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The two Animal college spells [Animal] Control and Repel [Animal] are actually multiple spells each, with a (subtly, I presume) different version for each of several animal categories. I haven't, however, found an actual definition of the categories, and I need to clear a bunch of rats out of a cellar.

These two spells have a base cost equal to the highest IQ score of the category of animals they work on -- so Mammal Control will be either 5 or 6 to cast (depending whether the GM includes great apes at IQ 6 in the category), but Vermin control wouldn't be any higher than 3.

The question is, though, which category includes rats? Biologically, they're rodents, which are mammals, but socialogically and for many other purposes they're often considered vermin. If they're "mammals" for the purposes of these spells, Repel Mammal is impactical (area spell, base cost 6 goes out of range for low-point characters at radius 2), but if they're "vermin" the same character might be able to cast a radius 3 or even 4 Repel.

Is there a rule I've missed, or an official ruling, on whether rats are "mammals" or "vermin"?

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There is no rule you've missed, official ruling, or errata regarding animal categorization.

The categorization you mentioned is specific to the [Animal] Control and Repel [Animal] suite of spells, found in the Animal Spells summary section. They are Vermin, Fish, Reptiles, Birds, and Mammals.

That same section calls out that while those categories are based on categorization of animals in anthropology, the categories may not accurately support a particular game. It is up to your GM to determine those specific categories - alternative examples provided in Magic include Repel Creatures of the Land, Repel Arachnida, etc.

However, the important difference is that vermin is the smallest energy cost category, whereas mammal is the largest. It's the difference between repelling a bunch of rats and repelling a pride of lions. Unless the rats are lion-sized, I'd definitely treat rats as Vermin.

Consider treating the categories as mappings to some sort of abstract "difficulty" (size, stubbornness, etc.). For example, even though tree frogs are reptiles, they're probably as easy to repel as a bunch of mice or insects, so there's an argument that Vermin costs should apply instead of Reptile.

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    \$\begingroup\$ One DM that runs games on my local RPG community uses the following rule of thumb: "If replacing it for the same weight in steak is not enough to give you a very good meal, it is Vermin". I eventually adopted it, too. \$\endgroup\$ – T. Sar Nov 7 '19 at 10:41
  • \$\begingroup\$ @T.Sar-ReinstateMonica Sadly, a good size Black Norway wouldn't be Vermin under that thumb rule -- at my age, I can no longer eat a 12 oz. steak meal at one sitting (even 8 oz. is pushing it). \$\endgroup\$ – Zeiss Ikon Nov 7 '19 at 13:06
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    \$\begingroup\$ Nit-pick alert: frogs aren't reptiles, they're amphibians, and probably the smartest of the class. \$\endgroup\$ – Zeiss Ikon Nov 7 '19 at 13:07
  • \$\begingroup\$ The Animal Spells summary section does pick a couple of small nits - they do specify that Reptiles includes most amphibians, that Fish includes mollusks, etc. \$\endgroup\$ – Ian Pugsley Nov 8 '19 at 0:31

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