On top of everything else we’ve had to deal with lately—there’s more, there always is, and lately a LOT more—we’ve had a rat living behind our dishwasher for the past three months. We’re not entirely sure how it got there—it didn’t come through the attic and down the wall. We strongly suspect it was one brought in by our cats to play with, because they’re both strong hunters but only one knows what to do with prey once it’s caught, and he only goes after smaller mice and lizards. Sheffield is the bigger, better hunter, but he hasn’t a clue what to do after catching prey because, to him, everything is a cat toy, so he brings them in to have some fun. So far we’ve removed three chipmunks, a mouse, and a cardinal from the house, but this one eluded us. This wouldn’t have happened in the old days with the late lamented Valentine. He was a killer. If he caught something, he ate it, and at most we—by which I mean me–would now and again be called upon to clean up the crime scene, but never to capture something he had decided to let go. Valentine wasn’t into catch and release.
I grew up in a small town and lived mostly in old drafty Victorian-era houses. Now and again we had to deal with rats and mice. It came with the territory. There wasn’t a great deal to it—bait a snap-trap, every now and then check and remove the bodies. Reset. Repeat. This rat wasn’t playing.
We did have restrictions. We have two dumb-as-posts cats whom we love despite stuff like this, so I couldn’t put regular traps in the open. Nor use poison on the chance the cats would then catch and chew on a poisoned rat, never mind having to call a plumber in case it died behind the dishwasher. Nor was it possible for me to move the washer more than a foot or so on my own to clean up now and again. We chased it out of hiding a couple of times but the rat got past us and just came back. The smell was about what you can imagine, and Carol is extremely sensitive. We saw it three times, but were unable to capture it, and we (I) tried everything. Snap traps in places I knew the rat had traveled, but were under cabinets where the cats couldn’t reach. Live Traps along known routes (it tended to leave a trail on the way home from dining out at Chez Chat). Glue traps, ditto, when the area could be secured. I do not like glue traps. I think they’re cruel, but by this time I was getting desperate. I even bought a trap that electrocutes the critters but was too small for the silly moggies to get into so I could leave it out. Nothing worked. Carol started calling the critter “Ratstein,” for the ease with which it recognized and ignored every trap we set for it. It wasn’t just lucky, it had to go out of its way to avoid being caught. There are politicians not half so evasive as that rat was.
The thing destroyed a fair proportion of Carol’s tea supply until we were able to get what hadn’t been spoiled into cannisters. After that we were able to restrict the rat’s food supply to the garbage can and the cats’ food. Now that I was sure we couldn’t catch it by luring the critter toward the food and through the live trap, I removed the garbage to the garage. We took to picking up the cats’ food whenever they weren’t actually either eating or demanding food, since the rat was so bold it would come out to snatch some in broad daylight.
To cut to the chase, that strategy finally worked. The rat got hungry enough to reconsider the bait inside the electrocution trap, and this morning its tail was sticking out of the opening while the trap silently flashed a green LED for “Got one!”
Let’s get one thing straight—I hate rats. I don’t hate many things, but I do hate rats. They are vermin. They foul everything they touch and spread disease. I know some people think they’re cute and keep them as pets. I don’t think they’re cute, even a little. I’m glad the rat is gone. It’s one less thing to have to deal with. And yet…
I can’t congratulate myself for having finally—finally!—outsmarted a creature that boasts a brain the size of a small pea. I can’t celebrate the fact that it’s dead. Gone, yes. Dead, no. We had a “live trap” mentioned above. I wanted that to be what caught it. I would have found a patch of woods or somewhere appropriate to release it to. Didn’t happen. I tried. Next time if there is one, I’ll get a better live trap. The electric rat hotel, on the other hand, remains as backup.