It is said that you are never more than one metre from a rat in London. In Paris, the rats outnumber the humans. Many years ago, a cousin and I used to count the dead ones floating down the Seine. We have them in the countryside, too. Mostly, they don’t cause a problem here, since there is plenty of space for everyone. Bella the cat is an enthusiastic and efficient ratter, too. Unfortunately, the rats don’t always stay outside.
The picture at the top of the post is a brown rat, from Wikimedia Commons. Copyright Dunpharlain.
Occasionally, we find an unwelcome present on the doorstep: a dead rat. Unpleasant though it is to find them, we shower lavish praise on the cat. But we were mistaken when we thought she had polished off the local rat population.
Alerted by wood dust and debris on the kitchen counter, I clambered up to take a look. The tell-tale evidence was on the top of the kitchen cupboards: rather large droppings that were plainly not from mice.
Our suspicions became a certainty when I came down to the kitchen the following morning. A scrabbling noise made me look up. A rat was scurrying along a beam and disappeared into a gap under the ceiling in the corner.
It’s unusual to see a rat, since they are very good at hiding, despite being short-sighted. I wonder if this one was asleep on top of the kitchen cupboard and woke up when it heard me. They come inside attracted by the warmth in addition to looking for food.
The intruder is now imaginatively christened Ratty.
We couldn’t allow this to continue. Rats are unhygienic. They chew at electrical cables, wood and anything else they can get their teeth into. And where there’s one, there are usually more. A female rat can have up to 1,000 descendants in the space of a year.
Rats were historically blamed for carrying the fleas that spread the Bubonic plague, although recent research suggests humans themselves were the culprits rather than rats. Be this as it may, I don’t want to cohabit with a rat.
Off I went to the village quincaillerie (ironmonger’s). They sell just about everything except food, and if they don’t have what you want, they will order it.
“I need a rat trap (une nasse à rat),” I said. [I should explain that this is a humane trap that catches the animal but doesn’t kill it.]
“No problem. Come with me,” said Monsieur V.
Off we went down one of the aisles, which was stuffed to the gunwales with pest control products: insect sprays like ballistic missiles, murderous implements for massacring mice and boxes of poison with skull and crossbones prominently on the side.
Monsieur V got down a comparatively innocuous looking wire cage. It contains a small platform that tilts under the rat’s weight as it goes for the bait and snaps shut, trapping it inside. You then release Ratty somewhere far from home, thus making it someone else’s problem.
I handed over 25 euros.
“A lot of rats about this year,” Monsieur V said as a parting shot. Not greatly reassuring.
We set up the trap on top of a kitchen cupboard and waited. And waited. This was last Thursday, and there is no further evidence of Ratty, either inside or outside the trap. I read that rats are suspicious of new items, so maybe Ratty is shunning our carefully positioned piece of cheese. Or perhaps I frightened it away.
Before you suggest that we stop up all the holes from the outside, I invite you to come and see what an undertaking that would be.
More news of Ratty when/if we catch it.
In other news
I neglected to post on Monday, which was actually the blog’s 12th anniversary as well as, coincidentally, being Valentine’s Day. This information may not be of great interest to anyone but me. However, it brought home that I have been writing Life on La Lune for almost half the time we have lived here: a total of 748 posts.
During those 12 years, people from all around the globe have read the blog, and I have been lucky enough to meet some of you. I always enjoy reading your comments, whether here on the blog or on Facebook or Twitter.
In case you’re wondering, I have no plans to hang up my blogging hat just yet. There are still so many things to share about life in France, even during these strange times.
Thank you for reading and engaging with my scribblings. Stay well.
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