Diary of a
long and epic battle for control of my home.
1:30 am and
the rat is making the rounds of my bedroom, through the inside of the walls.
First I heard him (hope it is a him and not a pregnant female!) behind my bed,
now it seems to be over by the window. Two days ago I spent most of the day
trying to find where it (they?) are getting in. Walking around the house, it
seemed so solid; I couldn't find a crack anywhere. So I figured I had better
look under the deck. Sigh...really big sigh. There's only a few inches between
most of the decking and the ground, not enough room to shimmy under and
besides, there are lots and lots of spiders under there! So I decided to
unscrew a few boards and see if I could pinpoint any of the vents.
I know about two of the vents; I had replaced a couple of
boards a while ago and found them. Although they had seemed secure, I had added
more steel mesh around them; where rats are concerned, you can't take too many
precautions. So I pried those up again, to check they were still secure, and
yes they were, then I tried to angle my head in to get a look and see if there
were any other openings. Sure enough, I could just make out one that the
propane line had been run along. The problem was that it was impossible for me
to accurately estimate which 2x4 it was under. So, I made a guess and started
trying to unscrew the board. Double sigh, the screws had been screwed in quite
deep and the lumber had swollen over the screw heads. I had to literally carve
out the heads before I could unscrew them. BUT most of them wouldn't unscrew
even then, the square slots would strip before they came out. I eventually gave
up (after three hrs) and found a shovel and a garden fork and used them as
crowbars to pry up the lumber. Took me three boards to get close enough to the
correct spot to be able to use a mirror and see what shape the screen was in.
Sad news was that the screen had only been put in with a pressure fit and had
fallen out. Now there was a hole big enough for a rabbit to fit in, let alone a
rat. I've managed to get it sealed with some strong mesh, but am at a loss on
how to remove the screws in the 2 x 4's so I can put the decking back
down...And I have quite obviously sealed the rat into the house. Arghhh!!!!
I have three traps set in the basement; I hope it will
find one of them irresistible. I hate setting rattraps, I'm always afraid I
will snap the trap on my fingers. But rats in my house give me the creeps to
such a huge degree that I am willing to risk broken fingers.
I am having a terrible time with "my"
rat...Just went out and bought a variety of rat traps, hoping that something
will work soon. I have found that several of the snap traps that I set out have
been snapped, the peanut butter eaten and no rat body as evidence of success.
Now I am looking for new strategies to catch this far too wily beast. I had a
brainwave (huh!) last night and decided that if I left the bathroom window open
in the basement, that the rat would see it as an opportunity to escape and find
some food to eat. I even put a dish with peanut butter outside the window,
hoping the scent would induce Ratty to forsake my home...Sigh...
This morning I found rat droppings upstairs for the first
time. It must be moving through the walls and found the water lines or propane
lines, drains or vent of something. I am resorting to using devices that I
formerly considered too cruel, some plastic pads, impregnated with a thick,
sticky, glue-like substance. Yes, my values have taken a hit with my losses in
the Rat Wars...
Put out four sticky traps. These are fairly large pieces
of flat plastic impregnated with a non-toxic sticky substance. The idea is that
the critter will be enticed to the scent, step on them and suffer a fate much
like those ancient dinosaurs in the La Brea tar pits...hah!
So, Ratty tries one out, but instead of sticking to the
surface, it apparently waged an epic battle and managed to get away. Lots of
glue on the carpet, lots of rat fur on the sticky substance, but again, no rat.
This happened in my kitchen, which is giving me no comfort at all. I didn't
hear the pitter-patter of rat feet in my walls last night, nor any sign that
Ratty has returned on his hunt and seek mission. And, I might be imagining it,
however I fear there just might be a faint 'eau de Ratty' in the air. I have
someone coming over to work on the house today, so I will try to move the
propane stove out from the wall and see if there is a lifeless rat body in an
accessible spot. Not quite lifeless of course, as the minutiae of life, those
bacteria and molds and insect larvae whose job it is to aid in decomposition,
will be commencing their long and smelly process. This is precisely what I
didn't want to happen...I might have to vacate.
Ratty obviously survived ingesting the gluey substance; a
few nights ago he ate through the drain hose going from the dishwasher, in his
search for water. Sigh for me and sigh for the desperation of Ratty.
That night I had heard the gnawing of sharp little rat
teeth coming from a kitchen cupboard. As it turned out, the drain from the
kitchen sink had a hole large enough for the rat to squeeze through, where it
made substantial inroads on chewing through the garbage container and the drain
line. It disappeared when I opened the cupboard, but I had an idea to help
Ratty leave my house, and leave me in peace, while saving its life.
I opened the cupboard door and laid a trail of apple
pieces (local and organic!) heading to the sliding glass door, which I left
open. I turned off the lights and sat motionless in a chair for two hours,
staring at the door, hoping Ratty would take my offer of release to the
outdoors. I sat there shivering in the bitter cold draft, listening to Ratty as
he continued to gnaw in the cupboard. Sitting there, so I could hurriedly close
the slider door when he finally left. Every time there was silence, I felt my
hopes rise that he had finally sensed the open cupboard, the apple trail, and
the open door to freedom. Sadly, that never happened.
Have you tried to repair a dishwasher? They are difficult
to work around, shoved as they are into a snug space under a counter. In my
case, the electrical cord was a smidgen too short to allow my handyman to slide
the dishwasher all the way out from the wall and we were constrained to working
in pretzel-like contorted positions as we tried to disassemble and replace the
faulty hose. It took a number of tries until the hose was properly installed
and the leaking water stopped. Unfortunately that was only after soaking
through to the basement ceiling. All this is a bit ironic as I only use the
dishwasher when there is a large family gathering, such as those chow-down
holidays like Christmas, Easter and Thanksgiving.
The clothes washing machine is another matter. I use it
at least once, maybe twice a week, and it is something I wouldn't want to live
without. No sooner had the gyproc-destroying dishwasher been repaired then I
discovered that Ratty, thirsty little creature that he was, had chewed through
the drain hose in the washing machine. This proved much easier to access and
relatively easy to fix, except that the part was difficult to find.
I found Ratty's lifeless, eyes bulging, pathetic,
emaciated, little body this morning. I find myself feeling sad for poor Ratty.
It was obviously almost starved; I have never seen a thinner rat, which is why
I imagine it succumbed to the temptation to outwit the snap trap. I'd found one
of the traps snapped, but no rat, a couple of weeks ago, no doubt making it shy
of going near them again. Now I can see that it had broken its wrist in that
episode, I can barely think about how difficult its remaining life has been.
However my guilt and remorse at ending its Ratty reign of
terror is equally tempered with relief that it can no longer inflict damage on
my home and psyche!
Since then I've been closing every possible egress I can
find, so I sincerely hope that neither another rat, mouse or other wild
creature, nor myself, will have to go through this again. From taking up part
of the deck and screening some open vents (no doubt where they have been
gaining access), to sealing around the drains and various openings, to being
very careful with food waste, life has been revolving around Ratty for far too
My house is heated in two ways, with a woodstove, and
with an in-floor radiant heating system that has hot water pumped through the
subfloor. In the basement the floor is cement but upstairs it is through some
magic, penetrable substance that my husband had insisted would be just as good
as cement for conducting heat......hmmm.
For the last two years the pump that sends the water
through the upper floors has been broken and I have been happy and warm using
This Christmas, my son came home and started working on
the many little household maintenance chores that have somewhat fallen by the
wayside over the years. One of these was to replace the broken pump, which he
did over the course of a weekend. It is not an enviable task to unsolder the
various components, find and buy a new pump and then get the whole shebang back
together, but he accomplished this with apparent ease and no cursing emanating
from the basement. I was out of the house for the next part, but apparently the
moment arrived to start up the repaired system, valves were turned, pump was
primed and ready to go and heated water started moving through the upper floors
Unfortunately, it was at this point that water started
leaking through the basement ceiling in a number of spots. Seems Ratty had left
me with one more memory of its determination to find a source a drinking water
while stranded in my house. It had eaten through the hose in several areas,
hoping to slack its thirst. Now I will have to cut out sections of the basement
ceiling, find and repair the hoses, replace the gyproc, mud, sand, and repaint
of guilt and remorse....I'm over that.