Saturday, March 2, 2013

Genus Rattus Species Rattus

You guys. So the other night I happened to be sleeping without the single earplug I usually wear. (I am a side-sleeper and I wear one earplug in my top ear, so I cannot hear the dog breathing and the music of the spheres and whatever, but so that I can hear it if someone speaks my name or if absolutely all hell breaks loose. Yes, I do move the earplug from ear to ear during the night.)

So there I was, having heedlessly fallen into slumber with my ear canal unplugged, when I was awakened by something. I lay there and tried to determine what had disturbed me. Then I heard it: a skittering in the ceiling above my bed. A skittering and a scuttling. It was quite loud, an almost urgent-sounding kind of skitter. In my sleep-fogged state, I tried to alert Matt. I remember tapping on his hip and trying to murmur, "Critters." But I can't be sure that my mouth was really working right and I might have just patted him and sussurated in his direction.

Later, awake and vertical, I remembered that when we bought this house, the attic was home to some number of flying squirrels. So when the exterminator guy happened to be here, I confided in him about the skittering. He went up into the attic. When he came down, I was sitting on the living-room couch. He said, "Well, I've got bad news. It's not flying squirrels, it's rats."

Reader, when he said that, I actually shushed him. Shushed him like you shush a child in church. Then I put my hands over my ears. He looked compassionately at me and waited.

He explained that there are these black rats, he called them roof rats, that live in trees and high places, and like to come sleep in our attic after they've been out foraging for food. They're using our insulation for nesting material. I wailed a bit and asked why we couldn't have something cute up there, like raccoons. His eyes grew big and he said, "Oh no. You don't want raccoons. They never leave."

Then he went outside and performed various calculations and observations. When he came back in, he said that for $1360, they would go over every bit of the roofline and seal it up, then set traps and come every couple of days to check them until the problem was solved. I agreed to this and established a day and time for the work to commence, then he went away.

Well, you can imagine what Matt's reaction to this was: We will trap them ourselves, he said.

Reader, I said nothing, said it in the most tolerant and understanding wifely way that you can imagine.

I did not wish to quash either his thrift or his can-do spirit, but I did quibble with his choice of pronoun. No, I demurred, there could be no "we" in the case, as I could neither trap a rat, look at a rat, think about a rat, or really even know about a rat.

Then I said, "Sweetie, do you have the time and energy to devote to this issue? Because I do think this could be the sort of thing where we either pay now or pay later, having thrown just enough money and time at it to decide that you don't want to tackle it, given the many and various demands on your time."

Then I postponed the attic work for a week to give him time to think about it. And I gave him the critter guy's business card and suggested he chat with him.

Then I discussed it with several girlfriends, both at home and abroad, who understand the delicate marital dynamics of having rats in one's attic.

Tonight I discussed it with our house guests. "I think I heard them," our friend said. In the kitchen, Matt announced, "I went up into the attic today and I have a plan. It seems very doable."

I listened to the plan and it may be doable, I don't know. I just asked that he call the critter guy and tell him not to come, because I am ready to remove myself from that loop, and that we do something fun with that amount of money. My tennis friend just got back from a trip to Dominica that she got with a Groupon, something like that would do okay.

I will keep you posted, trust.


delaine said...

Yikes! Rats! Skittering above your head! This blogpost has the making of a Dean Koontz book. You even used his favorite word, " susserated." While I have the greatest respect for Matt's intelligence, ingenuity, and can-do spirit, I think the price of $1360 is a bargain for what you'll get. And I'm with you on wanting to totally ignorant of the entire process. I remember too well Amy's rats in the pantry. When we were at Amy's last time, every single time I went into the pantry I thought about rats. It kinda works on your mind, doesn't it? Good luck and keep us posted.

Casey said...

I can tell you from experience that you DO WANT THE EXPERT. Well, I know you want that but it is the wise choice for your family. Jamie tried the do it yourself approach and when the traps didn't work, he haphazardly threw poison up there. Then one crawled off somewhere and DIED and there was no finding it so we had to live through the decomposing rat stench. In AUGUST. In FL. Please, call someone. I do not wish that stench on my worst enemy.

Jamieson Ridenhour said...

Oh dear oh dear. We had rats when we moved into our house in Columbia lo, many years ago. They also lived in the attic (though I never heard the terrifying term "roof rats"). We had a sort of recessed lighting thing in our bathroom that actually ad a little slit accessing the attic, where the flourescent lights sat. Sometimes in the morning there would be little rat handprints all around the edges of this light area, as if they were searching for ways to get down and use the sink.

Go for the professionals.

Anonymous said...

Oh my heavens to Betsy! The exterminator is an existing contractor? Not some mug off the street? What's yr homeowner's deductible? My DIY neighbor had a rat -- it was one rat, stalking -- and he spent a lot of OMG time at my house, drinking coffee & sulking abt frustrated traps. That guy doesn't go to work. The endeavor requires a lot of vigilance & follow-up. He got it, eventually. Idk. There was a whole DIY masonry project afterward. If this guy is going to hunt down the last rat + also do any builder's fortifications ... well. The power of a woman is silence.

Reading this reminded me of James Marshall's Rats on the Roof. Delightful! Good luck!

My Kids' Mom said...

Ha ha ha ha ha! Oh, I have so been there. We tried to cover our eyes and ears (at least I did) and make them go away by willing them away. Eventually the evidence was non negotiable. They were no longer in my attic. They CAME INTO MY KITCHEN and began to eat (1) our gingerbread house (2)my dishtowels and (3) a hole all the way through a cantaloupe.

I made the darling do it yourself husband admit defeat and I called for backup. He looked at the sticky traps my husband had set and told us how glad he was that we hadn't caught anything with them. Apparently the critters just get stuck, get angry, and drag the dang trap into the walls with them where they get stucker and eventually starve to death and ROT in your walls.

I am only telling you this as a Thoughtful and Concerned Reader. Let Matt fail quickly and have the Critter Dude on speed dial. He will be your new best friend.

Me? I still have Post Traumatic Rat Syndrome and I refuse to be the first person in the kitchen in the mornings.

505Belle said...

Ah the skittering of little feet. We have had squirrels in our attic, and after several frustrating years of finding and then repairing the holes they chewed in the soffits, were able to get rid of them by putting chicken wire all over possible entry points in the attic. My frustrated husband did shoot at one with a BB gun too, which crawled off and died in the insulation over our master closet, and THE SMELL. One night at 1 AM I couldn't take the smell any more, and made him go up and remove it with kitchen tongs. He was only able to get it by crawling on his belly through the insulation. I'm sure my son's sleepover guest had a colorful tale to tell his mother the next morning.

That's just my long-winded way of saying that professionals might be a good idea. Also, get a cat. I have an Olympic-quality mouser that you can borrow.

Cassi Renee said...

What is it with husbands? Mine would also absolutely be sure he wasn't going to spend that kind of money and then of course would end up spending more.

I had a mouse die in the blower motor of my car. The smell was indescribably bad --we had to have the windows open during below zero weather.

Good luck :-)

Lisa Lilienthal said...

What Casey said ^^^ is exactly what happened at my old house in Atlanta. Hire the experts! And I am with you on the one ear plug - I do the exact same thing.

Elizabeth said...

Oh, my god. I am a fearless woman in nearly every respect but rats. Whatever is decided, I AM ON YOUR SIDE.

Amy said...

Oh my goodness...ME TOO to the post traumatic rat syndrome and the refusing to be the first in the kitchen. And if we need to go in the kitchen in the middle of the night, to get medicine for one of the kids? NOT HAPPENING. Or at least, not me. :)

Amy said...

My sympathies!! But you know that. Someone mentioned it, but that whole rat dying in the walls thing is not pleasant. I mean for the humans living in the house, but I'm sure it's not so nice for the rat either.

In Australia they call the big ones "bush rats". Does that not strike terror into your heart?

AlGalMom said...

Gripping! We had rats living in our carport last fall. They'd found a half-full bag of chicken feed, and were living the high life behind our chest freezer. I am a firm believer in ignoring problems until they go away (it hasn't worked yet for laundry, but I persevere in hope) and amazingly, once we removed the food source and cleaned up a bit, they relocated. I'm pretty sure they haven't relocated to the attic, b/c there's an army of house sparrows living there and they are pretty badass. I don't think the rats want to mess with them.

AlGalMom said...

Also, my parents were househunting a few years ago, and this one house had a really nice jacuzzi in the master bath. They made an offer, and visions of long, luxuriant baths in the jacuzzi tub filled my mom's head--she would even climb in and give it a dry run. Then, on the day of inspection, the inspector found a huge rats' nest in the attic. Guess where they LOVED to snuggle up? Right up against the heater for the jacuzzi. Needless to say, they decided on a different house...the idea of a rat sharing your bath tends to stick in the mind...

Beth said...

Agreed all around. We had rats in our attic, and I ignored them for a long time until we came out for carpool & my 9 year old nearly tripped on a dead one in the garage. We got the specialist. They seal your joint up like nobody's business. PS, "nesting" in the insulation, in our case, meant entirely new insulation in the attic since it was, in the words of our contractor, "saturated" with rat pee & poop. Yay.

Anonymous said...

Ok, I feel like I might get in a lot of trouble with you for sharing this, but your post was fresh in my mind when I came across the link below and the Internet being what it is, I rushed over to share it with all those that are rat-concerned immediately. The gist is, they're using snipers to kill rats in Tehran, so if things don't go well with the DIY approach or the exterminator, consider contacting the government for plan C:

KristerT said...

I think this is a sign from above that you are supposed to move! Or at least, stay in a lovely, rat-free hotel while the problem is dealt with :)