City rats, it seems, prefer the same foods that humans do: Greasy, fatty, sweet, and salty. Although rats are usually seen as the billy goats of city life, ready to chow down on anything remotely edible, they show a marked distain for healthy vegetables. According to author Robert Sullivan, “A rat might starve in an alley full of raw carrots”. Like a human that missed the low-carb fad, Rattus norvegicus instead loads up on white bread, fried chicken, and mac and cheese.
Rats don’t only exhibit a human-like tendency to indulge in junk food. Although they naturally opt for sweet over spicy, their cultural background plays in a role in what they eat. In Manhattan’s East Harlem, home to one of the city’s biggest Latino populations, rats have reportedly developed a preference for the same spicy food that other rodents would reject.
Rats mirror our urban lives, eating what we don’t, absorbing our culture, and taking up residence in even the more undesirable real estate. Maybe they make us uneasy because they’re too good at acting human.