To clarify, we discovered last month that some nasty rodents had moved into our home. And right from the get-go, know that these rats didn’t look or act anything like Remy and Emile from Ratatouille.
Because, of course, ours weren’t animated by Disney, which also meant they didn’t have dazzling smiles; sweet smelling fur, and itsy-bitsy skinny tails. Nope, our invaders boasted sharp yellow incisors; were filthy grey, and had long fat tails. Also, they left copious amounts of poop in the kitchen and inside the entertainment center.
We first became aware of them late one night.
I woke to loud scratching noises coming from inside a wall.
“Oh,” said the Hubster, “you didn’t turn off the water in the bathroom sink.”
“That doesn’t sound like water dripping,” I replied. Still, I got up to check and found a turned off spigot—and the wall where the scratching was coming from. Our closet was nearby and not knowing exactly what was going on, or what to do, I closed one door hard, and the noise stopped.
But in my gut, I knew that whatever was happening wasn’t going to end there.
The next morning, I found more than three dozen droppings.
Just like Hansel and Gretel, their crumbs (unfortunately, not bread) indicated the areas where they had walked. That evening, Hubster watched one skitter in front of the microwave and down the back of the stove. I saw the pest there the next afternoon. I think chipmunks and squirrels are impossibly cute, but something about a rat’s squinty eyes and reptilian tail freaks me out, every single time.
Now, we have one of those luxe traps, the kind that instantly electrocutes the rat once it enters the trap. But it’s packed away in one of many unidentified, unopened boxes in the garage. Also, we knew that this infestation was no job for a single trap, no matter how cutting edge the device.
I called an exterminator in town.
Started and managed by two brothers, the company I chose has been in business for decades, with a great rating on Yelp. But an appointment wasn’t immediately available.
When one exterminator brother came over a few days later, he explained the delay: rat infestations around town are the worst he has seen in 35 years. (The reason for the escalation, he added, is twofold. One, global warming has brought changing weather patterns, which means that more rats are more frequently looking for warmer places to live. Two, a bond measure that promised to better maintain the town’s sewer system was turned down last year by voters.)
Initially entering the attic, the exterminator immediately saw many small holes sealed up, time and date unknown. So, there had been a bigly rat issue here before. But the good news is that entering through the roof was the only way they had come in; there was no evidence of any arriving from ground level.
However, this fact was tempered when the exterminator told me I absolutely had rats and not mice, since the droppings were larger than grains of rice and mice don’t scratch. (They were doing the latter, he explained, in order to make “new roads” to get around inside the house.)
Then, my knew-what-he-was-doing professional placed more than half a dozen bait boxes both inside and out, including two small ones in the kitchen (still not tripped, thank goodness); four around the house’s perimeter, and some in the attic.
He went on to tell me about the non-toxic bait he used, marketed under the name RatX.
Once rats ingest it, he said, the bait turns off the stomach sensors that lets them know they’re thirsty. With those sensors no longer working, the rats return to their outside burrow and become so dehydrated they die. But what I liked most about RatX is that there’s no secondary poisoning, so it’s safe to use around pets. In other words, if my hound Hank ate a rodent poisoned by RatX, I wouldn’t need to make an emergency visit to the vet.
Two weeks later, knowing that all of the vermin had likely left the house, someone else from the company arrived to seal the two holes the exterminator had found. (After that initial visit, I still heard nocturnal scratches. But they got fainter and fainter and within a week, had stopped.)
But I wasn’t out of the woods.
“I’ve seen these guys eat through steel,” this man said. We were standing in the back yard, and just then, I noticed that Hank was running in circles with a rat in his mouth. The man retrieved it and picked it up by its tail.
“How long has it been dead?” I asked.
“Looks pretty fresh to me,” he replied.
I’ve signed on to have the exterminator refill the bait boxes every three months.