Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Rats!

One of my fellow pet sitters, Anita Gunton, tells this story:

I have been doing overnights all this week. Last night, I had an avocado with dinner. I set the avocado pit on the counter. This morning, I woke up, started coffee and noticed one of the dachshunds had the avocado pit in her mouth. She was chomping and crunching on it. I tried to get her to give it to me. She thought it was a game and ran around the house with it in her mouth. I kept telling her to give it to me and then pried her mouth open and pulled it out. I thought it seemed a bit "mushy," but figured she had just been chewing on it for awhile. Imagine my dismay (and horror!) when I realized it was a rat's HEAD! I am still grossed out!!
Love the story Anita- I've had a few of those experiences. I pulled a stick out of the culvert behind my house because I thought it was blocking the water. Imagine my horror when I held it up and discovered it had teeth and feet and I was holding onto the tail of a very dead possum.

Last week, I was enjoying a perfectly glorious evening on the patio, and strolled into the house with my glass of wine to find a dead rat laying on the dog bed-- and the cat on one side and the dachsund on the other, sniffing carefully...

Not all rat stories are gross, however. There used to be a tiny mouse in my barn that sat on the edge of the feeder and watched my horse, Spice, eat her breakfast every morning. He was so little and cute I didn't have the heart to chase him off. 

In my early years as a horse owner, I wasn't used to living among wild creatures. A total city girl, I moved to Issaquah, WA, and got my first horse. I bought a box of sugar cubes for treats, and put it in the tack room. The next day, all the sugar cubes were gone. 

I went to put my boots on to go for a ride, and there were sugar cubes in toes of each boot! I put them back in the box (very naive), and the next day the sugar was gone again. This time, a row of sugar cubes sat atop the saddle, underneath the saddle pad I had tossed on top of it. 

Later, I went up to the loft of the barn to throw hay down to the horses. I moved a bale and between the two bales was a row of about 50 sugar cubes, neatly lined up and stored for future use. 

Of course rats are not the best houseguests. They carry hantavirus, which humans can get from inhaling fumes from rat feces. And if your dog eats a poisoned rat, the dog could get sick and die too. When we lived in Issaquah, we ended up having an extermination company come in and clean out our basement, as rats had torn up the insulation and made nests, and there was waste everywhere. 

Here's some info on hantavirus: Any rodents are dangerous, although only deermice are known to carry the hantavirus.  Just to be safe, don't sweep any dusty places that may have mice, wet it down with 10% bleach and let it sit 20 minutes. Wear a mask and gloves, and shovel it into a double bag, and trash it. For more info, the Center for Disease Control (CDC) has a web site:

http://www.cdc.gov/ncidod/diseases/hanta/hps/noframes/FAQ.htm

Here in San Diego I recently had a rat problem. Sitting at my computer one evening, I turned off the television and realized there was a scratching noise above my head. Undoubtedly rats in the attic. Later, in bed, I watched my cats sit under the air conditioning vent, looking up and listening to the rats. I put poison in the attic, and they are gone now. But I worried about the pets finding the dying rats before I did.

Photo: Our barn in Issaquah. I miss it!

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