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I Smell a Rat February 5, 2009

Posted by alwaysjan in Home Front, Urban Wildlife.
Tags: , , , , , , ,


A terrorist has set up a base of operations in my kitchen.  The current threat level, according to the handy dandy color-coded Homeland Security Advisory System, is red, or “High,” as in “High Risk of Terrorist Attacks.”

The website advises all Americans “to continue to be vigilant, take notice of their surroundings, and report suspicious items or activities to local authorities immediately.”  The following is a report of suspicious activities I’ve observed.

In the last week, a small rodent with a prehensile tail has been spotted scurrying through my house in the wee hours.  Said rodent has been described by my husband as “cute” and by my son as “small and cute.”   I first became suspicious when I found teeny tiny bite marks on pears left in a bowl on the kitchen table.  What this rat doesn’t know is that I’ve watched enough episodes of  CSI  to know I can make a positive ID of this “small and cute rat” using state-of-the-art bite mark technology (aka plaster).

Least I sound overzealous, you need to know I actually rather like rats. (I’m giving them a “pass” on Bubonic Plague – It’s a Statute of Limitations thing.) My sons both had rats as pets, and they’re very sociable creatures (the rats that is).  I spent one Halloween greeting trick-or-treaters with “Chocolate” and “Vanilla” perched atop my shoulders and wept when they died.

Having lived in Southern California, a premier destination for rats, we’ve grown accustomed to seeing rats scurrying through patches of ivy.  At sunset, we like to watch as an entire family (gang?) of rats tightrope walks across the telephone lines as they head out for a night on the town.

So here’s the bottom line.  Pet rats with names = good.  Unnamed rats cruising the kitchen counters after hours = yuck!  A few years ago another rat staged nightly terrorist attacks in our kitchen.  We thought it was coming in through the dog door, but eventually located its illegal port of entry behind the refrigerator. When we redid the kitchen three years ago, we solved THAT problem.

Rats love to live in the palm trees in Los Angeles.  When several still-green fronds “mysteriously” broke off one of our Queen palms recently, we spotted the tell-tale nibble marks. My husband got a long pole and dislodged a real honest to goodness “rat’s nest.”  And it did bear a striking resemblance to my hair after a serious night of tossing and turning.

The most troubling thing is I learned this tiny terrorist had recruited an entire cell of sympathizers who pass themselves off as my family.  My husband was literally “ratted out” when I found a bowl of Cheerios he’d set behind the couch.  Then my son copped a plea for leaving out a ripe banana “for the little guy.”  I reminded them that I didn’t know too many rats who were only children.  I envisioned members of the rat’s large extended family just waiting for an invitation.  This image made both rat sympathizers wince. They mumbled something about buying a “humane” trap.  But after a week, this trap had not materialized.  In the meantime, every night we moved all fresh fruit and food to higher ground.  There’s nothing like camping in one’s own home.

The terrorist threat level hit Red this morning when my husband came out and saw that Mr. Cute and Little had left a pile of wood shavings on the floor after he’d gnawed a corner of one of the kitchen cabinets.  The cabinets that are only three years old.  The cabinets that we’re still paying off.

My husband couldn’t get to the hardware store fast enough.  The only “humane” traps in stock came in two sizes: “Skunk” and “Racoon.”  My husband is of the opinion that anyone foolish enough to try and capture a skunk should be put in a cage themselves.  He noted that the Raccoon trap seemed rather small since all the raccoons he’s seen while walking the dogs are the size of four-year-olds. He said a raccoon would just pick up the trap and make off with it.

We have house guests arriving tomorrow and it’s always nice to have a large steel trap positioned next to where you’re eating.  So my husband went high tech and sprung for a “sonic PestChaser” that plugs into an electrical outlet. According to the package, which features two rats running for their lives, its high-frequency sound repels rodents.

Following Homeland Security advice, we’ve now implemented the “protective measures to reduce the likelihood or impact of an attack.”  And so we wait. There’s a nice juicy pear sitting out on the table.

CODE RED  Update

No sooner had I published this post than my husband went out to the kitchen and observed the tiny terrorist enjoying the pear not four feet from the sonic “PestChaser.  A large humane trap shall become part of our kitchen decor tomorrow.  Nothing says “Welcome” to guests like a large steel rat trap in the kitchen.

To be continued…