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Anecdotal reports suggest that some rat-catchers in Europe would raise rats instead of catching them in order to increase their eventual payment from the town or city they were employed by. This, and the practice of rat-fights, could have led to rat-breeding and the adoption of the rat as a pet - the fancy rat.
Techniques and risks
Rat-catchers would capture rats by hand, often with specially-bred vermin terriers, or with traps. Rats are rarely seen in the open, preferring to hide in holes, haystacks and dark locations. Payment would be high for catching and selling rats to breeders. A rat-catcher's risk of being bitten is high, as is the risk of acquiring a disease from a rat bite.
Rat catchers in fiction
Another, more recent appearance of a rat-catcher in fiction is the children's novel The Twinkie Squad by Gordon Korman. As a result of a student prank which leaves the entire school smelling like dead fish, the principal hires several "professionals" to find and remove the cause of the stench, including a sewer gas expert, an x-ray technician, and a man calling himself the "District of Columbia Ratcatcher". All three "experts" fail to find anything, with the rat-catcher concluding that there is a dead animal in the walls which can only be found and removed by means of demolition.
However, the story has a modern setting, not a Victorian one, and therefore the rat-catcher in the story is more of a general pest-control man, not strictly a specialist in rats alone.
In the DC Universe one of Batman's enemies is the Rat Catcher, formerly Otis Flannegan, who was employed as a real rat catcher for Gotham City. He occasionally orchestrates rat plagues using his uncanny ability to control rats.
Ratcatcher is a 1999 film written and directed by Lynne Ramsay. It is her debut feature film.
British author Roald Dahl wrote a short story with the title "The Ratcatcher."
- Batman: Arkham Asylum character bios.
- Full Revelations of a Professional Rat-catcher by Ike Matthews' at Project Gutenberg - an 1898 account of the tricks of the trade, by a British rat-catcher