Ladies and Gentlemen: The Rat has Left the Building

I’ve been dying to say that for weeks: the rat has left the building.

The End.

If you want the full story, please read on.

Mr. Rat is not a family ‘pet’ but a wild rat brought indoors against his will by one of our cats. Apparently he’s a tenacious and good-natured rat, willing to make the best of life in our abode. If you’ve been following along since late last year, you’ll know of the varied and unsuccessful eviction attempts . If not, you can catch up here and here.

Mr. Rat knows how to enter and exit live traps with impunity. My rodent nemesis ate the proffered peanut butter, set off the trap, yet somehow remained on the winning end of freedom.

peanut butter in rat trap

The peanut butter is gone but the cracker remains

He lived under the dishwasher for a spell where he chewed through the electrical wiring. The appliance was out of commission for a week, but the rat wisely chewed through the grounded wire, avoiding certain electrocution.

At some point he moved into our entertainment center. It was warm and cozy there, so he started a nest sometime around Christmas. How else to explain the pretty colored paper shredded behind the receiver?

hiding rat

Mr. Rat hunkered down in the entertainment center

My husband Mike caught the rat between gloved hands during one of our attempts to liberate our furry guest. The rat squealed, Mike let go and another several weeks passed without a clue to the rat’s whereabouts.

Last week, Mr. Rat moved back to the entertainment center and I was sure victory would be mine. I had him cornered with the door flung open to the fresh air. The gentlemen from pest control assured me that the rat wanted to go outside.

After erecting a barrier blocking the living room and leading straight to the door, the rat apparently rounded the corner instead and disappeared. But…but…the door was wide open! This rat is terrible at following directions.

On the other side of the living room wall is a coat closet, a small guest bathroom and our laundry room. All sorts of new places to hide. Did I really leave the coat closet ajar?

Yes. Yes I did!

After gingerly removing coats, tablecloths, shoes and the like, it was clear that I’d been outsmarted by Mr. Rat once again. All my rat-hunting time was up, so I reluctantly left the house for the rest of day. When I returned home, my temporarily rearranged furniture was there mocking me.

Then around supper time, Mouse the cat revealed a clue. Mouse showed a new fascination with the toilet in our guest bathroom, just to the right of the coat closet. Could it be? With my son’s help, we placed a mirror behind the toilet and shone a flashlight into the back opening. Nothing. Yet the cat’s interest persisted.

Oh Mr. Rat! This is no way to live. The garden has so many opportunities for growth and enrichment. Why would you want to hang out under the cold recesses of a toilet?

On the plus side, Mr. Rat had nowhere else to go. I made another impromptu barrier along the face of the washer and dryer. We opened the exterior laundry room door to the cool, fresh, inviting night air. Mike removed the water valve, unscrewed the entire toilet from the floor and lifted it skyward.

under the toilet

The ugly side of liberating a rat

The rat dropped to the floor. Did he run toward the door? Of course not. He ran toward the sink, now blocked, then ran straight for me where he circled my ankles while I stood there stock still. Then and only then did he run out the door into the night.

I ran after him with my camera but he made a clean get away, which is more than I can say for the mess he left.

At long last, The End.

mike victorious-004

Mike celebrates our victory


How to Catch and Lose a Rat in 10 Easy Steps

Step 1:

Approach the living room and immediately note the cat’s suspicious behavior. Kitty is facing the entertainment center with the attentiveness of a hunter with cornered prey.

Step 2:

Listen for the tell-tale scurrying of a mouse or rat. Yep. No mistaking that sound.

Step 3:

Call for back up. In this case I asked my son to close the cat in a room and keep him there till further notice.

Step 4:

Search under and around the 400 pound entertainment center, flashlight in hand, nerves on edge. With my son’s help, roll up the carpet and maneuver the heavy furniture away from the wall.

Step 5:

Note the beautiful markings on the healthy, brown rat dancing a jig on the wires. Shudder. Estimate the size of the rat, just for fun. (Six inches of rat, plus another six inches of rat-tail.) Let’s call it an even dozen.

Step 6:

Realize you will not sleep tonight knowing an enormous rat is running loose in your house.

Step 7:

Watch the rat drop down from the wires, and attempt to hide under the entertainment center. Thinking you have him cornered, look up, then down, only to have him disappear like a rabbit in a magician’s hat: here one second, gone the next.

Step 8:

Plop down on the sofa, chin in hand, nerves frayed and ponder your next move.

Aside: at this point my husband walks through the front door, takes one look at me and asks ‘what’s wrong?’ A mere nod of my head toward the rolled up carpet and displaced furniture is all he needs in the way of an answer. Yes, we’ve been through this before.

Step 9:

Re-locate the rat. Employ two adults, one teenager, a pair of flashlights and your wits.

Aha! The rat has managed to circle the entertainment center, crawl up the back, through one of the holes for the wires and back to his nest. Apparently he’s been here awhile. Could this be our kitchen rat at long last?

Step 9(a):

Photograph the rat through the hole in the entertainment center (Hey I write a blog you know).

hiding rat

The back-end of the receiver and the back-end of the rat

Step 9(b):

Tape three of the four potential exits closed with cellophane tape and cardboard. Cover the fourth opening with long, narrow plastic bags originally used to cover the newspaper. Add a cracker for good measure.

wires everywhere

How to build a failed rat trap

Step 9(c):

Stand guard at the back of the opening hoping the rat will exit through the hole, into the bag so I can spirit him out the back door. Meanwhile my husband Mike gingerly removes the stereo receiver.

Step 9(d):

The rat has two options: One, exit into the bag, or two, fly out the front of the cabinet. He goes with option two. Mike grabs the rat between two gloved hands, the rat squeals, and a startled Mike drops the rat to the floor. He makes a run for it. (The rat, not my husband).

e center wires

Mouse the cat is hot on the trail. Wires and rat droppings everywhere. Ugh

Step 9(e):

The three of us watch as the rat makes a break for it. He avoids the open door (of course) and runs under the book shelf instead. Thinking that clearly we have him cornered (and we do), we also realize there is a ‘secret compartment’ left by the builder between the wall and the cabinet. The little compartment is cozy, rat-sized and available.

Aside: We’re all exhausted at this point and decide to regroup.

Step 10:

Watch gratefully as Mike wraps tape around the lower half of the bookshelf and sets the live trap. There is only one way out and that is into the trap. Now we wait.

live rat trap

One way out. Mike sets the trap. Mouse supervises

Unwanted Gifts, Ahead by a Whisker

slinky on the desk

Slinky lounging on my desk

I’m ready to pull my hair out, but I’m having a hot cup of tea instead. I’m trying to sooth my nerves. A curled up Slinky sits next to me on the desk and the leaves outside my window are finally turning orange. Breathe, Alys, breathe.

We have a standing joke that when my husband travels on long business trips, something in the house breaks.  I think of myself as capable in a crisis, but computers and home appliances are generally outside of my purview.  He left town late Thursday, and on Friday the dishwasher stopped working. Initially, I refused to believe it. It was one of those weeks. I played with the buttons, hoping it was just the light. Next I went outside and checked the fuse box. All appeared to be in order, but I reset it anyway and came back inside. No luck. I got down on my knees to see if the machine came unplugged. Isn’t it nice when it’s something that obvious? That’s when I saw the frayed cord. Chewed, actually. Did I mention the unwanted gift?

mouse looking round

Mouse doing his Butterball turkey impression

Mouse (a cat) likes to catch rats (alive and well) and bring them in the house. The cat flap is now firmly closed and any open door carefully monitored. You know what they say about hindsight. Mouse brought us a gift anyway, and it’s alive and well, living in a little condo formerly known as my under-sink cabinet. There is a small hole to allow the hose and plug to the dishwasher to pass under the sink. The other side of the cabinet has a similar opening for a water pipe. For a week  now, the rat has been passing between the two holes, but firmly out of reach.  My oldest son made a humane rat trap based on internet research, but the rat apparently has a Ph.D. and refused to fall for it. We tried two different containers, baited with delicious peanut butter and crackers but to no avail.  We put down a ‘test cracker’ to be sure he was still coming around and that cracker disappeared.  Clever rodent.

Last night I found a small, humane trap online at Home Depot. I stopped by the local store this morning, but it isn’t in stock. The smaller size is only available online. The store clerk, a kind and helpful man, tried to order it for me three times using my credit card. The system kept sending a message that the account number and address didn’t match. Of course they did, but we reentered it again and again to no avail.  After several more attempts using two different credit cards and finally PayPal, the annoying message persisted.

Back home I called around, still hoping to get my hands on a small, humane trap in town. The Humane Society doesn’t sell them, and the traps available at Lowe’s and Home Depot are for larger animals.  Desperate to get my hands on a trap, I called the Home Depot 800 number and explained the problem. She said I would have to call my financial institution to clear the hold on my account.

I called my credit union and they told me I didn’t have a hold on my account. I logged on to see if there was  a problem with the first credit card I tried using and found four separate charges to Home Depot, each for one dollar.

target home depot screen capture

Pending transactions?

Don’t worry, the tea is helping and I still have most of my hair. I’m trying to breathe in and out with the rhythm of the cat. Breathe…breathe…breathe.

I made a note of Target’s 800 number and gave them a call. I pushed numbers and pound signs and cycled through the proffered choices. A recorded voice told me my balance, the date of my last payment, my recent charges…pretty much everything but what to do about those charges and how to make my card work again.

The game’s not over yet, but I’m sitting on the bench for a spell. I don’t know the current score, but I’m pretty sure the rat is ahead by more than a whisker.

Spiders and Lizards and Rats, Oh My!

My version of Halloween is pretend-scary. I trot out the plastic spiders and the rubber rats, then I fill in liberally with pumpkins.

Yesterday, life was having none of that.

Bungee Spiders

It finally cooled down by ten degrees spurring us into decorating action. My son set up his inflatables while I rearranged the deck furniture. I took my baskets of succulents from the hooks, gave them a quick tap, then set them in the kitchen sink for a cool drink. I put them out back this time of year to make room for decorating.

Giant cat inflatable and the great white hunter

Giant cat inflatable and the great white hunter

I saw a quick movement emerging from the stems and a spider *jumped* out of the plant. Spiders climb and swing in my experience, but this one jumped. It went from the plant into the sink, then half way out of the sink it jumped again. Yikes. I quickly gathered my wits and grabbed my spider catcher, keeping an eye on the jumper at all times. With the spider safely ensconced, I walked quickly to the back of the garden and released it on the rock wall. The bungee spider jumped one more time, turned in my direction and looked right at me with… blue eyes!!!  That really creeped me out.

Addendum: I’ve since learned that my bungee spider is none other than Phidippus audax. Based on the orange legs, my little visitor is a juvenile.  His eyes aren’t blue, but his chelicerae are. Feel free to use that word in a sentence over the next few days. According to Wiki:

Phidippus audax is a common jumping spider of North America. It is commonly referred to as the daring jumping spider, or bold jumping spider. The average size of adults ranges from roughly 13–20 millimetres (0.51–0.79 in) in length. They are typically black with a pattern of spots and striped on their abdomen and legs. Often these spots are orange-tinted in juveniles, turning white as the spider matures. The spider belongs to the genus Phidippus, a group of jumping spiders easily identified both by their relatively large size and their iridescent chelicerae. In the case of P. audax, these chelicerae are a bright, metallic green or blue.

Lizards are us

Mighty Mouse, our friendly neighborhood cat, brings us lizards. It’s happened so often in the past few months, that my boys simply call out ‘lizard!’ and I’m spurred into action. Protocol is as follows:

  • Confine the cat in a bedroom while someone else keeps an eye on the lizard.
  • Assess the size of the lizard, and find an appropriate plastic container, preferably with a view.
  • Grab a piece of cardboard and tiptoe behind the frightened and temporarily paralyzed little critter.
  • Pounce! I can’t stress this step enough. Otherwise the lizard goes skittering all over the place and my only option is to gradually coax a terrified and sometimes hissing lizard towards an open door.
  • Relocate the lizard in the back of the garden and hope he finds his way to safety.
Tiny lizard catching sun on the rock wall

Tiny lizard catching sun on the rock wall

Rat a Shoe-y

7:30 each morning is a flurry. Boys grabbing backpacks and lunches, putting on shoes and heading out the door for the carpool. It was the same this morning, but for one exception. My son put on his first shoe without a problem. When he stepped into his second shoe he could feel something at the end. He picked it up, looked inside and found himself gazing at a live rat. Startled of course, he screamed and tossed the shoe into the air and off scurried the rat.

Unfortunately only part of the lizard protocol works when you’re trying to capture a rat: cats confined to the bedroom. The rest is by the seat of your pants.

Unable to stay for further investigation, I left the rat patrol to my husband and quickly fled with the boys.

There are two up-sides to this story. My son is fine. No bites or scratches to his tender toes. Further, I had a proud-mama moment when, once recovered, he worried that he hurt the rat. Mike rearranged the furniture in the most interesting fashion, and in the end, the tiny rat fled through the back door.

The last text from Mike:

The cats did a once over of the living room and declared it boring, which I take as rat-free. I left it in disarray. Sorry. Just push everything back.

rearranged furniture

Rat-free living room


No-Candy Countdown:

Throughout October, I’m keeping track of the candy I **don’t** eat.  They say it takes thirty days to make or break a habit, but I must say that eight days in I’m feeling great.  Yesterday I discovered Fat-Bottom-Fifties Get Fierce, via Pauline. M and E are doing their own 30 day challenge and are encouraging others to join in. You can follow along at Getting Fierce Goal-fest! There’s nothing like putting your commitment up on the internet, is there?

Under-the-sea Costume Update:

Since I don’t have the luxury of a crafting room, our living room doubles as my sewing space. This morning I set up my sewing machine, the ironing board, my ‘selfie’ and all my supplies so I’m ready to drape and sew.

Pumpkins on Parade:

Special thanks to Pauline for The Contented Crafter for the fourth suggestion this month. Pauline says:

I very much like your Baker Pumpkin – good on Boomdee for making that pick! – and I would like to suggest a gardening pumpkin in honour of the hard work and the hours you put in to your actual garden and your blog garden 🙂

gardener pumpkin

Garden Pumpkin

Garden Pumpkin Key: Hydrangea hair nestled in my new Flower Arranger. An elaborate collar, also made from hydrangeas, with an Alyssum necklace. Eyebrows crafted from Acer leaves and the lips pouting away between Acer seed pods. The nose leaf comes from one of the Abutilon. Bluebell eyes, punctuated with black flower seeds. Fluttering lashes come from a fern.  That cute little spade: a treasure from my recent trip to Victoria. It’s actually a key chain.  I’m incorporating it into my costume as well. The gardener looks pensive, but she really does have fun playing in the dirt.
You can read more about pumpkin-dress up month at, NEWS FLASH! Halloween Takes Over Gardening Blog.

If you have any suggestions for ‘pumpkin costume of the day’ please let me know. I’ll see what I can do.

The Year of the Horse, The Week of the Rat

Tree Rat

Tree rat

You know where this is going, don’t you?

The Year of the Horse was officially under way last Friday, but the week of the rat kept me occupied.

Last week my neighbor called and asked for a favor.  Would I please come over and help her catch a live rat, set loose in the house by one of her cats.

I’m a bit of an expert. I live with Lindy the Gentle Hunter. Lindy brings live, unharmed rats into the house and sets them loose.  Since they’re not presented in typical cat-sharing fashion (i.e. dead at your feet) I can only assume she’s invited them in as roommates.  The first rat hung out under the TV cabinet for a while. My sweet kitty set another one loose in the den, a third in my son’s room and one day I discovered a rat hanging upside down from the dining room table.

I’m not afraid of rats, per se.  I just don’t want them running around inside my  house.  Further, a frightened animal of any stripe has sharp teeth and incentive to use them.  So, out they go.

Like Lindy, I too am a gentle hunter.  It took an hour to liberate the first rat, after chasing it down the hall, into and out of the sealed back of our refrigerator, under some shelves, etc. It’s a wonder the poor little thing didn’t die from a stroke.  In the end I formed a ‘bowling alley’ of sorts, using a rolled up rug and a few other household items.  The rat had nowhere to go but out.  I can still picture him flying out the back door in the wee hours of the morning.  My skills improved over time and common sense finally came knocking on my door.  Rats are nocturnal.  Head slap!  We started closing the cat-flap in the laundry room at dusk and guess what? Not a single new roommate since.

I digress.

When my neighbor called, I sprung into action. Using a few gym mats, some building block toys and a few other items, I was able to show the rat the door in 15 minutes.

Also last week, I discovered rat droppings in our garage at the top of a cabinet.  I have no idea what a rat would be doing up there: no food, no shelter, but I need to don a mask and take care of that as well.

Sunday morning I woke to rain, glorious rain. I headed outside for  fresh air and some pictures when I spotted a…white rat…in the Magnolia.

ghostly rat

Ghostly rat

I don’t believe in ghosts, but this one gave me pause.  I did what any other blogger would do: I snapped pictures.  It wasn’t moving, so emboldened, I got closer.

white rat

Getting closer…

Still not moving.  Weird.

halloween webbing

White rat??? Nope

I had a good laugh once I realized what it was, and had some fun with my family, too.  It was a ghost of a sort…the ghost of last year’s Halloween decorations, still stuck in the tree.

Happy Year of the Horse.

Scurvy in Rats? Not in our Yard

Our orange tree produces fragrant blossoms, shelter for the squirrels and mediocre fruit.  Unless of course you’re a roof rat.  The last time my son climbed that tree at dusk he encountered a rat. He hasn’t been up the tree since.  I’ve never actually seen them in action, but every morning I find half a dozen perfectly hollowed oranges littering the ground.  The rats are probably out there as I type this, peeling an orange and getting high on vitamin C.  When the party is over, they could at least have the decency to clean up after themselves!

Orange Deception

Orange Deception

Here's the Scoop

Here’s the Scoop