(A special project this week is going to make me a little scarce between tomorrow and Saturday. If you really need to reach me, the cell phone will be the best way. Blogging may be erratic, but to start the week off right, here's a entry by my friend, author Laura Benedict, on a subject very dear to my heart. Rats make my own blood run cold. Check out Laura's excellent new book, CALLING MR. LONELY HEARTS, which made my Top Ten of 2008 list.)
Why is it that rats disgust me so? And why don’t I have the same visceral reaction to mice? Now, don’t get me wrong—I am an avid mouser. Better than any cat I’ve ever met. I’ve caused the demise of about fifty field and house mice over the last two and a half years (we live in the woods and have a very hearty population). But mice are just a minor annoyance to me. Rats are a whole other story. If it were rats that I had to kill, we would’ve moved out of this house about a week after we arrived!
It’s always puzzled me that Cinderella’s fairy godmother turned rats into coachmen. Why not cats? Or chairs? Or all those birds that Cinderella was always feeding in the Disney film? (Or was that Snow White?) Rats are Nosferatu. Rats are Willard. Rats are icky.
Did you know that rats will even eat mice?
Here is my favorite true rat story:
Some friends of mine bought a house up the hill from one of those you-store-it facilities. Soon after they moved in, they started seeing rat spoor in their basement. They heard the rats down their in the night, squealing and knocking things over. They were nearly driven mad with fear because of the rats. They were ashamed, poor things, disgusted and frightened. They bought traps, they called an exterminator, they put out poison. They killed several large rats—rats that were the size of river rats—but they finally captured one alive. They panicked. They’d been driven so mad by the presence of the rats that they didn’t even think to call animal control. The rat was trapped in a box. One of my friends grabbed the box and stuffed it into the basement’s wood furnace and slammed the door.
I’m not a particularly cruel person myself, but I confess that it was with a certain amount of pleasure that I listened to my friend describe the death throes of the burning rat. That’s horrible, isn’t it? But I would probably have done the same thing myself. Oddly enough, that was the last rat that troubled them.
House mice are not the same species as the common Norway rat. You can find the specs here. They’re smaller and they have different tails. They grow at a much faster rate. And they don’t have red eyes, that I’ve observed.
I’ve come to an accommodation with my house and field mice. I’m used to them. Granted, I won’t touch one with a ten-foot pole. My husband has mouse-disposal detail, but I’ve been known to open the little clip traps and drop the bodies into garbage bags without looking when he’s out of town. The best traps are these—they’re the only ones I’ve found that snap quickly and with murderous efficiency. (Don’t be fooled by other brands!)
When we moved into this house, we discovered a glue trap with a couple of well-desiccated mouse bodies melted onto it. Now, glue traps for mice are just cruel, to my mind.
Favorite gross but true mouse story:
A different friend’s daughter discovered a mouse struggling on a glue trap that my friend had set beneath a kitchen cabinet. The little girl insisted that they free the mouse. Logic would dictate that one might just carefully trim around the mouse’s feet and let it go free so it could hobble away with cardboard stuck to it. Inelegant, yes, but doable. Instead, they tried to pull the poor animal off of the trap. I’ll just leave the actual scene to your imagination because that’s what decent writers do….
But I have to say that I wouldn’t hesitate to leave giant glue traps out for rats. Big traps. With Elmer’s or Super-Glue or that stuff that the guy on television uses to glue his hardhat to the eyebeam while he dangles a hundred feet off the ground. Lots of glue. You bet.
Can you tell the difference between them in photographs? I got nine out of twelve. Yes!