I got 'em.
Last Wednesday, I went down into my basement, a place I tend to avoid whenever possible, on account of it is dim, dirty, and a little creepy. Not to mention full of spiderwebs. Bleh. But I was overdue to change the filter on the water cleaner, so I dutifully marched down there to take care of it.
[Side note: it is moments like this when I think, "Damn, it would be handy to have a guy around to do this crap." Just sayin'.]
I got part of the way down the narrow stairs and saw a piece of wood (from the dirt and lathe wall that has the kitchen on the other side) lying on the 4th step down. Huh. Then I got another couple of steps down, and could see that there was a bunch of dirt on the bottom steps. Clearly, something had dug through the wall. Bother. I've got a critter, I thought. Then I got to the bottom and looked across the basement, which has a stone foundation with concrete over the outside walls, low ceilings strung with wires,huge open beams, and two not-very-bright dangling light bulbs. (I believe you now understand why I avoid the place.) There were swaths of pink insulation that had been flush to the beams that were now hanging down because something had been running across them. Crap, I said out loud. That's not good. I figured it was probably a squirrel or something, like the one that had gotten into my mudroom last fall and eaten all my spaghetti squash.
Still, not a big deal. I said something on Facebook, and one of my friends very kindly offered to lend me a couple of havaheart traps to catch whatever it was and get it the heck outa my house. At this point, I was figuring that if it was a squirrel, I could drive it a few miles down the road and release it. [I later found out that it is illegal to move critters off of your property, but nevermind.]
Checked the traps on Friday. Nothing. Checked on Saturday. Nothing. Went down to have a look on Sunday morning, and one of the traps had been sprung. So I tiptoed bravely over to look inside at what I'd caught, and said in a very loud voice, "DUDE. You are NOT a squirrel!" And then I uttered a few more words, none of which can be repeated here.
I had caught a rat. A BIG rat. Oh, the joy.
Mind you, I'm not one of those women who stands on a chair and shrieks when she sees a rodent. (And it's a damned good thing. Did I mention the rat was BIG?) For one thing, I've had cats my whole life. And when you have cats, you are occasionally going to be presented with mice, in various degrees of alive-ness. Also, I think rodents are cute. I don't want them in my damned house, but I think they're cute, and I'll rescue the mice from the cats whenever I can, despite the fact that they almost always die later from shock, and if they don't they'll probably turn right around and come back into the house. What can I say? I'm a big softy.
But not when it comes to RATS. (This is said in a low, growly voice with extra RRRRRR in it.) I had a pet rat in college when I took the "Introduction to Psych for geniuses" class (not it's official title) and got to train one in a Skinner box. Lovely rat--very smart, and pleasant company. But there is a huge difference between pet or lab rats and dirty, nasty, wild rats. Especially when they're in your freaking house. Reproducing like...rats.
They chew through wires in the walls, and hoses (yes, I discovered that the washer hose had been chewed through again, when I went to do the laundry on Saturday morning--this before I know it was rats--and almost certainly this is what chewed through both the washer hose and ALL THREE dishwasher hoses back in February, causing the Great Kitchen Flood of '13 which resulted in me having to replace the kitchen floor...RATS!). And they're dirty and carry diseases. And poop all over the place. UGH.
So I looked at that very large rat in the cage, and he looked at me, and I looked up rats on the internet, and I decided that no matter how self-sufficient I tend to be, this one was above my pay grade, and I called the local Wildlife Pest Guy, Doug. Who came over on Monday morning and gave me the Rats 101 course, and a bunch of instant-kill traps (not poison, which is nasty and kills them slowly, and often results in dead rats rotting in your walls....double UGH) and showed me how to bait and set them.
Sigh. Like I said, it is a good thing I'm not squeamish about this sort of thing. Because it was expensive enough for the first visit, and if he'd had to come out every day to empty and reset the traps, it would have cost me a lot more. (As it is, I'll have to have him come back out eventually to clean up the basement, since he has the know-how and the equipment to do it without making himself sick.)
So I baited the traps (without setting them, to make sure they were in the right place and the rats would go to them). And when they got emptied out, I went back down yesterday afternoon, and refilled and set them. This morning? Six dead rats. Again with the UGH, but those suckers have got to go. I can't even have the washer fixed until I am fairly sure that nothing is going to chew through the hose again right away. So now the traps are re-baited and waiting for the next bunch. Hopefully there aren't that many left, right?
And yes, I do see the irony of having FIVE CATS and still having a rat infestation. In their defense, the cats aren't allowed into the basement (see dirty and creepy, above) and they can't reach the rats in the walls, although Magic has been staring at the kitchen wall behind the dishwasher for weeks. I assumed it was just the usual mice. But alas, no.
RATS. No thank you very much.