The vast majority of animals don’t know what they look like, either because they lack self-awareness or because they have no access to mirrors in the deep jungle or sea. Presumably, the animals who are self-aware have to rely on third-party assessments of just how attractive they are. And some of those assessments, I have to imagine, get lost in translation.

In this particular regard, I feel bad for rats. For no apparent reason, we humans are quite scared of them. Antagonistic, even. Rats, they’re not dangerous; they do no harm. They’re shifty squirrels. They’re street guinea pigs. They’re wingless doves. Rats know in their hearts that they hold no malice toward humanity. On the contrary, they cherish our habit of throwing away a third of the food we produce.

But imagine you had no mirror and all you had to go by was people’s reaction to the mere sight of you. Imagine that when they saw you, they shrieked in fear, recoiled in disgust, planted literal spring-loaded guillotines baited with your favorite food in an effort to rid you from this earth… You’d have image problems. I mean, you just would.

That must be why rats are constantly scurrying to the darkest crevices they can find, burrowing homes out-of-sight in drywall. They’re not afraid of us; they’re just embarrassed by how unsightly they must be! So, they take refuge in moldy sewers and hide in heaps of trash so as not to burden us with their evidently grotesque visages. Look what we made them do.