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January 22, 2005

Gruesome Rat Encounter Freaked Out and Horrified George: There was a RAT in my dining room when I got home last night. The cats had it cornered and were playing with it. The whole thing was beyond horrible and I ended up sweeping it out the front door with a broom, so it seems to be gone, but now I'm all freaked out and don't know what to do next. I must add that I am severely phobic about rodents. (+)

I woke up in the middle of the night and came to the conclusion that the only logical thing to do, other than move immediately, was to get a full suit of plate armor and wear it at all times, thus rendering me capable of killing rats with a footstep. Or a mace, maybe. However, now it's the next day, and this plan doesn't look as logical (revealing though it may be of my deep inner geekiness.) Anyway, here are my questions:
1. How did it get in? Did it come up from the basement? Through a heat duct or how? The door to the basement is closed and locked. Did the cats bring it in through the doggie door when I wasn't looking? This is possible but horrifying in that it would mean the thing was free in the house for god only knows how long, since before I went out last night the cats came in, and they definitely were unaccompanied by rattus rattus. And the doggie door was closed & locked when I left.
2. Are there more where it came from, like in my house or in the basement, or where? There have always been mice in the house, especially in the spring and fall, and I thought mice & rats were never found in the same place? Was I wrong on that?
3. What do I do now? Get traps and put them all over the basement? How can I go down there without plate armor? I never want to go down there again. Should I try poison? What about the animals? (I also have 2 dogs.)

I am so twitchy & freaked, you wouldn't believe it. In fact I just now got down off a kitchen stool since I heard the cats wrestling (with each other) in the living room. What should I do?

ps I have to go out for a while but I will be back!Help!

Rats can get into your house in a variety of ways, heating ducts, basement, front door, attic, etc. The best way to find out where it entered is to search for any bits of chewn wood or food. It should at least give you some idea.

Pick up a few humane traps and place them strategically in areas you find (or think they might appear next.)

The other option is to hire an exterminator. In your case, it might be more prudent. A good one will find everything, let you know how it got in so you can repair it (if possible), and assure you that they won't come back.

There are more of them.

Get an exterminator.

My dear, it is a simple fact that wherever you are, be it mansion or skyscraper, you are within 20 metres of a rat, if not a family of them.

They are one of the most successful species ever created by Glub, unlike the poodle. They are resilient.

Let me tell you a true story. In the hovel I was forced to live in while I was going thru hideous physical therapy, out of a job, & with no money, I discovered one day that a rat had taken residence in the back of my fridge. It clambered about the grille on the back like a jungle gym. I set a large rat trap, feeling guilty, but certain that it would do the job. The blighter was crawling all over the cupboards & leaving crap everywhere. One night there was an almighty snap and a clatter, & I rose to enter the kitchen where to my horror I found not a dead rat in a trap, but the front end of a rat, it's lower body paralysed and pinned sandwich like in the wire bar of the trap, but it was still alive. This is how tough the fuckers are. It was making "HURRRGH HURRGH" noises like a consumptive old man, very loud for an 8 inch rodent. When it saw me it's eyes bugged out of its head, but there was nothing it could do; it's lower body was a sack of useless meat due to it's spine being snapped in the trap. Horrified, I picked the thing up with a shovel, took it outside and bashed it to put it out of its misery.

Little did I know, that where there is one rat, there are a dozen. It wasn't just one rat living in the back of my fridge (down near the motor bay) but four of 'em. The bloody carnage that ensued as we tried to get rid of 'em was harrowing. The second one got a glancing blow on the head, taking out one eye, stunning it, it fell to the floor from on top of a pantry. My cat was circling it, I'm saying "kill it, cat! do your duty!" but she wasn't having a bar of it. Pissing blood out of its head, it slowly came round and realised where it was, & that a large yelling human stood over it. I bashed it. Strangely enough I felt guilty about that for ages.

So, the rat traps don't really work, and most poison bait doesn't either cos a lot of rats are immune to them. The best you can hope for is to catch them and bash them over the head, or give them to a guy with a pet boa constrictor. The rat you shooed away will veryu likely come back. Add to that the assurance that where there is one, there are usually 3 or 4.

I suppose its not much consolation to add that they're more scared of you than you are of them?

Gee guys, freak her out some more!

Thing number one to realize is while there may be more they are not necessarily in your house. It's highly likely one of the cats brought it in. I've known several cats who were fond of bringing their playthings inside the house, occasionally disemboweling them and leaving some internal organs as presents in strange places.

Number two, a rat isn't going to steal up and start biting you in your sleep. Like Nostril said, they're lots more afraid of you, you're lots bigger.

I would hold off on hiring an exterminator until something informs you this is not an isolated incident. Signs to look for are gnawed boxes or newspaper, or droppings.

Cold weather brings them into our houses. Rats follow a water source, such as sewer lines, streams, drainage ditches. No water, no rodent.

Egress to your house: check for gaps around the plumbing, electrical, etc. Look for cracks you can poke a finger tip into around drainpipes and waterpipes. Gaps need to be plugged with at least quarter-inch hardware cloth, crumpled and pounded ro stuffed into any cracks. Rodents can squeeze through remarkably small openings because the bones in the head will compress -- or so I have been told.

I have rats every so often because of the horses' feed and birdseed -- and once in a long while one comes over to the house after being discouraged from the stable. Make sure your pets have not been bitten and that their shots are up to date. If you find signs rodents have been any foods, pitch 'em out, don't try to salvage any.

Both mice and rats can be in the same place, though rats will drive mice out after a while.

What to do next: Go to the hardwarte store or the supermarket, get D-Con or some simlar product, and put it out at once. Place it where rats or mice can go but not your pets or small kids -- undersink, under refrigerator, and especially bait the basement as this sounds to me the most likely ratty route into your building. Keep pets and kids out of baited areas. Get a friend to come over and give you moral support if you need it.

Stop them right away: it's about two weeks gestation for mice, about three for rats and there will be another long right on the heels of the first. Act NOW.

Don't bother with traps -- they may only injure the rodent and then you have a kill-and-disposal problem, and you most especially don't want to have to deal with an injured rat. Use poisoned bait -- D-Con works and it is safe if kept out of reach of cmall chilfdren or small pets. Put it out, and check to spots and when it disappears, replace it.

Keep food such as cat kibble in safe sealed storage.

Rats are pretty delicious.

You could catch them in humane traps and sell them to Fear Factor.

mygothlaundry: Nostril is correct, rats are everywhere. If you found one in your house there are most likely hundreds more, lurking in the walls waiting for their chance to scurry across the kitchen floor, possibly bite you, and run off. Being an expert in rat psychology, I'd recommend staying out of your bedroom till you get an exterminator; they most love bedrooms, especially they enjoy running around in your human smelling clothes drawer, sleeping in your shoes, and occasionally for a practical joke, trying to crawl under your sheets whilst you are sleeping in them. They're nasty brutish characters, and they will not think twice about consuming your finest snacks and then consumating their relationships on your pillow. Be wary.

The problem with poison is that the rat will go off and die somewhere inconvenient, such as between the walls. I've heard of humane traps, which actually enclose the rat in a box, but then your problem is disposal. I would suggest calling an exterminator. Until the exterminator comes, since you're so freaked out, maybe you should stay with a friend and board your pets, if possible. And definitely examine your pets for bites, and be sure their shots are up to date.

Good luck.

oh...dont forget the's very distinctive...kinda sickly sweet...take a good sniff around your basement, the doggie door and anywhere you store food (and pet food) oh and any unused corners of the house...all clear? probably just brought in by the cats then....but if so, then they're somewhere outside then and it is probably not a bad idea to call an exterminator (if only for your pet's safety...not a bad idea to take them to the vet and make sure their shots are up to date)...also, reducing clutter in your house and basement gives them less places to hide...

on the plus side, they carry a lot less disease than pigeons...

Call an exterminator immediately.


You could train them to do your bidding. Imagine the power!

Ian, that's over the line, IMHO. Phobias aren't something to be taken jokingly.

You might consider seeing if there's a way to lessen your rat-phobia. While that certainly won't help the immediate rat issues, it might make it easier to deal with them in the future. Anything that freaks you out that badly is not a good thing.

Well, usually. A fear of oncoming trains is probably healthy.

Oh god. For the moment let's all pretend I believe in one, prayer sounds like a good thing. Thanks much Ian, now my skin is really crawling, but fortunately I totally don't believe you. . .I think. I just went and bought 3 large snap traps and a braver friend is coming over and we are going to venture to the basement with the help of beer. I will sniff while I am down there. I'm afraid of using poison because I'm afraid that they will eat it, go out to the yard to die, and then the dogs will eat them, and they will die. I just read the label on some rat poison at the supermarket and it said something along those lines, so that's probably not going to work, but Nostril's story has really got me worried about the snap traps. Gaaaah. Maybe the armor is the best idea.

The pets' shots are up to date, what could they catch from rats? Oh man I forgot about bubonic plague - oh no -

Sub-sonic critter repelents? I've heard those do ineed work; they're small electronic gizmos that put out a sound inaudible to humans, that drives rats and such away. You might have a problem with the cats or dogs, but might be worth trying.

If you're really spooked, moving your bed or furniture in your bedroom so there are no places for any sneaky critter to hide might give you some peace of mind.

Good going, Goth! That's my girl. Sounds like you're on top of the situation and ready to put hurt all over any rat that has the nerve to invade your space.

GramMa sez: Pay no attention to Ian, he's fulla ratshite.

If your not sure about the home extermination business, you can always hire a pro, but meanwhile, your on the right track. My only other suggestion would be to sit down at eye level with those cats and have a serious discussion of job priorities.

Hang in there, gal.

Another thing I've seen once years ago that works: that ultra-sticky paper pads. They're letter-sized, one side with this thick glue coat. Critters stupid enough to pass over them get stuck and can't get free. No poison, no carnage.
But... disposal is still an issue. Sometimes their noses get stuck and they suffocate, but usually they're still kickin' when you discover them. You should have the help of Braver Friend to get rid of them.

1. How did it get in? As noted, rats can fit through very small openings. When houses are built, these openings are often left open through carelessness. Even if there are no built-in openings, rats can create or enlarge them. They have to want something inside, though. If there's nothing they can eat, they'll go away. This is not an easy situation to create; you essentially have to put anything they would consider food inside metal containers.
It is possible the cats brought it in, and you don't have a rat problem. It's likely that the cats have already dealt with an incipient problem. That's their job, after all. If you look around and there are no droppings or other signs of infestation, I'd say rest easy, and thank your cats.

2. Are there more? Yes, but they may not be in your house.

sit down at eye level with those cats and have a serious discussion of job priorities

Sad to say, I've seen than cats will fiercely trap and play with smaller mice, but rats are something else. They know what's good for them, I suppose.

Braver Friend found some unsettling evidence in the basement, so the traps are set. Oh I really hope it was an isolated incident, there have never been rats here before, it must be a new new thing. My old cat Fred would never have tolerated them. These cats are only about 8 months old. See, this is not my first encounter with rats, unfortunately, just my first in this house.

Distressing anecdote #1: Long long ago in a galaxy far far away I lived in a slummy tenement in the East Village that was crawling with them - big, big ones, too, not like the one I had last night, which was like 6 or 7 inches long. But I lived on the 3rd floor and I never had one come upstairs. However I was coming home one night and as I walked in the door of the building the crazy Puerto Rican lady who lived on the first floor was coming out of her apartment with a rat trap - with 3 screaming huge live rats in it. She shouted in Spanish and ran at me and shook it at my face. . . this may mark the real start of the phobia. In the same building once I was waiting for friends, outside by the stoop in the first snow of the year, looked to my left where the trash cans were, and saw like a dozen rats - frolicking in the snow. Argh.

Distressing anecdote #2, with dogs: When I lived in east Baltimore, also long ago, we had them in the cement backyard all the time. But my dog was younger than and he would kill them immediately, a grab, a shake, a snap and then he tossed them off into the corner. Now he's too old, and my other dog is a goofball who reacts like "Wow! Are you some kind of new cat? Welcome to the household! Let's play!" I wish Toby wasn't 14 and aching from arthritis & half blind, he would sort this all out immediately.

Flagpole, I can't handle those glue traps. They'll chew off their own feet to get out of them, and it's just more than I can stand. They used to use them in a historic house where I worked and caught a mouse in my office; it was unbelievably horrible, but at least that was one that was made like a roach motel and the maintenance guy just stepped on it & put it out of its misery. The ones I saw at the store today were just trays, I can NOT handle a rat that's biting itself, still alive, and glued to a tray where I can see it.

For your amusement, I offer you this

OH MY GODS. I am going to go throw some bleach down the toilet RIGHT NOW. Aaaauuuuggghhhhhhhhhh!!!!!

Debaser--yeah, that's actually happened at my house before. Found it dead (thank god) in the toilet bowl.

When you lift the lid first thing in the morning, that is not what you want to see. Especially when it's a bathroom on the second floor.

Years and years ago we had rat problems...we used traps. One got caught and was still husband was at work so I filled a bucket with water and threw rat and trap in.

If you do this, don't watch. But it works.

If you do get a professional and they use the warfarin, make sure they will return to eliminate anything that suffers it's demise inside of walls, etc.

Dead rats, now they really stink.

When I lived in CA I had a terrible invasion of roof rats (Rattus rattus), which are like Norway rats (Rattus norvegicus the run-of-the-mill everyday rat) except they don't get as big and they climb like monkeys. They travel from house to house via phone wires. (The infestation originated at my next-door neighbors who left huge bowls of food out all the time for their 7 dogs).

I had dozens in the house. They lived above the suspended ceiling. I'd hear them scurrying all night up there. And they'd come down while I was asleep to feast on various foodstuffs, especially bananas, and to leave their little rat calling cards.

I hate those glue traps. Either you let the rat starve or dehydrate itself to death or you have to smash them with a mallet or something to kill them. I also didn't want to use poison because of the stink-of-death-in-the-walls issue. So I used old-fashioned spring traps which kill but do it quickly and painlessly. I set a few of them with bananas as bait above the ceiling tiles. In the morning? Traps sprung but no rats (and no bananas). The little schmucks could pull the food off the trap without getting caught. So for three days I left the traps in the same place but didn't set them. I hoped to lull them into complacency. After the three days I placed the traps back in the ceiling but this time I set them. It worked. I killed 27 rats over the next few days.

A friend of mine who lived in the E Village in the 80s had a rat bite him on the lip while he slept. Not to scare you or anything.

Today's rat fact: the three most common terrestrial vertebrate species are, from most to least, chickens, humans, rats.

Toilet rats: I'm pretty sure I remember reading that this is mostly an urban myth, and that rats found in toilets usually drowned after getting trapped trying to get a drink of water.

Glue Traps: They work, but not well. I've had several mice pull themselves free. Their fur doesn't seem to be very firmly attached, and they chew through anything they can get a grip on in the attempt.

My yearly battle with early winter mice is a saga composed of many verses.

Animals in apartments: I've had two birds make it into my place. One through the dryer vent when the hose came free inside the house - note that the cover was still on the vent outside.

The other bird I'm pretty sure got in under the front porch, where the brick work was deteriorating a bit. The mason mentioned that the area under front porches is often a problem with pests. Out of sight, out of mind.

Of course, I hadn't got around to actually doing anything about the front porch until the skunk died under there.

nostrildamus wrote: "I found not a dead rat in a trap, but the front end of a rat, it's lower body paralysed and pinned sandwich like in the wire bar of the trap, but it was still alive."

I hated that. In my case I it was a mouse and I had to use a shoe, but I felt like shit. I'm one of those happy meat-eaters who nevertheless identifies with a tortured mouse. "Kill them, don't martyr them." (And ya might as well eat 'em.)

My cat, now a little old & lazy, would kill and eat rats with great relish, leaving only a head on the step as a trophy. I think that when she saw them *inside* she thought that perhaps it was another one of the stupid monkey man's odd pets, so she was confused (I did have a pet rat at one time that she tolerated). I'll never forget seeing her wandering around the back of a house I shared with 3 other guys with a huge old rat we called Cataract Frank because of its blind eyes in her mouth, a third of her own size. I made her drop it. I found it dead of old age in the flower bed some months later. As long as they don't come in the house I believe they should be let alone, frankly.

they're more scared of you than you are of them

Having encountered my fair share on the subway, I can safely say that this is not always the case.

And while Ian was a bit over the line, with mice it has been documented in the family that this will happen if it gets cold enough. Once new windows were installed, and the apartment was warm all the time, the mice stopped doing that little annoying trick (oh, and killing them by the dozen with spring traps might have helped too).

I think it's very possible that your cats brought the rat in. My parents' cats will occasionally bring in a bird or a mouse. Our theory is that the cats think my mom and dad are too stupid to learn how to hunt themselves, so the cats'll make sure the silly humans are fed. The other theory (the one my mom prefers) is that the cats believe my parents are gods, and the occasional small animal is tribute.

I saw the biggest rat once in Boston. I was walking with a friend, and 2 people were approaching us from the other direction. From behind them comes this rat, about the size of a large cat, and very round. He waddles past them, and they stop, and we stop, and the four of us watch as this rat casually sashays down an alley, activating a motion-detecting spotlight as he passes. I think he was the Rat King.

Just to assure those wondering about the toilet rat being an urban myth, they are healthy and happy here in the plumbing of my favourite local pen.The men, regardless of constant renovations and upgrading, still need to cover their toilets at night.

There's so many tunnels and cages/cells in the old limestone underneath, the rats will probably never disappear. Being on the shore of Lake Ontario doesn't help.

It's just a fact of life, around here for the cons. No one gives them much sympathy or credibility for the problem.

I'm sure this thread needs a tagline.

Doesn't it?

MonkeyFilter: they're more scared of you than you are of them

One note for patching rat entry points, if you can find them. I used stainless steel steel wool as packing in a rat hole, before filling it with plaster. This was the plug that was not chewed out. All of the prior patches were removed by those nasty sharp pointy teeth.

Also, hope your rat does not die it the walls. This can be a true test of your ability to ignore a problem until it goes away.

alternating boiling water and 1/2 cup straight bleach down the drains a couple times a week helps everything--unless you have a septic tank

Part of ian would say's comment made me think he was talking about people we might call rats.

They're nasty brutish characters, and they will not think twice about consuming your finest snacks and then consumating their relationships on your pillow.

Steel wool will stop mice, but not rats. Rats can chew through plaster and steel wool.

Quarter inch hardware cloth folded and inserted into cracks stops them. Wear heavy gloves to do this.

Rats can chew and tear through metal sheeting if they are really determined, alas. Our old oat bin was breached in just this way.

Rats can chew and tear through metal sheeting

Maybe done by stainless steel rats?

Even David Attenborough finds rats repellent. Er... those are mice in the picture, aren't they?

OK, PY, it's all your fault for bringing it to my attention the second time:

MonkeyFilter: They're nasty brutish characters, and they will not think twice about consuming your finest snacks and then consumating their relationships on your pillow.

A colleague was walking in the East Village late the other night, and happened to step on a rat as it scurried across the sidewalk. His step landed squarely on the rat's head, and crushed it in an instant. The loud crunching sound and splattered blood have nonetheless left this person horrified and afraid to walk the dark streets of Manhattan.

And this thread doesn't help my appetite

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