Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Rats!

I have lived in this house since 1991. A few times, always in the fall, I've found signs of mouse visitation though I've never seen an actual mouse. That was the extent of any invasion by wildlife until this year. Then a couple of months ago, I had a rat. I knew it was a rat because I saw him run across the doorway between the kitchen and the back porch. He was brown and he was sleek and he was big! I usually stick up for wildlife. I have written passionately in defense of coyotes, even when I suspected that they stole off with my cats. I am happy when I see rabbits gamboling in my yard. The sight of a raccoon waddling through the cemetery across the street pleases me. But none of those things are rats. My visceral reaction to a rat in my house was pure horror.

And, despite my somewhat PETA-ish tendencies toward respect for living creatures, in this situation, my moral principles could not be compromised quickly enough. I wanted the most lethal rat poison available. I could care less if the rat suffered. These grainy blocks of death were placed behind the washer, which is where I saw the rat run to. Mom and I watched to see what happened. By morning, the bait was gone. I put out another. We both left and while the house was quiet, the rat sneaked out and ate the second dose. That night, a third square disappeared.

Geez, this stuff was billed as so deadly, you aren't even supposed to touch it without gloves, giving the impression that mere contact would send you to the emergency room in mortal throes but our rat had consumed at least 6 ounces of the stuff and presumably, lived to eat again. This obviously wasn't just a rat but the Superman of rats, killable only by some unknown form of rat Kryptonite...or a silver bullet.

Mom and I were to the point of dreading the back porch. We kept the door shut. We didn't go out there unless we had to. The laundry piled up. The freezer remained unopened. When we had to let the dogs out, we banged on the door and warned the rat so he could hide. We both felt that if we came nose-to-nose with him, we might very well be plunged into cardiac arrest.

Meanwhile, my dogs ignored the whole situation. Raleigh, who can sniff out an individual crumb of toast on the floor and who will sit and stare fixedly at a purse on the dining room table that contains a single Lifesaver, acted like he never noticed that a rat was living on his back porch. I would have thought that a rat track would leave a pungent scent to a dog with a nose like an odor x-ray but evidently not. Likewise, Caesar the Pomeranian.

The fourth rat bait remained untouched. We inspected it for several days in a row before we came to the conclusion, accompanied by heartfelt relief, that the rat was, indeed, dead. We convinced ourselves that some weird set of cosmic circumstances had brought the rat to us. It was an aberration, never to be repeated.

And then, a few day's ago, Mom told me she heard something gnawing in the wall behind the kitchen cupboards. I tried to convince myself that the previous rat visitation had driven her to paranoid hysteria, that she probably only heard the wind outside. Until she called me into the kitchen and whispered, "listen!" Sure enough, I could hear something actually chewing, eating its way into my freaking house! That night I saw it, just like before, running across the doorway. I assume this is a second rat and not the first one, recovered and now totally impervious to poison.

Back to Tractor Supply for rat bait which, as I write, is disappearing at a rate of one square per night.

This situation is twice as spooky as before. What could possibly account for this rat infestation when I never had a rat for 17 years? And what do I do about it? Are their any rat experts out there?