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Last Updated: Thursday, 4 October 2007, 14:52 GMT 15:52 UK
Film triggers rat craze in France
kitchen rat -- Pixar productions
Remy the would-be-chef, the furry star of Ratatouille
It may not have featured at Paris Fashion Week, but in France there's one must-have item this season: a rat.

Ratatouille - an American animated film about a French rodent with lofty aspirations - has prompted a spike in rat sales across the country.

"Since the film came out in August, there has been a real fashion for rats," said Gerald Moreau, vice president of rat support group APRAC.

"There's no doubt it has changed the perception of rats," he told the BBC.

"Before rats were seen as disgusting, but now people see them as intelligent, cute, social animals."

Since the film's French release, the number of visitors to Mr Moreau's l'Association de Promotion du Rat comme Animal de Compagnie (APRAC) has increased eightfold, from 50 hits per hour to more than 400, he said.

The sale of rat accessories from the site, meanwhile, has leapt by 40%.

Rat in the kitchen

Ratatouille relates the trials and tribulations of Remy, a French rat who longs to fulfil his dream of becoming a professional chef.

There's no doubt this film has changed the French perception of rats
Gerald Moreau
Rat enthusiast

Thwarted at various stages in his quest by "ratism" and the prejudices associated with being a rodent, Remy has to choose whether to follow his heart or go back to life on the street.

The sympathetic tale has led to a spike in interest among pet-owners for Remy look-alikes -- soft-coated rats with floppy "Dumbo" ears.

Roland Rat
The first symbol of the Chinese Zodiac, the rat symbolises cunning and prosperity
Rats take care of the injured and sick in their groups
A group of rats is called a mischief

Mr Moreau, 25, argues the increase is understandable. "Rats are much smarter, much more interesting than hamsters or mice," he said.

"They recognise their name and grow very attached to their owner - they play with you like a dog or a cat."

And Mr Moreau would know, as he and his girlfriend keep 19 of the long-tailed rodents as pets at home.

There are now around five million pet rats in France, industry figures suggest.

Combining that figure with the 60 million living wild, mostly in urban areas such as Paris, makes the urban legend that a human is always within 20 feet of a rodent in the French capital that much more credible.

But parents of children hankering after a pet rat should beware, as the furry rodents are attention seekers. "They're very sociable animals, and they need a lot of cuddles and play time," warned Mr Moreau.

And British parents of potential rat-owners should heed that warning - Ratatouille goes on general release in the UK on October 12.

Rat problem 'not a health risk'
17 Sep 07 |  Jersey


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