Rubber rat rating report returns

Mid-October is upon us and, if you’re like many harried 21st century consumers, you have a vague, uneasy feeling that something’s missing – something with a pointy tail and beady eyes.

The frost may be upon the pumpkin – or perhaps the persimmon – but there’s nary a rubber rat on your mantle and Halloween is less than three weeks away.

Oh, sure, you’ve been meaning to stock up on some snaggly-toothed squeakers ever since the official opening of rubber rat season on Oct. 1, but you never quite got around to it and now you’ve got to do some rapid rodent shopping or your kids are never going to forgive you.

Fortunately, the newspaper’s biennial Halloween rubber rat rating report is back to make your autumn shopping just a little bit easier.

Every two years the newspaper sends out a seasoned team of rubber rat evaluators to help potential purchasers find the best and brightest rats before All Hallow’s Eve.

Retail rats are rated in five areas that have proven to be of interest to canny consumers, including:

* Price

* Squeak

* Pointiness of tail

* Beadiness of eye

* Snaggliness of teeth

The rubber rat aficionados also consider a wide range of specialty features – blinking eyes, bushy whiskers, gigantic feet – when making their recommendations.

We found this year’s best “personality rat” at the Vacaville Target store. The Target rat is almost a foot tall with big, bloodshot eyes, bristly whiskers, yellow teeth and a grin worthy of Andy Griffith.

This big fellow, at $9.99, practically shouts “Take me home!”

He’s a little pricey, but one of him goes a long way.

A close second – and considerably more economical – is the “Stand Up Rat” we found at the Woodland Wal-Mart store. At $6.97 this mischievous-looking example of rattus rubberus is sure to be a hit as the centerpiece of your Halloween dining table or peering out of the vegetable drawer in your refrigerator.

Our team found the greatest variety of seasonal rats at the Spirit Halloween SuperStore in Vacaville Commons. There were no fewer than 17 different rats available ranging in price from roughly $1.65 to $21.99 each. These included the economy three-bagger set of “Horrifying Jumbo Rats!” for $4.99, a plush rat hat for $19.99 and a wireless, remote-control “Dirty Rat” for $21.99.

The latter marvel is battery-operated, has a plush gray coat, beady red eyes and snaggly teeth. He runs both forward and in circles. Although the package claims he’s controllable up to 40 feet, we were lucky to keep our Dirty Rat going much past 20 feet.

This radio-controlled rodent isn’t perfect but, then, how many rats are?

We found the best rubber rat bargains at the Big!Lots (formerly MacFrugals) store in Vacaville’s Alamo Plaza. Their basic 98-cent rubber rodent is bigger and squeakier than Spirit’s so-called “jumbo” rats and more than 50 cents cheaper.

For the high tech crowd, Big!Lots has a finely-sculpted electronic crouching rat that lights up and blinks in the dark for $4.99.

Whoa! A life-sized flashing rat for less than five bucks. We live in truly wondrous times…

Originally published October 14, 2001

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