The Trouble With Rats (Part 1)

My wife alerted me to the fact that there was scratching and clawing going on in our ceiling. And she said there’s small amounts of crap being laid down in the attic on the rubbermaid tubs of stuff. And then she said there’s even more scratching and clawing. And she said they were dropping things. And she said they were dragging things. The noise was driving me nuts. And whoever was in the attic is making a ton of noise, too!

I bought some metal flashing and blocked off one spot under the eaves where it looked like a starving animal might be able to squeeze, and I put some traps out in the lower attic, but we still heard lots of noise up there and found no dead rats in the traps. I had put out a poison bait tray a year or so ago and it was ignored then but now completely empty, with an accompanying thank you note asking politely for more bait. “Especially the green ones!” One night, I could have sworn I heard music up there.

So finally I called in the professionals. Certainly they’ve got some trick up their sleeve. I didn’t know who to call so I fumbled around and finally picked one that I had seen on the news. They billed themselves as being able to humanely take care of animals in the attic and that they were even endorsed by the Humane Society. Now I’m an animal lover, so I figured I’d try the nice-to-animals guy. I didn’t know if it was a rat, or a squirrel, or a bear. I wondered how one might humanely get rid of an unwanted animal in the attic. Reason with them that this is not their house and they were not wanted here? Ask them to leave politely? Tell them about Hawaii? Tell them how much better my neighbor’s attic is? They had good reviews, so I gave them a call.

They came out and figured by close examination of the droppings that this was a rat or rats and not a squirrel or other type of creature. He said that the thing to do is block all access to the attic, though he couldn’t find any openings, and trap the rats. Just out of curiosity, I asked if this was what the Humane Society recommends. He explained that for squirrels, raccoons, possum, or skunks and the like, they seal off every entry but one and create a one-way exit there, so they cannot return to the attic. And for rats? “Oh, we…um…just… kill them. The Humane Society is…good with that. They don’t offer anything to society.”

The problem was trying to determine what type of rats they were. It’s important to note when comparing rat types that you compare different factors, such as body size, teeth size, tail size and other factors. This can determine what trap(s) you use.

OK, but I’ve had traps out… “What did you bait them with? We use peanut butter in ours.”

I explained that I had read that peanut butter was good, but since my daughter has a peanut allergy, I was using the soy butter that our family eats instead. He looked at me and looked a little confused.

“Soy butter?”

“Yeah, it’s kind of like peanut butter. It’s colored like peanut butter, but there’s no peanuts in it. It’s…soy…I guess.”

He seemed to think that the disgusting rats that would eat corn out of a dead animal’s colon would turn their nose up at faux peanut butter made from soy. I thought of fat-free mayonnaise and turkey bacon and began to see his point.

He said they could set traps and charge me for each, or I could just do the same, but that I should use real peanut butter this time. Maybe leave the jar in the attic where it wouldn’t accidentally be eaten or touched. He recommended 4 or 5 traps in the lower attic where evidence of the filthy bastards had been seen, and a couple in the upper attic where I hadn’t yet seen any traces of them.

So I did exactly this. I even got the real peanut butter and smeared it in the bait cup on the traps. I bought 2 different kinds so that I could determine which ones were better. I’d tally up the sure-to-be-dozens of rats that I’d catch, and see which type of trap caught the most. When I was smearing the peanut butter, I figured I’d smear a little extra outside of the cup and on to the platform trigger. That way, they could safely and successfully taste a little of the sweet nectar right before the hammer is dropped on them. Poor bastards. They won’t know what hit them. I was already starting to feel sorry for them.

The man said to only check the traps once a week so as to let them get their confidence up and let their guard down. If they see some idiot poking his head into the attic every 5 minutes, they’ll get jittery and maybe go to another house. It was decided that Mondays would be the trap-checking day. That way, the scores of rats taken down by the traps could be easily dropped into the garbage for Tuesday morning pickup.

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3 thoughts on “The Trouble With Rats (Part 1)”

  1. “If they see some idiot poking his head into the attic every 5 minutes, they’ll get jittery and maybe go to another house. “

    And there’s your humane way of getting rid of them. Let the neighbor deal with them and if they kill the rats your conscience is quasi-free. Which is better than being Quasimodo.

  2. I read a great “My Turn” in Newsweek some time ago where this guy had borrowed his parents rat trap. It did the job, but after he told his parents that it had worked, they asked for the trap back. He said that, he had thrown it out with the dead rat in it, of course. (Like we always do) His parents were shocked – “You threw it out! But we had that trap since we first got married, 30 years ago.”
    That story just made me laugh – such a generational thing with depression era parents.
    The idea of keeping a rat trap for the future – blek!

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