Now that wintertime seems to have officially announced its presence here in central Texas, all the outdoor creatures want in…to my house. Evidently, one day while I was away at work, some critter placed a big, fat “Vacancy” sign over my door. That’s all it took. A family of squirrels moved in, a few lizards snuck inside and a small army of rats turned into squatters, all happily nesting together in my attic.
It wasn’t such a huge deal at first. I figured, once it warmed up, I’d see about fixing the hole in the soffit filters on the house, trim away the branches that touch or reach the roof and somehow shoo the critters away. My traitorous house, however, decided to fall apart in exactly the wrong area: a section of tile around the fireplace came unglued and fell off the wall, leaving a very tiny crack. This tiny, 1/2 inch space somehow connected to the nether regions of the house and, ultimately, to the attic and outdoors as I could feel a draft coming through the crack. I didn’t get around to fixing the tile immediately, which was exactly the same amount of time it took for three rats to move in. Three. Rats. In. My. House. Not wanting to become a wildlife landlord, I decided to take action.
You would think the presence of three dogs would deter the rodents or, at the very least, the canines would alert me to the rats presence. If we were talking about normal pooches, the above would probably be true, but because we are talking about my dogs, none of it is. I’m beginning to suspect that maybe the “Vacancy” sign was hung by my woofers in an attempt to make new friends.
The first time my dogs saw a rat scuttle by in the wee morning hours, they all looked at me like, “What the heck is that?” Grimm literally stood still and watched as the rat ran underneath the couch, through his legs and then disappeared into the space under the fireplace. I’m yelling at them, “Get the rat! Get the rat!” Zella finally started sniffing tentatively at the spot where the rodent was last spotted, Grimm followed her lead, and Rufus went and waited by his food bowl in hopes of scoring a second breakfast.
With the second rat sighting, the dogs conducted themselves in a slightly more intimidating manner. Well, okay…a slightly less embarrassing one. It was like watching the three stooges–all of them were trying to figure out where the rat went, sniffing like crazy, but they kept bumping into each other in their exuberance. The rat must have been laughing his little rat ass off at their shenanigans. Even though all three watched as this rat ran under the refrigerator, instead of guarding the fridge, waiting for the rat’s appearance, they all ran back to the fireplace to see if any new rats would emerge. Worthless dogs. I told them I was trading them all in for cats.
Because my canines were clearly failing at catching rats, I had to take things into my own hands. I refused to use chemical warfare for a few reasons: having rats bleed to death or go into convulsions before dying seemed barbaric and cruel; the rats would probably pay back my cruelty if I used such methods by dying in between my walls and causing all kinds of calamity; and my dogs would probably find and ingest the rat bait regardless of how well I hid it, leaving me with high vet bills and/or dead dogs. On to my next option.
I decided against rat traps because, even though they are more humane than the poison option, waking up to a rodent with a broken back or a crushed face with little proptosed rat eyeballs seemed like the basis of nightmares. The little rodent bastards were eating my food and generally causing messes, but I couldn’t kill them for it. I decided to dust off my old Havahart trap, baited it with dog biscuits and peanut butter, and waited.
The first rat was caught the first night I set the trap. My sister and I drove a mile down the street to a nice wooded area and let him go. Rat number two was caught a few days later and released into the same area as rat number one. Rat number three was proving to be the brains of the trio and not falling for the baited trap routine. I tried bananas (because he sure liked them when they were on the kitchen counter), tortilla chips (again, because the rat tore into the new bag I purchased, probably to eat with his rat salsa) and bread (this little rat had an insatiable appetite)…but no luck.
There was one day when I almost caught the rat–he had gone into the trap, but the trap door didn’t close all the way. I picked the trap up to examine it more closely in order to determine the malfunction. I did not realize that the rat was still in the trap, hiding under the trigger plate. As I peered into the front of the trap, this gray blur sped out and launched itself off the front of the trapdoor, right into the midst of three pit bull dogs. This was probably the safest place for the rat to be as my three knucklehead dogs again became the three stooges, twirling around in circles trying to determine where the rat went.
While my dogs were dancing around the rat, I was doing a heebee jeebee dance of my own, squealing like a six year old girl. ”Eeeeeeeeh!!!!! Get the rat…get that bastard!” By this point, the rat had escaped into parts unknown, leaving bewildered canines and a frazzled human in its wake. Well played, rat, well played.
Days went by before the last rat finally let down his guard and became my captive. Again I made the trip to my secret rat dumping ground and released the bugger. As I drove away, he probably hitched a ride on my car’s rear bumper and is now outside, plotting how to get back inside and commence Operation Rat Revenge. Good luck with that, rat. I now have a secret weapon:
Okay, so my secret weapon isn’t really that threatening, but maybe the rat will at least die from laughing. Just in case, though, maybe we’ll see how the lizards and squirrels react first. Then again, maybe not. They might invite all their friends over for the show, making my house some new vermin version of a nightclub with Rufus as the star attraction. I think I may need to invest in more Havahart traps…