Further costuming nerdery!

Since I still haven't gotten the go-ahead from the other humans I want to show off, today I am going to brag about costuming rodents.

When I lived in Flagstaff, we had a cage of three rats. Well, we -- the tool-making symbolic language-using humans -- thought we had a cage of three rats. They were of the opinion that we had one rat, one rat, and one rat. Rats have a very toddler-esque, self-centered view of the world, which often leads to things like me knitting a hammock sized for one rat and hanging it in the cage, only to come back later and find all three of them piled into it. Each one had found it and thought, "Well, I'm only one rat, surely I will fit!" because of course the other two rats don't count.

(The same principle allows you to fit about a kilo of rat into a standard rectangular Kleenex box, but only if they like each other. Found that out in the vet's waiting room. The density of rat, if you're interested, is about 1.05g/cm3 at their normal body temperature of 38°C. This is only slightly higher than that of water at the same temperature -- which rather explains why, when I walk over to scratch them behind the ears, at least one of them always manages to flow completely onto my hand.)

While we generally called them Adventure Rat (who would not stop moving), Biteyface (who nibbled toes,  but only when they were encased in socks), and the Corpulent Ratball (who turned hoarding calories into an art form), their names were actually Athos, Porthos, and Aramis.

Three guesses as to what I dressed them up as, and the first two don't count.

Athos, in costume
Costuming rats is surprisingly easy. They are tiny oblivious little creatures, unbeholden to the dictates of fashion. Unlike cats, they have absolutely no dignity to defend. They could not give a shit less what they're wearing as long as it doesn't interfere in their ability to waddle around and eat things. The main difficulty is that they are built like fuzzy baking potatoes, and haven't got anything like waist or even really a neck for you to fasten things around. You just kind of squash the rat into his outfit and hope for the best.

In this case, what I did was fashion three tiny blue tabards out of scrap fabric, each with a wide pilgrim collar and ties that, in theory, went around the neck of the rat, although in practice the rats tended to randomly step through them, leaving them looped around under one leg. You can get a better look at them here.

Aramis, eating one of his photo bribes

Athos and Porthos, also eating their bribes
Each rat also had an itty-bitty hat, handmade of yellow felt. Hats are not particularly difficult, once you get an idea of where the seams have to be. I had constructed them with chin straps, hoping to keep them on their owners, which plan failed miserably because I forgot that rats don't have chins. Each of them had a different color feather sticking out from under the tacked-up brim.

Some eensy hats.
The other useful method for making rat couture is to start with a stretchy tube. Last June, one of my flatmates threw a costume party for his birthday, and the rats attended dressed as the Avengers. All of these are made out of obnoxiously-colored ladies athletic socks, purchased on the cheap at Marshalls. Cut off the toe to make it a tube, and snip out the heel wedge to leave a hole for their front feet to poke through. The elastic band at the ankle becomes a neck/chest strap on the rat, holding the costume on for (ideally) just long enough to take a bunch of pictures before the rat starts oozing peristaltically out of it.

Chekov as Captain Rat-Merica

Bones as Rat-Hulk

Spock as Thor, Rat of Thunder

Kirk as Iron Rat
One thing you must be careful of is that if you add any kind of findings or notions onto the costumes, the rats will find a way to chew them off. They're just so tempting. Cap's star up there is an embroidered appliqué, but rat-sized arc reactor and Thor's armor decoration (not shown -- on the underside of the rat, of course) are all buttons, which are only still attached to the socks because I retrieved the outfits as soon as the rats had shed them. The year I made the Musketeer tabards was also the year I discovered that, for god only knows what reason, rats think that dyed craft feathers are delicious, and will turn around and eat them as soon as they run out of Cheerios.


  1. Holy cheese, those are adorable.


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