Let’s stop blaming the rats!

Painting shows a scene of people suffering from the bubonic plague in the 15th century from the Toggenberg Bible. --- Image by © Bettmann/CORBIS

Painting shows a scene of people suffering from the bubonic plague in the 15th century from the Toggenberg Bible. — Image by © Bettmann/CORBIS

Thumbup posted a little piece about the rats being the culprits of the Black Death. Well, that’s wrong but at least he’s not blaming the cats.

Thumbup is on the right track but he’s only halfway to the shocking truth about the Plague. Lots of people don’t like cats and it’s still popular to blame them for the pestilence–or at least it was back in those days of yore when it was considered perfectly proper to toss your bodily wastes from an unscreened window out into a gutter in the street and warn passersby there was a shitstorm on the way. No wonder there was so much illness. Of course we all know the shitstorms of yore weren’t responsible for the Plague, or we should know it if we don’t.

Back in those sanitation-challenged days of high superstition and low-numbered lifespans, cats were blamed for the pestilence. Our furry friends were regarded by the average man or woman as commiserating in secret dwelling places with The Evil One. The ignorance was so rife in those days it never occurred to anyone that maybe NOT killing the cats off might have prevented the disgusting pestilence, because the cats would have killed the rats who harbored the fleas. But we should be aware too that the Plague was actually nature’s way of correcting an imbalance–it cut down the burgeoning population in urban areas and paved the way for the Industrial Age, for whatever THAT’s worth. As if that’s a good thing, which it might be. Or might not be. I never really thought about it much. I guess it depends if you’re a Luddite who likes to grind their own coffee and make bread from scratch or a high-tech lover of the processed and ready-made.


But I digress. I opened this post to set the record straight about the common misconception that it was rats were were responsible for the Plague. No, they really weren’t. Even though they aren’t particularly well liked, aren’t all that cute, and are usually feared because they are thought to spread disease, it’s simply not fair to stop with the rats. The rats were actually victims themselves! The rats carried the fleas which held within their evil little carapaces the bacterium Yersinia Pestis that made all hell break loose.

Yes. The fleas. The gosh-darn fleas. Those unholy little fuckers who make my lower legs look like a slab of pimiento cheese after it’s been through the grater. Those annoying near-microscopic specks of jumping hell that leap off my cats and burrow into the weave of my rugs and my bedding and make me eschew wearing shorts when it’s 104 degrees outside. The real familiars of Satan who love the taste of my blood over anyone else’s on the planet. Anyone who’s spent any time reading my online soapbox and spewing platform knows that I hold in my heart the same passionate black hatred for fleas that the medieval Catholic church held for heretics in their midst. It was the fleas who were the real harbingers of painful death by gangrenous exploding pustules, not the rats.

The rats never asked to be infested with the fleas. In fact, I bet the fleas drove them as insane as they drive me every summer. So let’s stop blaming the rats and place the blame on the source of everything that’s evil in this world–the fleas!