In fiction, mice are often portrayed as sympathetic characters. They are always cute, nice, and sometimes even sweet, but often they are also portrayed as honest, brave, and forthright. Rats, on the other hand (possibly because of certain historical events, though Evil Is Bigger may also be in play here), are traditionally Always Chaotic Evil in European culture. Also, a mouse is apparently helpless while a rat can bite back hard (and sometimes does discourage a cat who is too pampered and not a real hunter). Consequently, if a cat is chasing a mouse, the cat is almost always the villain; if the cat is chasing a rat, he's almost always the hero.
Fictional rats will typically be drawn are rangier and leaner than the chubbier or fluffier designs used for mice, and also tend to be colored black or dark gray in contrast to the lighter colors used for mice, emphasizing the moral contrast between the two sorts of rodents.
Could be seen as a type of Fantastic Racism. See also Nice Mice and Swarm of Rats. Rat Men, Rat Kings or Rodents of Unusual Size can be even worse. A Rat Stomp is when rats become one of the first monsters to face a newbie adventurer in an RPG. Compare with Cats Are Mean, Reptiles Are Abhorrent. Bat Out of Hell is probably related, as bats are seen as similar to rats. Subtrope of What Measure Is a Non-Cute?.
- In Gregory Horror Show, Gregory and his family either want to trap the protagonist's soul forever (Gregory), eat it (his mother), or torment it (his grandson). All three of them are rats. Not to mention that Gregory is a dirty old man.
- In Heat Guy J, Ian has been sent to do some recon for Clair. However, Ian gets caught by the very man he's investigating, Senator Noriega. Noriega says, "Well, look what I've found: a dirty little rat." Ian takes off his night-vision goggles and replies, "Am I really the one who's the rat?" before being shot in the head.
- The Monster Rats from From the New World, oh so much. Who serve as the main antagonists, especially Squeala/Yakomaru during the 3rd act of the series, as well as murdering Mamoru and Maria and kidnapping their child and raising it to serve them. Subverted in that aren't really any worse than their PK-using human overlords, and are in fact transformed humans.
- In Enchanted Journey, there are friendly rats, like kindly old Gamba who helps Glikko out on his journey, but the duo encounter an entire army of vicious, evil rats who want to tear them apart and eat them.
- JoJo's Bizarre Adventure: Diamond is Unbreakable has two rats with a Stand power that fires toxic barbs, which melt anything they hit into a sort of blood gelatin for the rats to eat later. One of them, Bug-Eaten, is aggressive and cunning, being on the offensive against Jotaro and Josuke.
- Let's not forget Nezumi-Otoko of GeGeGe no Kitarō fame, what with being a half-human, half-rat Youkai hybrid, and his proverbial Chronic Backstabbing Disorder purely for greed.
- Corrupt Marine Officer Nezumi from the Arlong Arc in One Piece qualifies for this trope, as his name literally means "rat". Additionally, he wears a grey hood with artificial rat ears and has whiskers on his face, giving him a rat-like appearance.
- Blacksad: The bar patron who helps Blacksad track down Leon Kronski and tries to kill him, turning out to be working for Statoc, is a rat. Blacksad (who's a cat) notes that he's always mistrusted rats in his internal monologue.
- Averted in The Pitiful Human Lizard, Human-Lizard's colleague, the Majestic Rat, has a whole army of rats at his beck and call who are very loyal to him.
- In 1930s Mickey Mouse comics, Minnie's cousin Ruffhouse Rat isn't evilbut he's a lazy, egotistical flop of an athlete who essentially makes Mickey and Minnie solve his problems for him.
- A very strong aversion: Master Splinter in any incarnation is a wise, gentle, and patient fellow. Just don't threaten his adoptive sons.
- The Rat King is a subversion, as the rats were harmless until they were in the Rat King's power (and the Rat King himself was human).
- Averted with the adorable Funny Background Event rats in the Sam & Max: Freelance Police comics, as well as the humanoid rats the duo are trying to rescue in "Bad Day on the Moon." A case of Author Appeal, since creator Steve Purcell is rather fond of rats.
- Vermin from Spider-Man is a rat-like villain. While he is violent and repulsive, his human side is that of a man who was abused as a child, which has earned a great deal of compassion from Spidey despite their brutal fights with one another.
- Averted in The Tale of One Bad Rat, a miniseries about a teenager who runs away from home after being sexually abused by her father; her only companion is her pet rat, and she can get quite indignant when people say that rats are dirty or creepy.
- In The Transformers: Robots in Disguise, Rattrap is, unlike his Beast Wars and Beast Machines versions, a scheming backstabber who's working for Starscream himself. He's quite open about the fact that he's only out for himself.
- Disney Animated Canon:
- As far as Disney films go, Lady and the Tramp features the rat pictured above, which threatens the Darlings' baby before being stopped by The Tramp.
- In The Great Mouse Detective heroic detective Basil of Baker Street is a mouse, while his arch-nemesis, Professor Padraic Ratigan, is a rat, of course (though he hates being called that). The book averts this, having the professor as a mouse.
- Averted in Oliver & Company though. The rats that show up during the "Why Should You Worry" scene may look rough on the edges, but they are not evil. Then again, they only showed up for a few seconds, and appear to be dressed like gangsters...
- Averted. The main character is an intelligent, urbane rat with a gourmand's taste in food and the ability to cook like a classically trained chef. Of course, most of the other rats are classless, tactless layabouts, but at least they aren't evil.
- Averted even further in the Spin-Off short, "Your Friend the Rat", in which Remy and Emile try to argue for the reconciliation of humans and rats, using historical facts presented to various styles of animation. Among other things, they explain that The Plague was actually caused by fleas that got attached to black rats, not by the rats themselves, and in fact, the brown, or Norway, rat, the kind of rat that Remy and Emile are, had supposedly helped to end the Plague. And then this is alternately played with and double-subverted during the end credits, when a cautionary message allegedly from the clip's producers scrolls by to remind the audience that rats are vicious, unsanitary, pestilent vermin, and anyone who interacts with them do so at their own risk, as Remy and Emile can be heard vigorously protesting in the background.
- Subverted in Ratatoing, a cheap knock-off of Ratatouille. Rats are both heroes and villains, being a Mockbuster.
- The same goes in The Secret of NIMH. Except for Jenner all the rats are benevolent, though Brutus does scare the crap out of Mrs. Brisby while acting as a guard. In particular, Justin is a hero who is designed to be as dashingly handsome as one can make a rat and still be recognizable as such.
- Averted in Flushed Away, where the rats are, as a group, no more good or evil than any other random population.
- Averted in The Brave Little Toaster Goes to Mars and The Brave Little Toaster To The Rescue with Ratso.
- Yet another aversion occurs in The Wind in the Willows with Ratty. Sure he's actually a Water Vole, but voles are close enough to rats for government work.
- Averted in Enchanted. The rats do a considerable share of the housework while under the influence of Giselle's "Happy Working Song". Only one mouse is seen to help out, and it's only there because a rat wouldn't fit in the bathtub drainhole.
- In one adaptation of The Country Mouse and City Mouse, the bad guy was a rat.
- The Mice in An American Tail are all virtuous, loving immigrants. Warren T. Rat, on the other hand, isn't even a rat, but a cat, and one of the bad ones at that. It also briefly features a huge, scary rat who is a sweatshop owner. The second sequel, The Treasure of Manhattan Island, features a group of Corrupt Corporate Executive rats who run a cheese factory as the main villains.
- Chicken Run features Nick and Fetcher, rats who peddles junk to the hens in exchange for eggs. They're enterprising, but not evil.
- In Coraline, she's shocked that the cat would kill a mouse like that. Little did she know...
- In Cat City, the rats are villains (although of the ineffectual sympathetic kind).
- Lucky and Zorba: The main antagonists are a group of evil rats. They even have a Villain Song named "We are the Rats". In the original version of the movie, they refer to themselves as mice, though.
- Asterix Versus Caesar: When chasing the lost gourd of Magic Potion through the sewers of Rome, Dogmatix has to fight several rats who are almost as big as he is.
- In The Princess Bride, Wesley gets attacked by a giant rat in the forest. He manages to kill it after a few minutes.
- Although it actually looks a lot more like a giant opossum than a rat.
- In Willard, the title character has a pack of killer-attack rats who remove anyone who gets in Willard's way.
- This is subverted in the sequel, Ben, wherein the pack of rats defend a small boy from bullies.
- In Nosferatu, the vampire looks quite rat-like, keeps loads of them in his coffins, and spreads the plague.
- In Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, swarms of them fill Venice's catacombs. It's known that Henry Jones Sr. fears them, just like his son fears snakes.
- Harrison Ford himself greatly enjoyed working with the rats, as he had previously kept rats as pets. Behind the scenes footage even shows Ford on the set between takes playing with them!
- Averted in Home Alone 3, in which the kid's pet white rat, Doris, is depicted as a cute friendly companion.
- This trope is the reason the Mouse King from The Nutcracker was changed to the Rat King in The Nutcracker: the Untold Story.
- In accordance with the Nazis equating Jews with rats (see Real Life entry below), the opening scene of Inglourious Basterds shows Landa having such a conversation with the dairy farmer.
- Trevor the Rat from Meet the Feebles is the physical embodiment of this trope. He's a drug-dealing mobster who shoots pornos (and considers making a Snuff Film when his lead male actor dies), murders people, tries to rape Lucille the Poodle, smokes, eats the corpses of a character's dead pets in front of him, and is quite the Jerk Ass to his fellow employees (save for his boss, Mr. Bletch, and Barry, another mobster). He even looks like a dirty rat, and is literally (and rightfully) called one by Robert. The fact that Trevor's voice is based on that of Peter Lorre only seems to capitalize this trope. Overall, Trevor has no redeeming qualities, so it's no surprise if you find yourself cheering and/or laughing when he gets shredded like a salad by a machine-gun.
- Averted with Rat in The Wind in the Willows as he is by no mean evil, though a little bohemian. Of course, he's a water rat, which are technically voles and therefore less disreputable than true rats.
- Used horrifically in Nineteen Eighty-Four during the scene in Room 101, when O'Brien uses Winston's absolute worst fear against him in order to destroy his last remaining shred of hope and push him over the Despair Event Horizon.
- The Underland Chronicles plays this straight at first, then subverts it big-time.
- In Harry Potter, Ron Weasley's pet rat Scabbers turns out to actually be the animagus Peter Pettigrew in disguise. Pettigrew, of course, was the traitor who sold Harry's parents to Lord Voldemort. He's even described as rat-like when he's in human form.
- This takes inspiration from Rowling's sister's phobia. Rowling herself doesn't mind rats. There is also a chapter that has magical rats showing off in a store, playing jump rope with their tails, so not every rat is portrayed as villainous.
- Paul Jennings has a short story where a young boy adopts what he thinks is a baby rat after he kills her mother for killing a native bilby and eating her children. His father insists that the baby rat will grow up to be a killer and tries to make his son let him kill her. He eventually lets his son keeps her, but then realizes she's actually a surviving baby bilby, meaning the trope is played straight, playing off the innocent baby bilby against the rat who killed her mother and siblings.
- In The Tale of Despereaux, the mice are all good (cowardly, but good), while the rats are all evil. Chiaroscuro the Rat, an innocent born into a corrupt society, has to deal with his species' stereotype.
- Though they seem to get along with humans during the opening and ending.
- The rats in Redwall are always criminals, referred consistently as vermin.note . The most notable example is Cluny the Scourge. By the end of the series, there was only one exception: Blaggut, who is dumb as a stump (and friggin' adorable.
- Played straight in The Book of the Dun Cow with Ebenezer Rat, an egg-eating and violent rat, although it should be noted that he is nowhere near the most evil character in the book and dies in battle with one of the real villains.
- Played with in Garry Kilworth's Welkin Weasels series. The black rats are Always Chaotic Evil, while the Norway rats are lovable fops.
- This sounds fairly close to their behavior in Real Life. Black rats tend to be solitary and aggressive, and aren't even that common.
- Similarly in his novel House Of Tribes: the rat, Kellogg, is evil and a murderer.
- Templeton Rat from Charlotte's Web isn't actively evil, but he's certainly selfish, arrogant, and greedy. He has to be bribed into helping Wilbur the Pig.
- David the rat nothlit in Animorphs, although he was forced into rat morph to keep him from threatening the rest of the group. He does return just as evil in a later book, though.
- Watership Down uses this one. The rabbits are attacked by a pack of rats just after escaping from Strawberry's original warren. Then again, later in the book Hazel, during the first trip to Nuthanger Farm, stops to ask a rat for directions and gets a quite civil answer, even if, as the narrative notes, the rat had no particular reason to be friendly.
- Possibly the hostile ones were defending their home, as the rabbits had bedded down in an abandoned barn suitable for rats to live in. The rat at Nuthanger farm was simply walking by.
- Tamora Pierce's The Immortals series deals with the adventures of a young girl, Daine, who can speak to animals (and later take their forms) due to her magic. These books commonly feature animals against which humans have prejudices based on nothing more than myths or their own perceptions - Daine is frequently outraged by people's assumptions and quick to correct them. Many traditional villains, such as wolves, hyenas, bats and crocodiles are treated sympathetically and shown to be quite different to the way they're perceived. Rats, however, get the standard trope treatment even in these animal-advocate stories - they are vicious, dirty, generally unpleasant, and hate Daine despite the fact that her magic means all other animals instantly love her (this is never explained). They are probably the only animals in all four books that are portrayed negatively.
- Examined on both sides in the so-called "young adult" Discworld novel, The Amazing Maurice and His Educated Rodents. Contains children's-book rats in waistcoats, rats who spoil human food supplies with urine, rats who tap-dance, rats who kill other rats and devour their corpses, telepathic rats, rats who make deals with cats, and rats who manipulate humanity's fear of rats to their advantage. Now guess which rats are the good rats.
- The correct answer being: all of them except the telepathic rats.
- Much earlier, Pratchett depicted Lord Vetinari cutting a deal with the Palace's rats when he was confined to its dungeons in Guards! Guards!. Although they sometimes made mistakes fetching items because they couldn't read, they stuck to their end of the bargain in exchange for his tactical advice in their battles with the dungeon's snakes and scorpions.
- In Reaper Man, Death acquires a sidekick, the Death of Rats, whose form sort of implies rats are similar to humans, as they conceptualize Death by anthropomorphizing it, rather than by picturing something that causes their deaths (i.e. the mayflies see Death as a trout.) Perhaps not Rats Are Good, but definitely Rats Are Smart, or Rats Are Like Us.
- "Anything so much like a human has to have a soul."
- Mostly averted in Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH, and its sequels and adaptations. Indeed, its author received a number of letters asking just why he had rats as sympathetic heroes in his book.
- Zigzagged in The Roly-Poly Pudding, where it's unclear whether the rats actually intend to harm Tom Kitten or are just trying to scare him. (Conversely, there's no question that the cats have eaten rats in the past, and continue to eat them in the future.) This relatively even-handed treatment probably occurs because Beatrix Potter kept a pet rat when she was a girl.
- The mouse part is subverted in The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy. Mice are actually the smartest animals on the planet Earth, which itself was a sort of massive, living distributed computing experiment to determine the Ultimate Question. When Earth is destroyed, they decide that they need to get what data they can salvage by cutting it right out of Arthur Dent's brain.
- Avram Davidson's short story "The Tail-Tied Kings" deals with a rat warren threatened with destruction by their "slaves" (the humans they steal food from) and the escape of the aforementioned Kings (and Queens).
- Bubo, a rat hero of A Night in the Lonesome October is introduced as a familiar with a knack for shady deals and corresponding manners. He turns out to be much more sneaky, but in general a pretty decent critter.
- Rats are quite some pests on Warrior Cats, and a group of rats can lead to death for even experienced warriors, but the most evil is seen on Firestar's Quest, where a rat speaks cat language and hints that his kind drove out the former SkyClan. And then, there were the rats that caused almost all of ShadowClan to get sick in Rising Storm...
- Mary Gentle's Ratswho are generally the dominant sapient species of any work in which they appeartend to be crooked, manipulative, ambitious, self-centered, and bigotedin other words, about as bad as humans. (And they're ruled by rat kings with their tails deliberately knotted together.)
- Subverted with Mr. Ratburn, the teacher from Arthur. Although he has a reputation as a Sadist Teacher (mostly because he gives a lot of homework), he is actually very kind and helpful, and he puts on children's puppet shows in his spare time.
- Another water rat aversion occurs in Pauline Clarke's amazing The Return Of The Twelves.
- Averted with Jade Rat in Half World, who is a faithful friend and ally of the heroine, even if she is a bit of a Deadpan Snarker.
- A new breed of large killer rats are the villains in a series of novels by the English horror author James Herbert.
- In the Garrett, P.I. novels, the intelligent race of ratpeople are targets for a massive degree of Fantastic Racism, and even Garrett himself tends to regard them as thieving, craven, subhuman scum early in the series. He gets over it once Singe comes into his life, but she herself admits that far too many of her people won't even attempt to rise above their nasty reputation.
- John Carter of Mars: the Martian equivalents of the rats, Ulsios, are flesh-eating monsters the size of Airedale terriers. John Carter and the Giant of Mars also introduces three-legged rats, who aren't any better than Ulsios.
- Harry Kitten and Tucker Mouse by George Selden (a prequel to The Cricket in Times Square) features a sequence where the title pair are menaced by a gang of nasty rats. Notable as one of the few times any animal characters are actively bad in any of Selden's books.
- The rats in the Deptford Mice series are portrayed as thugs and sadists almost without exception (for a stat, their 'coming of age' ritual involves killing each other). The non-evil rats can be counted on one hand.
- Averted in Star Girl. The titular character has a pet rat who is presented as a normal pet and is quite friendly.
- The real "crazy old man" in Coraline states he has a circus of mice. His "other" version has rats. These rats work for the Other Mother and are intimidating, black colored rats. The cat says he dislikes rats and is shown hunting them and at one point decapitates one to help Coraline.
- Averted in A Rat's Tale and The Revenge of Randal Reese-Rat, in which the protagonists are rats and rats in general are portrayed sympathetically.
- In "The Pit and the Pendulum", the rats are part of the disgusting dungeon setting, but they help the narrator get free. He smears grease from the nearly-spoiled meat he's given to eat onto the straps holding him down under the pendulum, and the rats chew through the leather straps.
- In The Girl from the Miracles District, Nikita hates rats, so she never thinks of them well when she goes to visit Bestiar, the local ratmaster. Then there's the fact that it's implied that Bestiar sold Nikita's location to the Big Bad.
- Zig-Zagged in Ratman's Notebooks. The protagonist admires his rat friends for their intelligence and familial bond, and while they do increasingly bad things on his behalf, the rats are simply following orders and don't understand the morality of what he makes them do. They're pretty quick learners, though, and have no problem seeking revenge when he tries to drown them all after sending them to kill his boss.
- Ms Wiz's pet is a rat called Herbert, who is also a talking animal. He's a Deadpan Snarker but also the Only Sane Man, beloved by the other children. He would be a complete subversion - if not for the parents who assume he's a common garden rat.
- The Last Dogs:
- Subverted with Longtooth and his gang of subway rats in The Vanishing. He Rhymes on a Dime and is bigger than the other rats, but he's swayed when Rocky the dachshund starts boasting about their long journey so far. This impresses Longtooth so much that he admits that he's faked his rhyming dialect and shows his support for the traveling dogs, even promising to spread the word to his fellow rats.
- It's played a little more straight in The Long Road, with Flicktail and his rats. They've heard of Rocky and the tales he told and worship him like a god. But Flicktail doesn't want the dogs to leave so that they can hear stories, so they keep the traveling dogs (and a labradoodle named Whitey) as prisoners-slash-guests.
- Zig-Zagged in Leslie Peter Wulff's Uncle Brucker the Rat Killer, before humans gained dominance over the planet, rats were the most intelligent species and the rulers of Earth after the dinosaurs went extinct. Something happened to diminish the rats and humans overthrew the rats. After that rats had to flee to other dimensions and they plotted the genocide of humanity, with developing the means to turn people into rats a first step. However in the other dimension, rats are pretty much like humans (having their own hillbillies, yuppies and etc.).
- The main villains in Dodos Are Forever are Lucrezia Gorger the rat and her five children, who steal dodo eggs to eat, occasionally attack old and weak dodos, and who orchestrate the extinction of dodos on their home island. Truth in Television, since ships' rats were among the invasive species that wiped out dodos in real life, although Lucrezia and her children clearly enjoy what they do to a malicious degree.
- In Cat Pack the rat characters are slimeball sewer rats who steal Carlotta's son Catnip. They also work with a gang of aggressive junkyard cats.
- In one story, The Church Mice are a band of lovable Nice Mice who are evicted from their home in the church by a brigade of evil and filthy rats.
- Time Out Of Time: In the first book, "Beyond The Door", a rat is sent to Timothy's house. While they catch it with the help of Nom the rat exterminator, Timothy's mom is given rat fever from a rat bite.
- One episode of The Red Green Show has a song about this:
(Brackets indicate Harold singing)
♪ He comes down the chimney on Christmas Eve
♪ After we've all gone to bed
♪ He's not all that nice or jolly
♪ Until after he's been fed
♪ He's got beady eyes, and yellow teeth
♪ And his fur drops off when he moults
♪ His tail kinda wiggles and dances and jiggles
♪ Like a snake takin' 300 volts!
♪ He's Cheesy! (Cheesy!) the Christmas Rat
♪ Long and smelly and pretty darn fat
♪ Cheesy! (Cheesy!) the Christmas Rat
♪ Dropping a little surprise in your hat
♪ He comes with a gift! You don't have to beg!
♪ He's here to give everyone bubonic plague!
♪ Cheesy! (Cheesy!) the Christmas Rat
♪ And that's why everybody..... should have a gun! ♪
- Played with in Yes, Minister, when protesters keep Sir Humphrey from clearing a particular copse of trees because it was home to a family of badgers. He convinces them that there are no badgers in the woods, only rats, and the protesters leave.
- Averted with Rizzo the Rat of The Muppets, and his rat friends, who are genuinely friendly (except when you say the wrong things). Although they are still greedy and gluttonous.
- Nature shows about snakes and similar predators tend to show them killing or swallowing rats, even if they aren't a major part of the predator's natural diet. This is because rats don't garner much sympathy from viewers: if a snake eats a bird, frog, or rabbit, it seems like more of a Downer Ending than if a rat becomes lunch.
- In Fawlty Towers where Manuel's pet 'Siberian Hamster' becomes a pest that must be got rid of before the health inspector arrives. Note that there is nothing in this episode to actually suggest the rat is anything other than a good pet (and Sybil even refuses to release the domesticated rat into the wild on the grounds that it wouldn't be able to defend itself), the problem is simply that after a litany of public health offences that need to be resolved before the inspector returns, having a rat loose in the hotel is obviously a major problem.
- For some reason Frasier and Niles Crane are both squicked badly by Daphne's description of the show rats she used to raise. All they can think of is the rats of the Black Plague, despite the fact they are both mental health professionals who should be familiar with the use of rats in psychological and medical studies. It's also worth noting that Daphne, the supposed expert ("When it comes to rats, you're in my house!"), gets her facts wrong here, claiming the plague was spread by 'the common brown rat,' not her show rats. In fact, show rats are domesticated brown rats, and it is the black rat that was associated with the plague (actually spread by fleas, not the rats themselves).
- In another episode it's revealed that Frasier and Niles were themselves named for their mother's lab rats.
- Previously, on Cheers, Frasier had a bizarre reaction when his psychologist wife made a pet of her experimental rat and, upon its death, tried to carry it to the park to bury it. He may have a phobia.
- Lester from Beakman's World, was portrayed as unhygienic and gross, and kind of a Butt-Monkey (being a Stealth Pun on the term "lab rat.")
- The Reinigen in Grimm, a particular nasty kind of Wesen.
- Charmed has an episode with demons involved in money laundering that can transform into rats.
- In Pearls Before Swine, Rat is a total Jerkass and Small Name, Big Ego that is often out to get a quick buck. However, he is also often a Jerkass Woobie.
- Dilbert subverts this to hell and back with Ratbert, who is actually extremely friendly and cheerful.
- Inverted in Krazy Kat with Ignatz Mouse.
- Averted in one Garfield strip where he meets three rat siblings, Rip, Bob, and Juanita, who are friendly.
- The mythology surrounding the phenomenon of the rat king (a group of rats whose tails are knotted and matted together with filth) tends to give them certain supernatural and generally unpleasant powers. Though it did (rarely) happen in real life, increased hygiene means that rat kings are probably not likely to occur ever again.
- Also, Rat Kings refuse to manifest under controlled conditions.
- The Rat is considered to be the first of the twelve animals of the Chinese Zodiac, and stories of how it achieved that status usually depict the Rat as having tricked the Ox and/or the Cat so it could claim that place for itself.
- Averted in Hinduism, in which the elephant-headed God Ganesha uses a giant rat as his vehicle.
- In another Hindu example, rats are held to be sacred by the devotees of the goddess Karni Mata, who protected her patron town from the plague. Her devotees are said to be reincarnated among the rats that live free and are cared for in her temple, and taking care of a white rat is considered especially auspicious.
- Most rodent creatures in Magic: The Gathering are Green (the color of life) except for rats. All rats are Black (the color of death). However, Dark Is Not Evil, and while many rats are in fact pests, some of the Kamigawa block Nezumi are decent, if anti-heroic.
- In Warhammer, the Skaven are Always Chaotic Evil rat-men who practice foul sorcery and use chaos-empowered steampunk technology to wage war on everyone else (even the other Always Chaotic Evil races).
- It is explicitly stated that they are the most evil race in the whole setting, and this is a place where daemons exist. Vampires are capable of genuine love and affection even though they'll enslave whole populations of living people to use as food and servants, Dark Elves are driven to cruelty as a way of life and some individuals can become questionably heroic, and even the most brutish Orc will go off and have a cry if his pet squig dies. Skaven hate everyone and everything; they are more cowardly than Goblins, more cruel than Dark Elves and even more fractitious than Chaos. No Skaven character thus far as shown any sympathetic or redeeming traits whatsoever, nor have they ever shown any concern or love for anyone other than themselves. The only thing that unites the Skaven at all is hatred of any living thing that isn't a Skaven, giving them a common enemy to fight lest they fall in against each other like... well, a pack of rats.
- Dungeons & Dragons:
- Wererats are canonically Always Lawful Evil.
- And then there's Planescape's Cranium Rats — one isn't smarter than a normal rodent, but their telepathic abilities bind their little powers and intellects into a Hive Mind, so a pack of three dozen can cast minor spells, half a hundred are as smart as an average human, and so on. They're Neutral Evil, and some or all of them are spies of illithid god Ilsensine.
- Normal rats have a True Neutral alignment like all non-intelligent animals. However, they're also one of the only animals (bats being the other) that are willing to become a Familiar to an Always Chaotic Evil Vampire.
- Pathfinder averts it with the Ratfolk, who are humanoid rats, but generally decent, friendly people, most commonly seen as wandering traders and tinkers who ride perfectly tame giant rats.
- Subverted by the Nezumi (aka "ratlings") in Legend of the Five Rings; they're primitive and rather crude, but basically good guys. When Five Rings was converted to Dungeons & Dragons for the 3rd Edition Oriental Adventures book, nezumi were portrayed as Chaotic Neutral. However, the book noted that ratlings were often evil in other settings.
- The Ferrans of Talislanta tend to be nasty, thieving little scavengers. They have no concept of hygiene and can spray like skunks. However, the Ferran in the Talislanta tie-in anthology manages to be something of a Woobie.
- The Beshilu of Werewolf: The Forsaken are Hosts, spirit parasites that possess humans, hollow them out body and soul, and ride around the resulting meat puppet. They're singularly obsessed with gnawing open holes in the Gauntlet, leaving gaps to the Shadow that allow pretty much anything to slip through unfettered. The werewolves don't like this; they wouldn't mind being able to get to and from the Shadow more easily, but the Beshilu are so filthy that they practically breed spirits of disease and madness, which then jump right through the Gauntlet holes, meaning anywhere they go is a hotbed for plagues and destruction.
- The predecessor game, Werewolf: The Apocalypse, had the Ratkin, one of the many Changing Breeds. They decided the werewolves weren't going far enough in their quest to save Gaia from the deprivations of the Wyrm, so they basically became chaos-mongering terrorists and saboteurs.
- Burning Wheel has the Roden, a race of anthropomorphic...rodents. Roughly half the race are peaceful, pious vegetarians who live in monastic communities, and the other half are bitter, vicious saboteurs who infiltrate human communities in order to destroy them. Guess which faction is described as more resembling mice, and which resembles rats?
- In Hc Svnt Dracones, while accepted as members of society, Rats are not looked on terribly charitably by most, though they've done a few things to earn distrust. For instance, having discovered a flaw in their (like everyone else, designer) genetic code, they decided to get around it and boost their egos by voluntarily only breeding to a certain appearance so that they all look identical and claim pride in "unity". Much more distressingly, one Mega-Corp stumbled upon a way to create Mice and was attempting to turn them into a Slave Race. That said, this being a cyberpunk setting, said Mice, upon gaining their freedom are not very nice, either...
- The Mouse King in the Nutcracker Ballet is probably one of the more famous examples and a subversion of the "mice are nice" part. He even has three heads in some versions of the story, and a whopping seven in the original tale.
- See "rat king" under mythology. Now, imagine that in place of one guy in a costume with three heads. No wonder all the other characters are terrified of him.
- Final Fantasy:
- The Qiqirn in Final Fantasy XI are a race of beastmen rats who are on not-really-hostile-at-all terms with The Empire of Aht Urhgan. That is, they like the "clink-clink" people carry, and will do anything to get it. Essentially the Near-Eastern version of Goblins, just more peaceful.
- The Burmecians of Final Fantasy IX are anthropomorphic rodents. The word 'Rat' appears to be a derogatory term for them, but they are mostly on the side of good.
- The Qiqurn of Final Fantasy XIV are the same as in XI. But unfortunately, the gradually worsening view on beastmen in Eorzia has left very few of them who are still honest merchants, and most have them have turned to banditry as a result.
- Apparently most of the Rattkin in Wizardry are thieves (there's also a Rattkin scientist), and their high-ups are The Mafia, but in general they are not worse than any other faction present and better than some, and no more or less prone to generate an aggressive Random Encounter. That's just their ways. In Wizardry 8 some work with the party against Big Bad — it turns out that NPC followed him to another planet to avenge for crossing them on Guardia back in VII.
- Rattata and Raticate in the 1st generation of Pokémon. They aren't really evil, but are often used by Team Rocket grunts and are Com Mons, so most players generally get tired of seeing them. Also, are contrasted by the Nice Mice Pikachu and Raichu.
- The rats in Little King's Story appear quite mischievous, and the narrator seems none to fond of them. In the end, it's very justified.
- Don't forget the army of anthropomorphic rats in Battletoads. These sleazy space pirates fit this trope perfectly. And you'll come to hate rats after Scuzz.
- Jimmy Two-Teeth in the Sam & Max: Freelance Police games, a small-time ruffian rat and Butt-Monkey. He is apparently sent on a bus in Season 3 — but not before (it is suggested) causing an outbreak of bubonic plague at Max's bidding.
- In Majesty Ratmen are a milder version of Warhammer's Skaven; they're like goblins, except their habitats are broken sewer pipes, which means they can pop up randomly in the middle of your town rather than some distance away.
- Played straight in King's Quest I: Quest For The Crown. The guard rat will kill Graham if he gets too close. He is amicable to bribery, though.
- Rat demons are the lowest creatures in the demon hierarchy in Jade Empire.
- Rats are the weakest enemies in Legend of Kay.
- The Elder Scrolls
- The series has long had giant rats as a low-level enemy. They are almost always hostile and frequently carry diseases. A Rat Stomp, be it an official quest or simply running into rats as one of the first enemies, is a series' tradition as an early game staple.
- In Oblivion, this is Inverted in an early Fighters Guild quest. You have to save a woman's beloved pet rats from hungry mountain lions.
- Skyrim replaces standard rats with Skeevers, which are even bigger, uglier, and filthier. A Thieves' Guild quests pits you against a wizard who went crazy trying to convince people that Skeevers are awesome. He now plots to overrun Whiterun with a swarm of mutated venomous Skeevers. Interestingly, it seems that Skeevers aren't always bad either. The owner of the Winking Skeever Inn in Solitude named the inn in memory of his beloved childhood pet Skeever.
- In his quest, Peryite, the Daedric Prince of Pestilence and Tasks, fittingly manifests in the form of a swarm of ghostly Skeevers.
- Slade the thief in Shining Force II causes the entire mess which you spend the rest of the game fixing, but to his credit, he eventually assists in correcting his mistake, and he even turns out to be one of your most valuable allies.
- In Tales of Symphonia you encounter these in the sewer level of the game. At first they're not much of a challenge because by now your party is overleveled, but the plot requires you to shrink down, and suddenly a 12 foot rat is a lot more intimidating...
- A literal example of the trope can be found in Kingdom Rush's bonus campaign The Curse of Castle Blackburn. Giant Rats and Wererats are very fast enemies (the latter is also tough) that inflict disease on troops they attack.
- Averted in Comix Zone: Roadkill the rat is the main character's Cool Pet and Non-Human Sidekick - he helps solving puzzles, finds secret places and hidden items and can One-Hit Kill female enemies.
- Dishonored features swarms of rats who have not only brought a deadly plague to the city of Dunwall, but can also devour live humans. And you may later gain the magical power to summon these man-eating rats to attack enemies.
- League of Legends has Twitch, the Plague Rat, a mutated rat that fights with a poison-tipped crossbow.
- Five Nights at Candy's: in this Five Nights at Freddy's fangame, one of the major antagonists is a highly damaged, semi-destroyed animatronic aptly named RAT, whose name alone seems to be an acronym.
- In Dwarf Fortress, there are demon rats, a kind of evil-aligned vermin found in any evil biome that live only to steal food from others. Those dwarves that like them do so for their "diabolical hunger for the food of others".
- The Rat Clan of Armello are a pack of morally questionable characters, suited to sneaky, underhanded tactics of guile and manipulation. Mercurio, the most sympathetc of them, is a Lovable Rogue who can steal other character's gold. The other three are more Obviously Evil: the ruthless stealth-focused assassin Zosha, clairvoyant Evil Sorcerer Sargon, and Butcher Baroness Griotte. Lore paints them as a byzantine, Mafia-like society where assassination and oppression are commonplace and disputes are settled by slaughter.
- In TinkerQuarry, most of the enemies seen so far resemble mice or rats.
- In Tooth and Tail, all of the playable commanders are rats, and the species seems to be in charge of society as a whole. While none of them can be said to be exactly good or evil due to the very dark Grey and Gray Morality at play, they are all culturally dedicated to eating meat (despite being omnivorous) in a world where all animals are sapient, and just fine with eating a Slave Race they've bred for slaughter or even each other if necessary or as revenge.
- The Skaven came over as main villains in the games Shadow of the Horned Rat and Vermin Tide, where they're every bit as scummy as they are in the tabletop game.
- Inverted in Digger, in which sacred rats assist the keepers of the temple library and protect the books from gnawing insects. "Mousie", conversely, is what Ed called Digger, who is tough as nails and far from cuddly or helpless.
- Norveg, Angelika's rat familiar in Our Little Adventure, completely averts this, being more level-headed than Angelika and acting as her Straight Man most of the time. Norveg does at one point complain about mice having better PR than rats even though rats are the more intelligent and compassionate species. The doctor is afraid that a rat will contaminate his office.
- By all appearances, Angelique from Kevin & Kell looks like this, a rat who is one of the Corrupt Corporate Executives of Herd Thinners, and by far one of the most scheming characters in the comic. So why is this actually an aversion? Genetically she's a rabbit. After her rabbit license was revoked because she sold out the rabbits' secrets to R.L., she was re-classified a rodent and got cosmetic surgery to look like a rat. It should be noted, though, she's become comfortable with her new rat lifestyle.
- The SuperMarioLogan series has The Rat, a French rat who likes to steal cheese and torment Chef Pee Pee. In "The Call of Duty Blackout", Joseph paid him in cheese to cut the power to Mario's house so Black Yoshi wouldn't annoy him while he played Call Of Duty.
- Tails Series:
- Discussed and deconstructed in the Atlas Obscura article "Why Are Rats Always the Bad Guys?"
- The titular rats of Jerma985's "Rat Movie: Mystery of the Mayan Treasure" are a pack of oversized talking rats that kill a group of artifact hunters and steal their treasure, only to be stopped by the Cat Police. Not that it matters, since the world explodes shortly after.
- One of the villains in Turbo Fast, Captain Dirtbeard, is a literal and straight example of this trope. This rodent pirate more than lives up to his name as one of Turbo's rival racers.
- Garfield and Friends: One of the villains in the U.S. Acres segments is a rat. Averted in the episode "Basket Brawl", which features Biff Rat who is friendly and just does commentary on the bizarre impromptu basketball game Garfield and the others are playing.
- Biker Mice from Mars: The anthropomorphic rat slavers, who are also shown to be cronies of Plutarkians in a flashback episode.
- Inverted in Disney's ''Goliath II'' where the villain of the short's second act is a mouse.
- Gary the Rat is about an Amoral Attorney who is such a "dirty rat" that he becomes a literal rat.
- South Park: The plot of "Bass To Mouth" revolves around the kids trying to stop an evil rat named "Wiki Leaks" from posting embarrassing personal stories about them online. Though since Wiki Leaks is the brother of Lemmiwinks the gerbil, the kids probably just got his species wrong.
- Rattrap from Transformers: Beast Wars and Beast Machines. Not evil, but easily the weaseliest member of the Maximals.
- The Animals of Farthing Wood have a whole swarm of rather cartoonishly evil rats, considering the otherwise more realistic tone of the show. The rat king, Bully, displays all the stereotypical traits you'd expect a fictional rat to have: he's sneaky, boastful, ruthless, filthy, and cowardly, and his followers aren't much better.
- Verminious Snaptrap from T.U.F.F. Puppy is a giant rat who serves as the leader of the Diabolical Order of Mayhem (or D.O.O.M. for short).
- Ratty from Mr. Bogus.
- Warner Bros. cartoons The Night Watchman and We The Animals Squeak depict mice as reprobate gangsters.
- Itchy from The Simpsons is a rare "mean mouse" example,
- The 1933 Van Beuren Studios cartoon "Rough on Rats" revolves around a trio of cute kittens battling a large, nasty rat.
- The Country Mouse and City Mouse Adventures even states rats are antagonists in the catchy intro. Finding a good rat in one episode is treated as significant, and even then that rat used to be a criminal but decided to reform himself.
Evil rats are all around, so trouble soon begins. We just put our heads together; in the end we always win.
- Captain Planet and the Planeteers enemy, Verminous Skumm, is a mutated anthropomorphic rat who wants to spread disease.
- Mortimer Mouse, Mickey Mouse's rival, despite having mouse in his name, looks more like an anthropomorphic rat. He's got the Jerkass behavior to boot, and usually acts as a recurring antagonist of Mickey and his friends, usually in the earlier shorts and in House of Mouse. His plans usually consist of him trying to take away Minnie from Mickey, and overall being an annoyance for them most of the time.
- Roderick and Rhubella Rat from Tiny Toon Adventures, who serve as Buster and Babs' evil counterparts and attend Perfecto Prep, the rival school of Acme Looniversity.
- In contrast to The Roly-Poly Pudding as mentioned above, Samuel Whisker's incarnation in Peter Rabbit plays this trope as straight as possible.
- The 1956 Walt Disney's Wonderful World of Color episode The Great Cat Family depicts rats as vicious enemies of man that were single-handedly responsible for the plague. The heroic cats helped kill many rats and saved humans.
- The Arthur episode "Pets and Pests" averts this with Ladonna's pet rat General Higgins, who is very intelligent and, when during Animal Talk, acts like a well-spoken gentleman. He also solves the Reads' pest problem with a mouse by talking with it to move on to a new location.
- This trope is inverted in real life. Rats are actually friendlier, more easily trained, and less likely to bite than mice are, and thus make much better pets than mice do. Anyone who has worked in a pet shop can attest to this. While a mouse that is regularly handled can become quite friendly, other mice tend to be jittery and sometimes aggressive. Rats, on the other hand, are friendly and inquisitive right off, and quickly learn that a human arriving means it's time for food or play. Experiments have shown that rats are one of the few animals besides humans and higher primates proven to have a sense of compassion.
- One rat-care expert has observed that fancy rats are the most human-like of all domesticated animals: omnivorous, adaptable, intensely social, living in large communities with multiple breeders, and capable of manipulating objects with their front paws.
- A remarkable number of creators who avert this trope in their works had pet rats as children.
- Some laboratories that use rats have reported students who felt extremely uncomfortable working with the rats because they started to become bonded to them.
- Male rats can usually live together quite happily, unlike male mice, which tend to kill each other in captivity even if neutered.
- Contrary to the "dirty" stereotype, rats are generally cleaner than other rodents, being fairly conscientious about grooming themselves.
- That said, some parallel experiments into the effects of overcrowding on human cities like New York and Tokyo have shown that rats seem to go insane if too many of them live in one place for a prolonged period, despite having adequate access to food and comforts. Fights are more likely to occur and more likely to be fatal. Some rats start eating other rats, and even form cannibal clans where they shun all contact. Some start intentionally destroying toys while normally they just play with them or ignore them, some start self-harming and chewing their own limbs off, and some just stop living, wasting away for no apparent medical reason. When taken out of their overcrowded cages or allowed more areas to roam in, their behaviour stayed the same, indicating that they have been permanently affected: only through generations do their offspring become psychologically normal again.
- Inverted by the HeroRATS: Giant Gambian pouched rats which are trained to sniff out land mines in their native Africa, thus allowing thousands of refugees in war-ravaged regions to safely reclaim their farms.
- Rats killing mice is Truth in Television, usually for food. They will not kill mice (at least not on purpose) if they are raised and are familiar with them, however.
- Nazi propaganda infamously equated Jews with rat infestations.
- American propaganda during World War II frequently compared the Japanese with rats.
- Henry Rollins once worked in a laboratory that experimented with mice, rats, and rabbits, as he tells in one of his spoke-word routines. One rat was extremely aggressive and refused to die, even after Rollins tried to kill it. This trope is subverted, in that Rollins took that as a lesson in strength.
- Studies have shown that rats appear to feel compassion, as a rat given the choice between saving a colony-mate in distress and eating a treat will nearly always help its fellow-rat first. Some even guide the rescued rat to the treats afterwards, as if attempting to calm or cheer up their companion.
- Even pet rats have unintentionally killed people. A rat bite can lead to rare zoonotic illnesses. So can cat scratches or dog bites, but more media attention is brought to rat bites due to this trope.
- played straight with real life sewer rats. That said, it's not really their fault. After all, if you lived in a sewer all your life you would be pretty gross and disease ridden as well.