It's been a little under a decade since Ellen van Deelen began taking photos of rats snuggling with teddy bears, pushing baby carriages, playing chess and engaging in a host of other oddly adorable, non-rat-like activities.
"I don't know why they are getting so much attention at the moment," the Dutch photographer told The Huffington Post. "My photos are copied and spread all over internet. They have been in seven different newspapers in the UK."
courtesy of Ellen van Deelen
In the U.S., too, the Internet has taken a lot of interest in van Deelen's work -- her newest rodent models are named Jimmy and Snoozy, before that were Poppy and Saffie, as pet rats live on average between two and three years -- along with the cutie-pie pics taken by Jessica Florence, another photographer specializing in rats.
"I don't know her," says van Deelen. "I was a bit surprised that she also took photos with little bears. I think her photos are beautiful!"
Van Deelen's other artistic subjects include insects -- especially ladybugs, which she does not keep as pets -- as well as street shots and portraits of humans (again, not pets). She says that she is "not really trying to convey a message" with her rat photos, but is glad that people are coming to appreciate rats' intelligence and "very sweet character," and she's got some thoughts for others who'd like to try making the world feel all warm and squee-y toward those (normally) most reviled of rodents.
"I would not advise to let your rat cuddle with a teddy bear, that can be dangerous, because they like to eat anything," she cautions. "The tiny bears, I found in a shop here in Holland, and later in a shop for miniature things, like dollhouses... The other props I found everywhere. I always look for things."
Calendars, prints and other paper versions of van Deelen's work can be purchased here; check out more of the photos below:
UPDATE, March 13, 5:40 p.m.: We've now also been in touch with Jessica Florence, the other photographer who is opening up the world of rat appreciators in a big way.
"I was just trying to get some cute photos that would make people go 'aww!,'" Florence tells HuffPost. "At the time" -- 2008, when she began taking pics of her pets Bug, Duck and Worm (sadly, they've all died) -- "it didn't occur to me that many people don't find rats cute. It wasn't until I started sharing the images online that people started telling me that they were surprised they could be cute."
They are so cute. Like, seriously. You can purchase prints of the British artist's work here, check out some of her photos below -- and go to your local animal rescue if you find yourself even more deeply moved.
"I have had many emails from people saying they have now gone and adopted rats after seeing my photos, or are thinking of doing so," says Florence. "Rats make wonderful pets! They are clean, sociable and easy to train. I would recommend them to anybody looking for a small pet. But please, keep them in pairs!"