Yes, they can spread diseases — but so do many other rodents, and you never hear anyone complain about voles or muskrats. A lot of people are scared of rats, but aside from the tail they aren’t objectively very different from the non-scary squirrels.
Rats have big eyes and ears, and funny little faces, and they laugh when tickled. We need to give rats more respect.
With that in mind, and with the Lunar New Year taking place on Saturday, Jan. 25, we asked Richmond, B.C.-based Chinese fortune teller and astrologer Sherman Tai what parents of children born in the Year of the Rat should expect.
Watch: Rat-inspired baby names for the Year of the Rat. Story continues after video.
Quick refresher, in care you’re not familiar: Chinese astrology is founded on the belief that your birth date determines many parts of your life. Each year is associated with a zodiac animal on a 12-year cycle and one of five elements. Starting on Jan. 25, we’re entering the Year of the Metal Rat. (Sounds badass, no?)
And remember, the zodiac isn’t based in fact or science, but that doesn’t mean you can’t have fun with it.
What are the good characteristics of a rat?
“The rat is a very intelligent animal,” Tai told HuffPost Canada.
Rats are the first animal in the Chinese zodiac, and according to myth, that was no accident: legend has it that the rat hitched a ride on the back of an ox, and jumped off at the last minute to be the first arrival.
That craftiness is a part of a rat’s charm, Tai said. They’re also highly creative, making them well-suited for careers in the arts, or other areas where they get to exercise their imagination and resourcefulness.
And they’re generally quite adaptable to new situations, which helps them at work and in their personal lives.
Rats are also highly charismatic. They’re usually quite well-liked and good at expressing themselves, and have many significant relationships.
They also tend to be optimistic and energetic, according to ChineseNewYear,net.
What about the bad ones?
Like every sign — and every baby! — there are some built-in downsides. People born in the Year of the Rat can seem ultra-confident, even arrogant on the outside, but that bravado often masks a lack of self-confidence, Tai explained. And they’re usually resistant to showing that vulnerability to anyone.
The unknowability of a rat manifests in different ways. While adaptability is a positive, sometimes this can go too far, he explained — some people might accuse rats of being so good at shape-shifting that it can border on disingenuous. They’re often influenced “by their outside environment, and lacking in continuity,” he said. “You cannot fully understand their personality, because they change all the time.”
Also, all that charisma can sometimes lead rats into situations that get a bit out of hand, like ending up in a love triangle. “Sometimes you have to behave yourself if you are the rat,” he said. “Be very careful of your relationships.”
So, what does this mean for a baby?
If you’re having a rat baby, “you need to give them some sort of encouragement” to make sure they develop healthy self-esteem, Tai said.
As a parent, you want to make sure you’re raising you child in a “healthy environment,” emotionally. If you do that, “they should be good in terms of [their] creative mind,” Tai explained.
One other thing he brought up, which I’m sure won’t terrify new parents at all: people born in the Year of the Rat need to be careful around water. “Swimming, [or even being] close to water could create unhappiness,” Tai said.
Who are they compatible with?
Rats are most compatible with people born in the Year of the Ox, Dragon, or Monkey, ChineseNewYear.net says.
Rats are least compatible with people born in the Year of the Horse, Goat, or Rabbit.
What does the next year look like for rats?
The year of your own zodiac sign is typically an unlucky year, Tai explained. There will be struggles, arguments, and opposition. Sounds like a baby to me.
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This article originally appeared on HuffPost.