tonight we write (about rats)

The thing about a blog is that it encourages OCD. You just want to keep tweaking the layout and the widgets and then you forget to keep writing. Happens every time. So that's part of why I made the move and pulled all of my old content off the internet - there were formatting issues and content issues and low-res photo issues and it just wasn't worth it anymore trying to comb through that old stuff and polish it all up. So instead of obsessing over some collection of small things I am going to write about something I have wanted to for some time. Rats.

Yes, when we moved into our house here in Ashland after purchasing it, we found out within about 2 weeks that there were rats living in the walls. You could hear them (the occasional thud) and then at night they would attempt to raid the kitchen. After a few months now I can safely say that I know a thing or two about a thing or two when it comes to rats. I spent a lot of time online doing research and honestly I just hope that someone reads this one day and it helps them make the right decision.

The first point of contention: poison. They make it sound like that's the only way to go. It certainly is not. If you are in a particularly rural area I can see some utility in laying down poison. But that seems to me to be an attempt at eradication. In the suburban residential arena, that is just not feasible. You are never going to permanently eradicate anything. Certainly not in Ashland, and probably not anywhere. My modus operandi has always been to just keep them out of the house. Anything they do beyond that is none of my business. So to that end, I don't see poison being particularly helpful at all.

Here's the thing. There are pretty much two points of view with regard to addressing rats that have already moved in.

  1. leave all entry points open until pests are terminated. Poison will encourage the rats to 'leave in search of water'. Close up entry points after no more evidence is found of an ongoing infestation. OR -
  2. find and close up entry points immediately. Systematically trap and dispose of 'prisoner' rats.

Approach #1 is the one the pro-poison people tend to use, and not only is the claim that rats will leave in search of water false, in some cases there is water available in the sub structure so they wouldn't have to leave anyway. With this approach, the problem of rats dying inside the walls is real. I would never do it. Also, there is also the issue that you have no incentive for the rats to eat anything you give them in Approach #1. Apparently rats are totally averse to new things, and so the approach is to do something they call 'prebaiting', literally just leaving food around so the rats get used to eating it and then switching it out for poison or traps once they get used to eating your stuff. If you are also waiting to close the entry points while you do this then I certainly don't understand why that's not exactly like opening a fast food joint for rats in your basement under the pretense of calling in the tab at some point in the future.

Approach #2 is what we used and had success with. I think what helped a lot is that once you close the entrances they get hungry and will pretty much go for anything. No prebaiting necessary. We didn't have a super high volume of rats, I think the infestation was actually pretty fresh, and it turned out to be a single family of about 8. Those guys are pretty much the barbarians at the gate and it will be an ongoing issue for as long as we own the house. That much is certain. But at least we have it in check for the moment. Apparently Ashland just has a hell of a lot of rats because it's easy livin'.

I will leave you with some interesting facts about rats that I came across in my research.

  1. Rats are very social and their societies break down into 2 groups - high and low density. What we had was a low density group, in essence a simple patriarchal family. 1 male, I believe either 2 or 3 females, and then about 4-5 children. The one male rules the roost and keeps out other males. In a high density setting, the lone male is overcome by rival males and it becomes something like a commune. Probably in a bad way.
  2. The gestation period for rats can be as short as 3 weeks. So in less than a month you can be looking at a 2nd generation.
  3. Rats leave paths for each other, with both urine and fecal matter. That's what they're doing, yes it's disgusting. Also you will see grease streaks on walls and ceilings where they frequent and that is also a sort of highway marking.
  4. The only thing that will keep them out is metal cloth or steel wool. That's the only thing they can't chew through. Or possibly cement if it's thick enough. They grind down their teeth like we trim our nails.

So if you're still reading this, I wish you good luck. Last thing - we had some good luck with the Victor zap traps you can get at Home Depot. No poison necessary.