So this is disgusting, but apparently there’s a big old rat problem in our county. Not mice, but rats. Big Fat Rats. As you may  know we have (had) a pretty cool squirrel-proof bird feeder in one of our gardens. I loved watching our birds feed from it until one night in May when I looked out around dusk and there was a big fat rat chowing down under the feeder. The feeder was removed the next day.

We thought the rats would move out once our bird feeder was removed, but our rat incident hit at the time of a perfect storm. Apparently our neighbors had and rat problem under their addition (they got into the a/c duct work in their house from there!!) and had managed to get the rats out, evicting them and sending them in search of a new home. The area under our shed turned out to be a great spot to settle. Rats.

We called a company out to evaluate the problem and thankfully they hadn’t entered our house or the inside of the shed. We thought we’d take matters into our own hands and set out some bait stations and a couple of traps. But when I had a staring contest with a rat in broad daylight (they’re more nocturnal) as I was walking to my car (I stepped toward him and he took off under my office, YIKES!) and then when we chopped the head off a chipmunk with a trap, instead of a rat, I knew something more had to be done.

I called the pest control company and made an appointment to set up our house with bait stations like you see along the back sides of grocery store exteriors. Big black things that are tamper proof for kids, dogs and other pets, but full of poison that the rats eat at the stations themselves.

The week after the pest company came out to set the stations Feeney caught a rat. A big fat disgusting rat. S told him to “leave it,” he dropped it and S finished it off with a nearby cinder block to the rat's head. It makes me want to lose my lunch thinking of it. We had guests at the time. Shudder. After that the pest company doubled up their efforts, coming out every other week for no additional charge. 

We’ve made a few changes around the Hive too, per recommendations from our county. Rats live both indoors and outdoors, but ours is an outdoor problem (thank goodness!) Outdoors they live: under wood piles or lumber that is not often used; under bushes, vines, and in tall grasses that are not trimmed or cut back; under rocks in the garden; in cars, appliances, and furniture that has been put outside and is no longer being used; in and around trash and garbage that has been left on the ground; in holes under buildings. So to keep rats at bay these are some of the tips our county provides:

•    Stack fire wood 18 inches off the ground and away from all buildings.
•    Birdhouses and seed should be on poles and in trays rats can't get at.
•    Keep garbage cans covered tightly.
•    Plant bushes so they will stay at least 3 feet from your house.
•    Keep yards and alleys clean. Take junk to the dump!
•    If you feed them, they will stay. Pick up fruit and vegetables in your yard.
•    Do not compost any animal products (fish, meat, chicken, cheese, butter).
•    Use only rodent resistant compost bins.
•    In basements, keep any food in closed containers that rats can't chew through.
•    Cover all openings to your house. Rats can get into very small places.
•    Do not leave your pet food outside. If your pet doesn't eat it, the rats will.
•    Roof rats get into your house from tree branches that hang over the roof. Keep trees cut back and cover any openings in the eaves.
•    Keep rats out of your sewer pipes! Rats live in sewers and can follow the food in pipes up to your toilet. (OMG!!!!)
•    Keep your kitchen sink rinsed clean and use garbage disposals as little as possible.
•    Rinse out your kitchen sink once or twice a month with 1 cup of bleach and boiling water. (As an alternative to bleach, use 1 cup of baking soda followed by 1 cup of vinegar.)
•    Never throw grease down the drain.
•    Keep your toilet lid down when not in use.
•    If you find a rat in your toilet, flush it! (Hint: squirt a little dishwashing liquid under the lid into the bowl, wait a couple of minutes, then flush.)

OMG dishwshing liquid!?! To make the rat slippery so it flushes!?!? I've definitely lost my lunch.

Our rat population is dwindling and probably would so even more, if our second neighbor, whose shed is in serious disrepair, would join in the battle. Alas, they’re not concerned with the problem, so for now we’re fattening the neighborhood rats on some serious rat caviar and sending them to the sewers in search of water. It’s so disgusting.

Any experience with these unwanted guests?

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  1. i have never seen them in a residential area and it makes me queasy! i have only ever seen them on the tracks at underground metro/subway systems.... that is enough for me. so sorry you are having to deal with this!

    1. Thanks, Cassie. At least Maddox, the Feens and I are away in greener pastures for the summer ;) Y.U.C.K.

  2. Oh, I'm having this problem, too. Actually, it has gone on for years (since 2004), but this year seems especially bad. We have a neighbor who leaves piles and piles of yard waste in the yard next to our fence. Branches and brush. Grass clippings. Leaves. All in heaps. For years, we have been snap trapping rats. Yes, we've done in a few chipmunks, but I'm really against poison. See this: http://outwalkingthedog.wordpress.com/2012/03/17/the-trash-of-two-cities-how-our-trash-kills-our-hawks/
    Or, just google rat poison and hawks, owls.

    I'm in the City of Falls Church, just a stone's throw from you. I had the health inspector (Fairfax) out to look over my property. Nothing in my yard. A few nests were located next door. No surprise. Nothing said about cleaning up the piles of yard debris. Poison recommended.

    This is a very frustrating problem. I'm sticking to the snap traps for now, but might have to go the poison route as well. The population really seems to have proliferated this summer. I also saw a rat a couple mornings ago, in daylight, crossing from one side of the street to the other. Yuck.

    Make sure Feeney is vaccinated for Lepto. The rats pose a risk to him as well.

    Neighbors really have to work together to make this sort of problem go away.

    Good luck. Keep us posted!

  3. Anonymous7/20/2012

    Oh my goodness. Rats in the toilet?!? That's disgusting. We had our own little rat nightmare in the past (two different incidents actually). I'll spare you the details, it was traumatic enough to live it. I hope you guys are rid of those pests soon! Sarah

  4. Thanks FELIS!!! Now, I'm going to be looking in the toilet every time I pee. Holy...crap? And to think...I thought Feens aka "the small animal eradicator" would've gotten rid of this problem long ago! DC rats have no fear!!

  5. AGH! I had no idea about roof and toilet rats! I've only worried about roof and toilet snakes...maybe rats aren't a huge problem in the South? Oh, oh, good luck!

  6. I wonder if the city or county might help convince the rat-loving neighbors to do something, since their property is kind of a public nuisance (like when there's junk piles or abandoned cars or high weeds). Sometimes a letter from a government entity, or the threat of a fine, will put a scofflaw's feet to the flame. Perhaps they are older or feeble and unable to handle the work involved. Maybe the city can help with that. Would they let you put bait down around their shed? And by the way, roof rats ARE creepy looking, but if they had fluffy tails we'd think they were adorable!

  7. There are no words... I'm against poison to since I had a cat to die from eating a mouse who had eaten poison... You don't want the details.. They make large RAT traps that pop over and kill them. My advice for those is to take panty hose, cut you two square pieces, lay them one on top of the other, put whatever bait your using (peanut butter, peanuts, wrap it up and pull the pantyhose through the little hole where you put the food, set trap and watch! The rats teeth get caught in the panty hose and they have to tug and WHAM they are caught! But hubby has to dispose of it!

  8. We had rats in our last rental. They weren't in our house per se, but we could hear them crawling and scratching inside the walls. It was TERRIBLE. It was the creepiest feeling and I couldn't relax in my own house.

    We had inspectors come out and did all they suggested. We cut back all the beautiful vines that were growing in our yard, laid out snail poison in our yard (apparently, they LOVE escargot), plugged up all the vents we could find and set out traps and rat poison.

    We'd catch several rats in traps and a few died of the poison my husband laid out (and if you can avoid using poison, I suggest you do because that's not pleasant either. The rats can die somewhere you can't reach/find them and, then, they attract flies. Not cute little flies that you shoo away at picnics but big, honkin', blood-sucking flies the size of dimes that don't die the first few times you swat them out of air...you have to find where they land and stomp them. And they come in swarms. More than once, I came home to an audible buzzing sound, there were so many flies). Then we'd have peace and quiet for a few days. And then the next wave of rats would move in and it would start all over again.

    It turned out the apartment building we lived next to had a huge rat problem that, to them, wasn't a problem. Add to the problem that almost every house on our block had a fruit tree or a garden (this is California, after all) and the rats were well fed, no matter how much we tried to clean up our yard. Plus, that apartment building literally butted up to our house. Like...it used to be connected, but over the years, the foundations had shifted and now there's a 3" space between our buildings. Bad for us, trying to shore up the integrity of our house, great for rats, looking for even the smallest holes to gain access to our home.

    We did start to get the problem under control when my husband crawled to the far corner of our basement and found an tiny, old vent that was inaccessible from outside (because it was along that 3" space) and covered it up with copper mesh (supposedly, rats hate to chew on copper because of the taste). We still had to kill all the rats that were still in the walls, but it seemed to be getting better.

    However, I'm not sure how the battle ended because when our lease was up, we got the hell out of there. I was 7 months pregnant and we did not want that worry and stress.

    Sorry for such a dire picture of the battle against rats (especially since I know you don't have the "move out" option). It sounds like you're doing all the right things--fix any loose siding or holes outside, block up all the outside vents with mesh and then lattice work (you want air flow, but not rats), cut back bushes and vines and don't leave dog food or fallen fruit. If you have a doggie door, keep it closed as much as possible.

    One good thing is that you PROBABLY won't have to worry about rats in your plumbing. Generally, that's a different species of rat and as longs as your sewer pipes and plumbing have no breaks in them, you're good. The suggestions for keeping plumbing "clean" are all still good prevention measures all the same.

    I hope your neighbors really get on board with the effort because as long as they have a rat problem, you will have a rat problem. Perhaps see if you can start up a neighborhood "beautification" day to clean up some general problems and they might be inspired to do their part?


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