Rats seem to be everywhere lately, but don’t worry about another great plague.
Last week Pete Springer was inspired by one of my archive blogs to write about his teaching days with class pets – rats. His post was headed by a picture of a most adorable rat which reminded me of TV star Roland Rat; the only rat to join a sinking ship, credited with saving TVam breakfast television in the 1980’s.
One of my children did have a pet rat in his class, I did hold it once and it was very cute; after all, rats are just big mice and I had pet mice in my junior school years. My friend and I bought two mice from Aldershot market, plus a little book on mice and assured our parents they were both male. Of course they weren’t. Luckily my father loved woodwork; the designer shed/greenhouse he had built himself was soon filled with cages and bags of hay and oats. We ended up with forty mice, some of them pregnant, I will draw a veil over what happened to them next.
By strange coincidence, just before Pete posted his blog, I heard from my friend 300 miles away ( too far away to be of any assistance ) that her young dog had found a rats’ nest in the garden. As a busy carer for her elderly mother the last thing she wanted to find on the staircase was a blind, hairless, mewling baby rat being tenderly licked by the dog. ( Handy hint, this is one of the many reasons why it is not a good idea to let dogs lick your face. )
Thankful that this could not happen to us as we don’t have a dog I was soon to get my come uppance. Since we finally got around to having the outside light in the back garden fixed it comes on quite often, usually to reveal a fox; the fox suspected of chewing up my garden shoes. Late one night ( at a time when only bloggers and foxes are awake ) the light came on and there was Mr. Fox playing with something furry, and it didn’t look like a slipper.
In the morning there was a dead rat on the back lawn. Obviously the fox has better things to eat. Feeling like a frontierswoman I trekked the few yards to the bottom of the garden and got the spade out. Throw him over the fence? No, we have nice neighbours. Put him in my compost bin? No, never put meat in your garden compost. The council food waste bin that you can put meat in? No it’s got our house number on. I gave him a woodland burial, relieved that I managed to scoop him off the grass with the spade. Two mornings later a second dead rat appeared. Perhaps the foxes are doing us a favour with rat control.
The ‘woodland garden’ is the corner where the compost bins and insect hotels hide; a tangle of apple tree, holly and ivy and sapling nursery. Cyberspouse suggested the piles of branches preserved for hedgehogs and insects are also luxury living for rats. I have never seen a hedgehog in our garden despite the plentiful supply of slugs for them to eat.
While we sign petitions to save hedgehogs and are reminded to mind the gap, leave holes in our fences for hedgehogs to travel, no one suggests we worry about the survival of rats. When does wildlife become a pest? Why are we not urged to protect rats’ environment and put food out for them?
What wildlife do you have in your neighbourhood?