniffing out landmines in Cambodia left over from the country’s civil war in the 1970s and 80s, according to the BBC.

Scabby the Rat. Photo courtesy of Montgomery County Planning Commission. | CC Flickr.
5. The National Labor Relations Board considers whether giant, inflatable rat is allowed by First Amendment

Scabby the Rat is a giant, inflatable rat that often appears at union protests and symbolizes “scabs,” a term that pejoratively describes non-union workers who replace union workers during strikes.

The case hinges on whether the inflatable rat is considered “unlawful secondary picketing,” when a union tries to convince neutral workers at a secondary business to engage in protest activities against their employer in order to gain leverage in a dispute with the primary employer, which is not considered protected by the First Amendment.