Rubber rat rationing?

Every two years – give or take 18 months – The Reporter publishes its Halloween rat report to help seasonal consumers find the best and brightest rubber rats in the region.

This season, however, we decided to issue the biennial rat report a year early after receiving several calls from rubber rodent fanciers who complained that their pointy-tailed Halloween pals were conspicuously absent from store shelves.

At first we attributed this to pre-Halloween consumer hysteria, since many stores began putting out their All Hallow’s Eve finery in late July.

“Relax,” we told callers. “The rats will be back.”

We were wrong. A quick examination of retail outlets revealed that Solano County may, in fact, be suffering through the greatest rubber rat shortage since the early days of World War II, when millions of them were melted down for the war effort.

The good news is, the rats are out there if you know where to look. Our rubber rat rating team found them scattered from Marin to West Sacramento and some of the best values were right here in S’lano County, where men are men and rats are, er, rubber…

Halloween rats are rated on the basis of five qualities:

* Pointiness of tail

* Beadiness of eye

* Snaggliness of tooth

* Squeak

* Price

Special qualities – the ability to sing, dance or maneuver around terrified partygoers or office mates – also are taken into consideration when dealing with more sophisticated electronic rodents.

Strangely enough, we found the largest and best-priced rats at an unassuming Vacaville fabric store.

Jo-Ann Fabrics and Crafts had grinning “Chester” rats (some crouching, some sitting) at $9.09 apiece. For 15 inches of jumbo Halloween rodent, $9.09 is a deal in anybody’s book.

Jo-Ann’s ultra premium “Creepy Rat” was even bigger, boasted adjustable paws and tail and was covered with gobs of disgustingly rank gray hair, priced at $20.99.

Admittedly, you probably won’t want to buy a lot of the latter at more than $20 each, but one is more than enough for most households.

We found the best animated rat in a grocery store. The Vacaville Raley’s supermarket had an 10-inch tall, motion-activated “Monster Rat” that bursts into song with “Bad to the Bone” whenever he’s disturbed. This high-energy supermarket rodent is $12.99 and worth every singing, dancing penny.

(NOTE: Target also had a small quantity of similarly talented rats for about the same price.)

Long’s Drugs on Monte Vista Avenue offered a smaller, considerably less amusing “Rockin’ Rat” that sings “Wild Thing” for $16.99. Nice try, but no cigar. As one of our judges said wistfully, “It must be really sad to be a lonely mechanical rat on Halloween…”

The most economical rats were at Vacaville’s Big!Lots store where life-sized rubber rodents with extra long tails and a hearty squeak were 99 cents each. At those prices, you can easily afford two or three dozen.

A close runner-up was the three-pack of “Horrifying Jumbo Rats” from the Spirit Halloween Superstore in Fairfield for $4.99. They weren’t as large as the Big!Lots rats, but the packaging was convenient and they were kind of cute for vinyl vermin…

Originally published October 22, 2013

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