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Join the rat race in 2008

Most people go out of their way to avoid rodents. But astrologers say this would be unwise in 2008 – the Chinese year of the rat. In Eastern culture, the rat is linked with gain and status in the material world.

Viktoria Lazareva has been breeding rats for five years in her ordinary Moscow flat. She pampers them like any cat or dog, and is so proud of their achievements, she shows them off in exhibitions.

“I like rodents in general, but the rats are the cleverest. You can teach them up to thirty commands. And, you don't need to take them for a walk in the street – just let them out of cage and they will be having fun,” Viktoria says.

The neighbours have no idea about Viktoria's furry flatmates.

Maybe they wouldn't object anyway if they knew that Victoria’s pets are not average street rats. They are mainly of noble origin and come from different countries.

According to the Chinese horoscope, 2008 is the year of the rat, and so these creatures are coming into vogue.

While most Westerners run a mile when they see one, in the East it is considered a bad omen if a rat leaves the house. 

Astrologer Mikhail Levin explains how wealth and the rat are connected in the popular imagination. 

“Rats are symbols of wealth in the Orient. They don't like it in China when there are no rats in the house. It means that it might lead to their wealth disappearing. The main topic of the coming year will be material benefits,” Levin says.

So even though it might feel distasteful, it's far better to be on closer terms with the rat – even if it’s only for one year.