It pains me to record this story, but…
We had a rat at 3675.
Being the clean freak that I am, “rats” aren’t something I ever imagined I’d personally ever encounter, in MY home. Even as it sits on the precipice of its centennial birthday, with its dirt-floor crawlspace and steamy attic, right in the middle of the crowded Bay Area, overrun with urban wildlife feasting on the local and sustainable bounty of year-round backyard gardens…
My home is (or was, in my mind) an air-tight rodent fortress.
I’m only mildly comforted, still, by the fact that rats can be found in one-third of all homes in America. Like, barely comforted. 3675 had to be a 2 or a 3 – so clean you can eat off the floor in every room, inspected top to bottom inside and out on the first each month for signs of so much as a hairline crack…
But alas, I saw the rat. It ran RIGHT IN FRONT OF MY FACE – I kid you not, I felt a breeze – while I examined what I thought had to be a harmless little mouse dropping in the basement behind the washing machine.
Mice, by the way, are NOT THE SAME AS RATS. Mice are tiny – cute, even. I’ve encountered plenty of mice before: in my office while working late, in our woodpile at our mountain home…
Rats: they are not cute.
I saw this rat’s tail as it ran by as much as I saw this rat, and anything with a tail that long, that flesh-colored, that naked: is not cute. It is a rodent, undeniably. And it has to go. Out of my house.
Threatening to relocate to a hotel, I ordered Trent to the hardware store to buy traps. But we faced a dilemma – was it actually a rat? I mean, maybe it was a big mouse… Think positively! A really big mouse!
I searched the basement “laundry area” in terror for droppings, knowing the rat was in there (because I’d just SEEN IT, for crying out loud), but determined to collect a critical mass of poop so I could assess size and shape…
Less than a half inch?
Trent braved the dark and dusty dirt floor crawlspace and observed little footprints (shudder) in the soil. We compared them with ridiculous precision to bad Google image search results.
The internet seemed to insist our invader was a roof rat (in the basement?!), despite my heart’s yearnings for a harmless little house mouse. So hysteria ensued.
Trent set every kind of trap he could get his hands on at 8:00 on a Tuesday night, with every kind of suitable bait we had in our kitchen: chocolate, beef jerky, pepperoni, peanut butter. Mice like sugar, rats like grease… The traps would yield an answer, I told myself.
But here’s something else about rats: they are smart. It only took a couple days of trying to trap the thing on our own before it was undeniable: it was not a mouse. It was at least one (maybe a few?) disgusting, intelligent, meat-loving rats. And it (or they) were rather enjoying the little feast we had prepared for them.
We upgraded to zapper traps to no avail. The rat(s) continued to feast on chicken nuggets.
Organic, pasture-raised: of course. Only the best for these Bay Area rats!
We called in two different hack “exterminators” who did their best to try to sell us $2000 attic rehabs, but offered no real game plan for trapping the rat(s).
Really? YES REALLY.
(Things got a little tense; I don’t do well when people try to rip me off…)
Why was it so hard to find someone to just catch a damn rat (rats?)?!
Because all the people in the Bay Area who do trap rats, it seems, are really, really busy. That was supposed to comfort me.
My hysteria continued over the thing creeping around in my basement with it’s tail that I actually saw two inches in front of my face. It started to morph into an obsession. Trolling Nextdoor, I took note of at least three neighbors asking for exterminator recommendations.
GOOD LUCK SUCKERS! Nobody in Oakland actually traps rats, but I’ve got a line on some overpriced and totally unnecessary attic insulation if you need it!
It took a week of calls before we found Gene at Capable Pest Control. An actual exterminator. Who didn’t want to charge us $2000 to re-insulate our attic. Who actually stayed in the basement, where I SAW THE DAMN RAT, and explained how he would catch it.
And within 24 hours of our meeting, the offending rat was dead in a trap (definitely not a mouse).
At least, an offending rat was dead in a trap…
The next morning, we disposed of said dead rat and cleaned up every trace of rat poop and rat paw. We reset all bait and traps and turned out the lights, determined to now know if he/she was indeed the only rat.
And of course, we returned the next morning to find juuuuuust a few little tracks in the dirt around Trent’s bicycle. And juuuuuust a couple poops.
I couldn’t believe it. But then again, I totally could. Who has just one rat, right?
So we cleaned up again.
And then, for two weeks after that: nothing.
I mean, how else could it come to pass with a neurotic, worrywart home owner like me? Something else was in there, but I’ll never know what made those tracks. How it got in or where it went.
All I know is that we just called the rat case CLOSED. Like, for real; we’ve sealed up every single goddamn crack in this house (and apparently, there were a few – and they were more than hairline). It is an air-tight, impenetrable fortress.
Now I just have to be cool with whatever is left inside, including myself…