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"Rats is rats, past, present, and forever. Weasels change, but rats is rats!"
John Wesley Weasel, The Book of the Dun Cow

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,note  though Evil Is Bigger may also be in play here), are traditionally Always Chaotic Evil and Squick 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 or an elephant is chasing a mouse, the cat or the elephant is almost always the villain; if the cat or the elephant is chasing a rat, he's almost always the hero.

Fictional rats are typically 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. A rat might also be literally dirty and more disease-ridden compared to mice. Also, as a fan noted on comments for B-movie reviewing site Jabootu's glossary, when a few rats appear in a scene to illustrate how an area is dark, dirty, and/or otherwise foreboding, they'll likely remain in plain sight as people are near, when in reality, non-pet rats are more prone to hiding or scurrying away, and/or have canned sound effects of squeaking present - which rats, at least those hiding from potential threats, don't really make, either.

Could be seen as a type of Fantastic Racism. See also Nice Mice, Resourceful Rodent, A Mischief of 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, Beware of Vicious Dog and Reptiles Are Abhorrent. Screwball Squirrel is this trope but as a squirrel. Bat Out of Hell is probably related, as bats are seen as similar to rats. May also scare the crap out of Honorable Elephants and/or (in case of Evil Versus Evil) Cruel Elephants. Subtrope of What Measure Is a Non-Cute?.

For other similarly gross animals, see Messy Maggots, Pesky Pigeons and Smelly Skunk.

Trope Namer is a quote wrongly attributed to James Cagney. The actual quote, for those who are wondering, is "That dirty double-crossing rat!". Real Life dirty rats do exist, especially those from sewers (and sometimes come with Swarm of Rats).

I'm the Giant Rat that makes all of da Tropes!

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    Anime & Manga 
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • The corrupt Marine Officer Nezumi from the Arlong Arc in One Piece qualifies for this trope, as his name is the Japanese word for "rat". Additionally, he wears a grey hood with artificial rat ears and has whiskers on his face, giving him a rat-like appearance. The episode in which he confiscates Nami's treasure(which she'd saved up to buy back her village) on orders of Arlong, the pirate who controls the village, is even titled "You Dirty Rat!" in the 4Kids dub.
  • Osamu Tezuka's Unico subverts this trope by featuring positive depictions of rats. In "Black Rain and White Clouds", Unico befriends a rat couple named Garappachi and Okuzu who live in the basement of Chico's home. He also serves as a father figure to Chico when her grandfather isn't present. He and his wfie struggle to find food in their area due to living in a polluted area caused by a sentient factory. After noticing Chico's sickness getting worse, he joins Unico to help her feel better and manages to make the polluted area health by the chapter's conclusion. Garappachi appears in the 1979 pilot Unico: Black Cloud and White Feather by Sanrio Animation.

    Asian Animation 
  • The primary antagonist of Black Cat Detective is a rat who leads a swarm of rodent bandits, regularly stealing and committing robbery while Black Cat and his team of feline policemen tries to thwart their actions. Said rat ends up being given the name "One-Ear" at the end of the pilot episode, when the feline police defeats his gang and Black Cat managed to shoot down one of its ears.

    Comic Books 
  • Angel Catbird: Dr. Muroid controls an army of rats, being a shapeshifting rat man and all.
  • 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.
  • Chlorophylle: Anthracite the Black Rat is a downright nasty criminal and would-be tyrant, capable of murdering his own henchmen when they have outlived their usefulness.
  • The Crawling King contains a couple of stories about rats. One of which is about a really big rat with SIX LEGS that emerges from underneath a tree.
  • The Final Plague: Helen is attacked by a very persistent rat in her house. It's even still twitching after being crushed by a shovel.
  • In 1930s Mickey Mouse comics, Minnie's cousin Ruffhouse Rat isn't evil—but he's a lazy, egotistical flop of an athlete who essentially makes Mickey and Minnie solve his problems for him.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Simon Says: Nazi Hunter: At the start of chapter 2, Simon stands on Bruno's shoulders so he can see over a fence. While he's doing so, a rat comes along and bits his leg, causing Bruno to drop Simon and alert the suspected Nazis Simon was watching to their presence.
  • 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.
  • Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles
    • A very strong aversion: Master Splinter in any incarnation is a wise, gentle, and patient fellow. Just don't hreaten his adoptive sons.
    • The Rat King is a subversion, as his rats were harmless until they were in his power (and the Rat King himself is human).
  • 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.

    Comic Strips 

    Fairy Tales 

    Films — Animated 
  • An American Tail: The mice 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.
  • Animalympics has the New York Rats, who are a team of sleazy soccer players who use dirty tactics to try and win the game.
  • 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 Cat City, the rats are villains (although of the ineffectual sympathetic kind).
  • Chicken Run: Downplayed with Nick and Fetcher, rats who peddle 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. She changes her tune when he explains that it was "sounding an alarm" to their mutual enemies.
  • In one adaptation of The Country Mouse and City Mouse, the bad guy is a rat.
  • Fantasia 2000: In the "Steadfast Tin Soldier" segment, the soldier is menaced by vicious-looking rats while floating in the sewers. Originally, the rats were more comical, but the filmmakers decided they didn't fit with the tone of the music in that particular passage.
  • The Great Mouse Detective: The 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.
  • Lady and the Tramp has a rat that threatens the Darlings' baby before being stopped by Tramp.
  • The Big Bad of Lapitch The Little Shoemaker is a thieving rat who is literally called Dirty Rat.
  • 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.
  • Oliver & Company: Subverted. The rats that show up during the "Why Should I Worry" scene may look rough on the edges, but they are not evil. Then again, they only show up for a few seconds and appear to be dressed like gangsters...
  • Subverted in Ratatoing, a cheap knock-off of Ratatouille. Rats are both heroes and villains, being a Mockbuster.
  • Ratatouille:
    • Averted. The main character is Remy, 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. Furthermore, when they offer to help in the kitchen, Remy makes them all clean up in the dishwasher resulting in a bunch of squeaky clean rats.
    • 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.
  • The same goes in The Secret of NIMH. Except for Jenner and Sullivan (who has a Heel–Face Turn at the end) 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.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Averted in Home Alone 3, in which the kid's pet white rat, Doris, is depicted as a cute friendly companion.
  • 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.
  • 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. Landa says he doesn't consider the comparison insulting, having a respect for rats, and arguing that they're no different from squirrels in most ways... except he still goes along with the Nazi genocide plans.
  • 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 Jerkass 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.
  • In Nosferatu, Count Orlok looks quite rat-like, and brings loads of plague rats with him to Visborg.
  • This trope is the reason the Mouse King from The Nutcracker was changed to the Rat King in The Nutcracker: the Untold Story.
  • The villains of Our Friend Power 5 are a gang of rat-like Aliens, and all but their leader have entirely rat-like bodies.
  • In The Princess Bride, Wesley gets attacked by a giant rat in the forest. He manages to kill it after a few minutes.
  • Near the beginning of Psychos, JJ is shown putting a rat in a tray, and then cutting into it with a razor.
  • 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 When Evil Calls, Neville has much of his face chewed off by rats after he is Stuffed into a Trashcan.
  • Graveyard Shift has a colony of murderous rats ( and one gigantic rat that has grown batlike wings) terrorizing the workers of a textile mill.

  • In the hypothetical future depicted in After Man: A Zoology of the Future, rats have evolved to the point that they've filled in the niches left behind by the now largely extinct carnivorans.
  • Animorphs: David the rat nothlit, 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.
  • 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.
  • The Book of the Dun Cow: Ebenezer Rat is an egg-eating and violent person, 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.
  • 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.
  • Charlotte's Web: Templeton Rat isn't actively evil, but he's certainly selfish, arrogant, and greedy. He has to be bribed into helping Wilbur the Pig.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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."
  • 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.
  • Averted in the short story The Redfern Rats from Louise Searl's The Dream Eaters And Other Stories. The rats are the heroes, portrayed as brave and resourceful. The fact that they're clean animals is also mentioned.
  • Evolution: A recurring motif of the chapters dealing with human evolution and descendants is the competition between primates and rodents for resources and ecological niches, with rodents being dumber but more efficient. The most feared apex predators thirty million years in the future are all rodents, such as rat-leopards and mouse-raptors, while humans have evolved back into arboreal apes.
  • In the Feline Wizards series, Rhiow considers rats to be animate incarnations of Chaos and has no qualms about killing them, which is pretty notable in a setting that makes a point of saying that all living things have value and any creature has the potential to become a wizard, so she might at some point potentially have to work with a rat as an equal colleague.
  • In the Freddy the Pig series, the rats are recurring characters who make up the equivalent of a mob family led by their patriarch Simon. On several occasions they team up with human crooks to commit extortion, theft, or other dirty deeds. In one later book, they go so far as to stage a full-blown fascist coup to take over the Bean Farm and install Simon as dictator.
  • 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.
  • Mary Gentle's Rats—who are generally the dominant sapient species of any work in which they appear—tend to be crooked, manipulative, ambitious, self-centered, and bigoted—in other words, about as bad as humans. (And they're ruled by rat kings with their tails deliberately knotted together.)
  • 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.
  • Girls to the Rescue: "Keesha and the Rats" pits a young girl against the bureaucracy of Harlem when she makes up her mind to do something about the rats infesting her tenement. After being given the runaround by the Director of Housing, she captures a rat to show to the mayor while he's making an appearance at her school. Chaos ensues, but she ultimately gets her point across.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • In The Midnight Folk and The Box Of Delights, the Cellar Rat in an information broker, who will happily sell out either side for green cheese or haggis.
  • Jokingly discussed in Mike Nelson's Mind Over Matters, where he argues that rats should have their status as mammals revoked:
    ...not because they don’t qualify genetically, but on charges of moral turpitude. There are only so many great plagues that you can cause before you have to take responsibility. In the trial against them, their bald tails (so horrible and unmammal-ly) should be admissible as evidence against them.
  • Played Straight, Averted and Played for Drama in The Mouse Watch. While most R.A.T.S. agents are indeed rats, the organization has members from other species. Also, there are many rats who have either resisted joining the group or done so involuntarily, including Jarvis and his family. And one of the book's major themes is Bernie's struggle with her anti-rat bigotry, which she eventually overcomes.
  • 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.
  • 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 New Neighbors by Sarah McIntrye Subverts this trope to provide its Aesop about prejudice against others and stereotypes (in this case, Animal Stereotypes). Every animal tenant, except for the rabbits who rather feel excited, are extremely fearful of the new rat neighbors and label them as "big, dirty, smelling, thieving, dangerous rats who will make the building collapse and bury everyone alive in rat poop". When all the animals reach their door, the rats are revealed to be the very opposite: small, tidy, friendly-looking, and can make the best cake.
  • 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.
  • Nineteen Eighty-Four: Used horrifically 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • A new breed of large killer rats are the villains in The Rats and its two sequels Lair and Domain by the English horror author James Herbert.
  • 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.
  • 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).
  • Another water rat aversion occurs in Pauline Clarke's amazing The Return Of The Twelves.
  • 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.
  • In the Soldiers of Barrabas pulp novel "Butchers of Eden", a Tamil man shoots several Singhalese policemen who are in the process of raping his family, but runs out of ammunition before he can finish off the last one. Desperate to silence the Dirty Cop when he starts shouting for help, he grabs the nearest Improvised Weapon he can find—which happens to be a rat dying of poison—and jams it down the cop's throat until, as the author put it, "both rats were dead."
  • Averted in Star Girl. The title character has a pet rat who is presented as a normal pet and is quite friendly.
  • Steel Crow Saga: Princess Xiulan's antagonistic older sister derisively calls her "White Rat", and rats "the scum of the animal kingdom". Xiulan claimed it as an Appropriated Appellation, appreciating rats' tenacity and resourcefulness, and defies royal tradition to Shadepact with a white rat as a Familiar.
  • 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).
  • 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. However, the rats seem to get along with humans during the opening and ending.
  • 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.
  • Averted in Tom Moorhouse's Trickster, in which rats are the protagonists. Not all of them are good guys, but they're far from the typical, negative representation of rats.
  • 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 Underland Chronicles plays this straight at first, then subverts it big-time.
  • 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...
  • 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.
  • Played with in Garry Kilworth's Welkin Weasels series. The black rats are Always Chaotic Evil, while the Norway rats are lovable fops. This isn't too far off from their behavior in Real Life, where 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.
  • The Wind in the Willows: Averted with Mr. Rat, a kindly bohemian fellow and the best neighbour you could hope for. Of course, he's a water rat, which are technically voles and therefore less disreputable than true rats. Also averted with the Sea Rat, who is a true rat (he specifically refers to Norwegian ancestry, presumably indicating that he's a brown rat, or rattus norvegicus), but is a kindly grizzled old sailor.
  • Beware of Chicken: In the first volume, a group of pill-making rats take up residence on Fa Ram, who intend to corrupt Big D into being their stooge. Rizzo/Ri Zu averts this, defecting from the rat swarm after Big D. saves her life, saving his life in return, and becoming a core member of the cast,and one of the nicest members, affinity for poisons notwithstanding.

    Live-Action TV 
  • 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.
  • 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.")
  • Charmed has an episode with demons involved in money laundering that can transform into rats.
  • 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, much to their displeasure.
  • The Reinigen in Grimm, a particular nasty kind of Wesen.
  • Downplayed with Rizzo the Rat of The Muppets, and his rat friends, who are genuinely friendly (except when you say the wrong things), though greedy, gluttonous, and cowardly.
  • 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! ♪
    Merry Christmas.
  • 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.


    Myths & Religion 
  • 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.
  • Hindu Mythology:
    • The elephant-headed god Ganesha uses a giant rat as his vehicle. Since Ganesha is a benevolent god, this likely counts as an aversion.
    • 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.

  • The ship's rat in 1989 Swedish radio drama Beatrice is rude, mean and doesn't give a rat's ass about anyone but himself. He's also the reason why the heroes ultimately lose their contest, since he finds and eats the cheese that was one of the items they had pledged to bring back before Christmas Eve. He does have a Freudian Excuse, though, since he's bitter that humans killed his children, and just generally knows that "no one loves a rat."

    Tabletop Games 
  • 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?
  • 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.
  • Everdell:
    • While most of the game's various critters are good-natured, solo mode opponent Rugwort the Rat is a nasty Hate Sink who comes to Everdell with his "rowdy, rambunctious, rat ruffians" in an apparent attempt to take over the city. The last Rugwort scenario even has him kidnapping one of your workers. He later got his own mini-expansion where all of his cards have nasty effects on opponents: one steals one of their green cards and gives them a detrimental card in return, one has you exchange hands with someone (which means a chance to steal their stuff while "giving" a small or empty hand in return), and one whose point value scales with the number of events an opponent has.
    • The Bellfaire Expansion Pack introduces player powers represented by different species of workers. The Rat worker's ability is called "Obnoxious", while most of the other ability names have positive or neutral connotations. (The only other exception is Cats being "Bossy".) The "Obnoxious" ability lives up to its name, as it makes you benefit when someone plays a certain card from the Meadow.
  • 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.
  • 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 MegaCorp 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...
  • Magic: The Gathering: Most rodent creatures 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.
    • Mark Rosewater, the head designer, even has a Running Gag about how squirrels (usually Green) are "rats with better PR".
  • 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. By the time of Starfinder, they've become one of the most common species in the solar system, and are generally tolerated as basically good and handy to have around a ship, if occasionally annoying due to their tendency to get distracted while picking apart electronics.
  • Ultimately subverted in the world of Realms of Pugmire. From the perspectives of dogs and cats, as found in both Pugmire and Monarchies of Mau, rats are effectively shifty, lowly criminals (although, in the latter, the story "All Hail The Rat King!" reveals more positive rat figures, like Meeka Chase). However, in the spinoff sourcebook Squeaks in the Deep, it’s shown that they mainly play this role due to being on the lowest end of the social ladder, and growing a sense of cynicism from the ways they’ve been treated by other species. In fact, mice are often treated better than rats directly because of the more harmless way mice seem, which only causes rats to be even more distrustful towards non-rodents. Not helping is the cult of Labo Tor, which does play this trope straight (although the members also include mice). Ultimately, cynical demeanor or not, rats, like any playable animal, are just as likely to be good or evil as any other.
  • Sentinels of the Multiverse:
    • Plague Rat, whose mutations have turned him into a giant, toxic rat creature.
    • The Pike Industrial environment includes rats as targets. They do minimal damage to the lowest-HP targets, but the Experimental Mutagen card buffs them for each card out.
    • The Rat Beasts from The Final Wasteland, which are implied to be the descendants of Plague Rat — they even share a nemesis with him.
  • Shadowrun:
    • Devil rats are a species of hairless Awakened rats resistant to most poisons, capable of controlling normal rats, highly aggressive and prone to attacking people, and reputedly intelligent enough to be malicious in how they hunt.
    • Demon rats are a further variant that mutated from devil rats during the Year of the Comet, distinguished from devil rats by possessing fur, short horns, and corrosive saliva, but retaining their ancestors' vicious attitudes and immunity to poison. They also possess opposable thumbs and are smart enough to open latches and simple doors, and are chiefly predatory animals who only scavenge when all else fails. Additional variants of demon rats exist, including one that carries the VITAS virus and another capable of regeneration.
    • Somewhat averted with followers of the Rat Totem. While these followers tend to be greedy and tend towards being The Pig-Pen and Combat Pragmatists, Rat is definitely not a Toxic Totem.
  • Talislanta: The Ferrans 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.
  • In Warhammer, the Skaven are Nazi-Rats; 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's explicitly stated that they are the most evil race in the whole settingnote . Skaven hate everyone and everything; they are more cowardly than Goblins, more cruel than Dark Elves, and even more divided than Chaos. No Skaven character thus far has shown any sympathetic or redeeming traits whatsoever, nor have they ever shown any concern or love for anyone other than themselvesnote . There may be a slight exception to the females, if only because the male Skaven have enslaved them as mindless breeding sows to rape at their discretion. 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.
  • Werewolf: The Apocalypse has 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.
  • Werewolf: The Forsaken: The Beshilu 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 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.

    Video Games 
  • The Rat Clan of Armello are a pack of morally questionable characters, suited to sneaky, underhanded tactics of guile and manipulation. Mercurio, the most sympathetic 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.
  • 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.
  • Bot Gaiden: One of the bosses of the game is a gigantic robotic rat named... Ratbot. It attacks by trying to strike the ninja bots with the circular sawblade on its tail.
  • Claws of Furry: The first enemies you face in the gang are a street gang of anthropomorphic rats. They first attack you in the dojo when a dog in a mech suit takes your sensei.
  • The Borderlands series has the rats, a group of bandits who are so sleazy, creepy, kleptomaniac and disgusting that even the others bandits don't like them. Did we mention they are cannibal? Technically they aren't real rats but are themed and named around them.
  • Averted in Comix Zone: Roadkill the rat is the main character's pet and Non-Human Sidekick - he helps solving puzzles, finds secret places and hidden items, and can One-Hit Kill female enemies.
  • The Convenience Store: On the second night, the dumpster behind the convenience store is rooted through by rats. The Player Character needs to get rid of them.
  • Crayon Chronicles has Illiter-Rats, which are rats holding a book.
  • 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. The rats act as part of the game's Karma Meter system: the more people you kill, the more corpses there are for the rats to eat, increasing their numbers and in turn spreading the plague throughout more and more of Dunwall.
  • The Graverobbers in Dungeons of Aether are big, evil rats.
  • 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 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:
      • 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.
  • Enter the Gungeon has the Resourceful Rat, who steals items while you aren’t looking, leaves notes mocking you, and has a difficult boss fight. Sure, he has a Dark and Troubled Past like a lot of people in the game, but it’s hard to feel sorry for a guy who insults you at every chance he gets.
  • Final Fantasy:
  • 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.
  • Goblin Sword: One of the enemy types you encounter in the game is rats. You don't need to reach down to attack them, though.
  • Hades: Rats, of both normal and giant-sized varieties, are enemies Zagreus will face in the Temple of Styx (the final level before the Final Boss). This makes them some of the toughest common enemies in the game, partly because they attack in large numbers and because they can inflict poison damage. If Zagreus is very unlucky, he can encounter a variant of the small rat known as the King Vermin, which looks exactly the same, but it has over 12 000 HP (only two other foes in the game have more health, one of which is an Optional Boss and the other being the Final Boss), can summon hordes of giant rats, teleport, and does far more damage than normal.
  • Zigzagged in the Hotline Miami games. Richter, the rat-masked man who is sent to kill Jacket, at first seems like a horrible person, but the sequel reveals he’s a perfectly normal guy who was forced into attacking the Russian Mafia like Jacket was after the callers threatened to murder his mother, who he has to care for himself.
  • Rat demons are the lowest creatures in the demon hierarchy in Jade Empire.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • League of Legends has Twitch, the Plague Rat, a mutated rat that fights with a poison-tipped crossbow.
  • Rats are the weakest enemies in Legend of Kay.
  • 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.
  • Zigzagged in Mad Rat Dead. You play as Mad Rat, who is a slightly dickish Anti-Hero but ultimately on the side of good. You're sent on your quest by the Rat God, a benevolent genie-esque rat who grants Mad Rat's wish to relive his final day. However, the first boss you fight is a gang of lab rats with sever brain mutations, and by the end, you must fight Rat God, who reveals herself to not only be using Mad Rat for her own personal gain, but is also not actually a rat but a parasite who must kill Mad Rat to ensure her own survival.
  • 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.
  • One board in Mario Party 9 has an event where a Scaredy Rat appears and steals Mini-Stars from the players, then tries to run down a hallway to escape. The players take turns rolling Dice Blocks in the order chosen by the player that started the event, and if one of the players manages to catch the Scaredy Rat before it gets away, they get the Mini-Stars for themselves.
  • The beginning of Ni no Kuni II: Revenant Kingdom begins with the King Leonhard of Ding Dong Dell, a kingdom of cat people, murdered by his Evil Chancellor Mausinger, a snarling Rat Man, and Leonhard's young son and the protagonist, Cat Boy Evan, overthrown and exiled. However, it ends up subverted—Mausinger was a dear friend of the king's who worked with him to end the oppression of his people, who had been discriminated against by the cat people for generations, but he was manipulated by outside forces into thinking the only way to end the cycle was with a coup. He is ultimately forgiven both by Evan and Leonhard, and becomes a just ruler in his own right.
  • 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. In fact, they were given regional forms in Pokémon Sun and Moon, which are Dark-typesnote .
  • Poptropica: Rats appear in enemies on a few islands.
    • There's a really big rat in one of the pipes in the Carrot Cake Factory on 24 Carrot Island.
    • Ratman from Super Power Island controls an entire army of giant rats.
    • Zomberry rats appear in Zomberry Island's Bonus Quest.
  • 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.
  • The Skaven from Warhammer 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.
  • 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.
  • Skeletal Avenger: One of the enemy types the skeleton can face in the game are giant rats.
  • Smashroom: One of the enemy types that Smashroom can encounter in the game are giant, red-eyed rats.
  • Space Station 14: While mice are harmless pests that will do nothing worse than eat the chemist's pills, the rats summoned by the Rat King are hostile and have led to the deaths of many a hapless crew member.
  • Sydney Hunter and the Curse of the Mayan: The first enemy Sydney encounters in the pyramid are rats. They can be defeated with one strike of the whip.
  • 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...
  • Temtem has Hazrat, a poisonous rat that lives in a sewer and has a maniacal grin on its face.
  • In TinkerQuarry, most of the enemies seen so far resemble mice or rats.
  • In most of the Tiny Toon Adventures video games, Roderick Rat is the most common enemy, and is often working for Montana Max.
  • Tomb Raider a common enemy in several games are rats, which range in size from normal to Rodents Of Unusal Size.
  • 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.
  • Toy Odyssey: The Lost and Found: Rats are an enemy type that emerge from rat holes that Brand opens.
  • Venture Kid: Andy can encounter rats in the sewers of the city level.
  • Wizard101: The third mainline world Marleybone (basically Victorian-era London populated by anthropomorphic cats, dogs, and rats) has the rats portrayed as thieving hoodlums (some specific rat enemies are even called “Ruffians”, “Hooligans”, etc.); unusually for this trope, it goes hand-in-hand with Cats Are Mean.
  • 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.

    Web Animation 
  • hololive: Hakos Baelz from the Holoive Council is a downplayed and arguably subverted example. She's an Anthropomorphic Personification of Chaos with a rat motif, including the tail and ears of a rat and a murine Head Pet, and has demonstrated a love of explosions and a trollish Karmic Trickster nature. That said, she was appointed by the Gods to be The Leader of the Council, meaning she is responsible for maintaining order among the five. Sure enough, the first Council session (involving all five members of the Council in one stream) had her as the one that directed the agenda and gave a semblance of order to the event; the other members even acknowledged Baelz was the most responsible out of all of them despite her saying otherwise.
  • The title rats of Jerma985's Rat Movie: Mystery of the Mayan Treasure are a pack of oversized talking rats (led by a "Giant Rat that makes all of da rules!") 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.
  • The titular protagonist of Ratboy Genius is a definite aversion to this. Little King John plays it straight though, at least at first.

  • 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.
  • Rats in In Our Shadow are an entire species of Absolute Xenophobe Dirty Cowards who can't feel safe unless every other species is either cowed into submission, either through the "submission signal" broadcast throughout their empire in the Northern Hemisphere or brute force, or extinction. Later subverted when it turns out that Emperor Schorl created a second signal to amplify his subjects' fear response to make it easier to control them, and rats who spend enough time outside its influence can overcome their xenophobia.
  • 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.
  • 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.

    Web Original 

    Western Animation 
  • In The Amazing World of Gumball, Richard Watterson's deadbeat father Frankie is an anthropomorphic rat and an unapologetic Con Man. This trope is later lampshaded when Frankie witnesses "The Vermin Man", a performance Granny Jojo wrote detailing every single one of his bad traits.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Rattrap from Transformers: Beast Wars and Beast Machines. Not evil, but easily the weaseliest member of the Maximals.
  • Biker Mice from Mars: The anthropomorphic rat slavers, who are also shown to be cronies of Plutarkians in a flashback episode.
  • Captain Planet and the Planeteers:
    • The team's recurring enemy, Verminous Skumm, is a mutated anthropomorphic rat who wants to spread disease.
    • Played with in "Hate Canal". Skumm, as always, plays into the negative stereotypes about rats and his swarms of mutated rats are a major threat. However, non-mutated rats are presented as regular animals; during one scene, Ma-Ti finds two cowering in an unlit fireplace and uses his ring to calm them.
  • The Country Mouse And City Mouse Adventures even states rats are antagonists in the 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.
  • 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.
  • The Garfield Show ended with the "Rodent Rebellion" special, a four-part episode comprising the entirety of Season 5 and having the conflict revolve around a bunch of rats terrorizing the town as well as framing Jon for their robberies.
  • Gary the Rat is about an Amoral Attorney who is such a "dirty rat" that he becomes a literal rat.
  • Kipo and the Age of Wonderbeasts: Surprisingly averted. The rats are actually one of the friendlier and more welcoming of the Mutes, with their territory actually being a safe zone. They even lack the disdain for humans that many of the other Mutes possess.
  • 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 to them most of the time.
  • Ratty from Mr. Bogus.
  • While not villainous, exactly, Rizzo in Muppet Babies (2018) is portrayed with a few negative qualities, particularly in his debut episode "How Kermit Got His Groove." He is disruptive and disrespectful, makes a point of claiming the nursery as his own and wrecking it with his dancing, and it also appears that, based on his overflowing mailbox, he doesn't answer his mail. He is eventually reformed, but even after this, he continues to be used by the show to depict some negative traits children shouldn't have, such as being "the pickiest eater in town" in the episode "Best Pals Pizza Parlor Palace".
  • My Life as a Teenage Robot: In “Pest Control”, a group of lab rats take over Jenny’s body to take revenge on her mother.
  • In contrast to The Roly-Poly Pudding as mentioned above, Samuel Whisker's incarnation in Peter Rabbit plays this trope as straight as possible.
  • Redwall: Rats are a common antagonistic species, with Cluny and most of his bandit horde being comprised of them. In Season 2, Mattimeo attacks Vitch purely on the basis that he's a rat and ergo must be evil. While Matthias scolds him for his prejudice, it turns out that Mattimeo was right about Vitch, who was a spy for Slagar's slavers.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • One of the villains in Turbo F.A.S.T., 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.
  • 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).
  • The 1933 Van Beuren Studios cartoon "Rough on Rats" revolves around a trio of cute kittens battling a large, nasty rat.
  • 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.

    Real Life 
  • This trope is inverted in real life, though many people confuse rats with mice. 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.
    • However, one major exception of the usual inversion of the trope in real life are the trench rats infamous for their abundance burrowed in the grueling battlefields of World War I — playing the trope awfully straight. Many Allied soldiers felt negative effects from the presence of the rats throughout their time in the war. Alleged rumors of the rats being able to grow to sizes "as big as cats" doesn't help the fact at all.
  • 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.
    • Conversely, at least a few pet rats have reportedly saved people, by nibbling at skin blemishes on their owners that, when biopsied, proved to be cancerous, or by raising a fuss at the odors of gas leakage or fires in their caretakers' homes. One rat even escaped his cage, climbed a flight of stairs, and clambered onto his young owner's bed to awaken the child (who alerted the rest of the family), saving its entire family from a house fire.
  • 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.
  • Those who live in the Chicagoland area will be familiar with the "giant rat," an enormous, inflatable rat with an evil expression and (sometimes) disease-ridden features, deployed in front of buildings whose construction crews are non-union.



Video Example(s):


Frankie (The Vermin Man)

In The Amazing World of Gumball, Richard Watterson's deadbeat father Frankie is an anthropomorphic rat and an unapologetic Con Man. This trope is later lampshaded when Frankie witnesses "The Vermin Man", a performance Granny Jojo wrote detailing every single one of his bad traits.

How well does it match the trope?

4.5 (14 votes)

Example of:

Main / YouDirtyRat

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