Once upon a time, not so long ago, a mom was happily reading her latest copy of the Huisgenoot magazine, and her daughter (me) was peacefully sleeping, that is, until the clock struck 00:00 – midnight – the hour that the ghastly gnawing creature made its appearance in the master bedroom.
With a creaking sound, much like the melancholic creaking of a crow, I was awakened. Why, I think, would a crow… hadeda… some sort of bird be shrieking at this hour? I hear my name being called out in a state of panic. Now, this has grabbed my attention: first a bird-like quacking, then mother dearest sounding as if something awful has happened. Oh no, what can it be?
I find mother perched on her knees in the middle of the bed, with the blanket up to her chin, quivering with fear, “There is a rat in the room!” she shouts and points to the corner of the room, at the window. This does not surprise me – I have been hearing the pitter patter of tiny rat paws in the ceiling for a while now. Since the Rattus rattus (aka the black rat) is known to often climb (I saw it try to jump out of the window upon approaching it, and yes, they can jump too!) and are rarely found outdoors in South Africa. They prefer the warm, cozy homes of us humans, where there is tons of food and shelter.
What however does surprise me, is the terrified reaction of ‘super mom’ – who I can call on to open the most hard-to-open of jars, who has told off mean teachers throughout my school life, and who will probably be able to lift a car if I were to be trapped underneath it, hypothetically speaking.
Although, I silently compose myself to keep mother calm, I must admit that this is not the most comfortable of situations I have found myself in, as rats can transmit at least 35 diseases to humans and carry also leptospirosis also known as Weil’s disease, a bacteria found in fresh water that has been contaminated by rodent urine which leads to various illnesses. The horror!
Rats further urinate continually, to communicate traveling pathways to other rats. Black rats have 5 – 10 young per litter and 3 – 6 litters a year. If they were to reproduce this much, I will have to start charging them rent! Plus, there is no way I am allowing a rat highway in the master bedroom! Armed with this knowledge of these disease ridden, reproducing critters, I am careful not to come directly into contact with this furry vengeance.
As soon as Rattus spots me, he scampers in beneath the bed. I bend down and see him go completely still – a defense mechanism – in the hope that I will go away. Eventually, he dashes toward the other end of the room, seeking an escape. A solution in getting rid of Rattus was to try and direct him in the direction of the bathroom with a window he can climb through. Eew! I step onto a sausage shaped dropping – which these rats seem to leave everywhere – and I ‘sheep herd’ Rattus to the bathroom. Success! Rattus runs in and I close the door. Phew. It tell my mom that rats can also flatten themselves up to 1cm in height and squeeze in underneath doors. She regards me with an anxiously upset expression. Pursing my lips together and trying not to burst out in bouts of laughter, I grab a few copies of her Huisgenoot magazines and stuff them beneath the door. That should do it.
“Sleep easy mother dearest”, I say as I leave her bedroom, “you can share my bed with me if you like”. The next morning Rattus was gone, having finally made his escape, leaving behind a trail of his excavations (a pathway of rat droppings – one resting on the windowsill).
We really do need the help of the Rentokil rodent control experts, to give us tips on how to get rid of rats, prevent our rat problem from escalating and stop these pesky pests from contaminating our home.
Goodbye, little Rattus. I sure do hope you find a good home – away from mine, that is!