Thursday, May 17, 2012


If you were on Twitter yesterday afternoon then you already know most of this story. If not, buckle up. It's gonna be a SQUEAKY ride.

So...remember those scratching noises I mentioned way back during my Supernatural post? The ones that would always start up around 2AM and freak us right the heck out? Well, they kind of went away, and then came back, and then John put this strong spruce-smelling stuff up there that's supposed to ward off varmints, and then it went away again.

When the scritching came back again John got a humane metal trap and put *that* up there. Since it was in our back room, which was an addition to the house, there's no crawl space up there - just a tiny space you can stick your arm (or a boxy metal trap) inside. And since that room is directly under the branches of our massive backyard tree, we kept telling ourselves it was probably a squirrel.

Then we waited.

And waited.

And nothing happened.

The past few nights the noises have gotten a bit louder, like the squirrel was either moving its little squirrely furniture around or leading a rodent jazzercise class, so John and I finally agreed it was time to call in the professionals. We hated to do it, since we didn't want to actually *kill* anything, but it seemed we no longer had any choice.

The very next afternoon - yesterday - I was sitting on the couch working on my laptop when I heard a ceiling-shaking metallic *CLANK!!* I felt like hitting the fire alarm and yelling a triumphant, "WE GOT ONE!!!" but since we don't have a fire alarm I just yelled for John instead.

Cut to: John standing on a ladder outside in the rain (the ceiling access is under the roof line) with me standing inside at the window beside him, calling helpful things like, "Don't fall!" and "Can you see it yet?"

There was a bit of scraping and huffing from John, and then:



"I think it might be hurt."

"OH NO! Really? I thought the trap wouldn't hurt it!!" Desperately I tried to think of a vet that would treat injured squirrels. (Hey, I bet the smelly vet would do it!)

"No, wait. Never mind. He's not hurt. He's just being an [censored]."

I took a moment to process this. "Um. How does that work, exactly?"

At this point John heaved the cage into view, revealing a small-ish sized squirrel with a rat tail. Well, ok, maybe it was a rat. But I prefer to think of it as a squirrel who just Nair'ed his tail, ok?

Naturally, I did what any woman would do when faced with a caged rat pulled from her attic:

I ran to get my camera.

I told John to strike a triumphant pose with his bounty. I got this:

Because of the rain I instructed John to take it into the garage so I could get a cute close-up.

Yeeeeah...about that....

So it turns out, rats aren't terribly cute. I mean, don't get me wrong, I like rodents as much as the next girl - growing up my friend even had a lovely white rat with a spots like spilled chocolate milk -  but let's face it, they're no Fennec foxes.

Still, I did the best I could:

It helps to imagine him in a little cloak and guest-starring on the Secret of Nimh. And also that I cropped out his tail. Those things are mega squicky. [shudder]

Oh, and when I asked John what he meant about the rat being an [censored,] he told me the little bugger had stuck his head through the bars and was trying to bite him. Once the rat got his head back inside the cage, though, it was obvious he was fine.

After this we got down to business: John driving our catch many miles away to a patch of woods far from houses and stores, and me tweeting about it.

 About fifteen minutes after John left, he called me.

"Why are you torturing everyone on Twitter?"

"Aw, c'mon, it's hilarious making them guess what we caught."

"Just tell them what it is!"

"Ok, ok, fine.


"How's the rat release going?"

"It's surprisingly hard to find an isolated patch of woods in Orlando."

"Oh, I thought you'd let him out by now. I wanted to make sure he didn't leap for your face when you opened the door."


"Um... No? Probably not. Just, you know, stand back."

"Gee, I am SO glad I called."

Fortunately the release went fine, and now we wait to see if there are any *more* scritching noises in our LR ceiling. We'll just have to watch something super scary tonight - that's the only way to be sure.


  1. Ah yes, roof rats. I have a friend who had an epic case. Sorry to tell you this, but you'd better put the trap back up there...they rarely come solo.

  2. Was the rat missing a toe? ;)

  3. Rodent jazzercise class! ROFL!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  4. P.S. I found a candidate for the rodent jazzercise class.

    Now if we could just get some appropriately sized Richard Simmons shorts for him.

  5. As a teen we lived in a teeny-tiny apartment and had to store nearly all of our beloved possessions in the garage. A year later when we got to move into a normal size home. We discovered all the stuff in the garage had been infiltrated by rats. Lots of rats. I hate rats. They destroyed my 100+ collection of stuffed animals and various other cool toys. I was crushed. I now hate rats.

  6. I had a similar experience. Lots of scratching every night. We put a trap in the attic. When we caught something, it turned out to be a raccoon! Luckily my landlady knew an animal guy who came and took it away.

  7. What do you mean rats aren't cute? She's* ADORABLE! I bet she's got soft fuzzy fur (but I wouldn't touch her).

    (* why 'she'? If it was a boy, you'd KNOW)

  8. We had a squirrel in our chimney that was actual capable of opening our flue - which manifested itself as creepy, ghost hunters worthy clanking emanating from our fireplace.

    Sucker cost a couple hundred bucks for professional humane trapping - because it also had babies and I didn't want to mess with angry mama squirrel - especially one that could open a cast iron flue!

  9. I think your visitor is actually quite cute. But then my kiddos have rats for pets. They are sweet.

  10. Just put a coyote up there and tell it to stay.

  11. I think releasing rats is illegal? You'd be arrested here in Alberta.

  12. Yay for catching the not-squirrel! But you better cut the branches of your tree away from the house and make sure any and all possible entrances are closed up so she (or her family) doesn't find her way back up there!! But I'm sure you knew this already since you guys are so smart and all!! =)

  13. AWWWWW!! He's SO cute! John, I mean. Well, okay, the rat is cute, too. When you mentioned the hairless "rat tail," I thought the beastie was going to turn out to be an opossum. We live in Central Florida, and we had a whole family of possums living in our ceiling and walls for a few weeks. Since they are kind of bitey, we just waited until they left on their own.

    Hope that'll be the last of your adventures with rats. We've had to take a few of them on roadtrips to uninhabited areas over the years. Better than having to kill them, but still kind of sad.


  14. Haven't you ever seen the movie "Ratatouille"???? That not-a-squirrel could be a magnificent chef.

    Also, you finally have me thinking about making a Twitter account.

  15. ::Shudder:: We had a similar experience down here - a teeny baby possum fell into our pool! I had to net the little critter (apparently they don't usually swim well), and gently herd his cranky, hissing little furry butt into a cat carrier. Luckily, we have a local resource that takes in injured/baby wildlife, so no releasing necessary.

  16. Love the NIMH reference. I named my cat Brisby after the mouse. Would you like to borrow her for a few days?

  17. RECOMMENDED READING: Wolves in the Walls by Neil Gaiman. It's a children's story, a quick read. Or get the audiobook. It's read by Neil Gaiman and it's fantastic.

    This all makes me think of our old next door neighbor. He wasn't the best neighbor. He was a bit of a hick and an alcoholic, but he usually kept to himself.

    One night he got home from the bar, sat in his chair facing the television, and passed out. Well, the previous weekend, he had gotten his chimney capped so that no creatures could get in. As you may expect, he was too late.

    Before he had barricaded the chimney, a mother raccoon had gotten into his house, specifically the attic, and had her babies. So now, he was keeping her away from her cubs.

    While he had been out drinking, Mama Raccoon had been digging a hole through his roof. Just as he passed out in the chair, she had succeeded in getting through. But, as she fell, she went through the attic, between the rafters, through the ceiling, and landed on top of his huge console TV.

    It was enough to wake him up out of his drunken stupor. So he pulled a gun off of the wall behind him, shot the raccoon, and passed back out in his chair.

    Comparatively, having a rat in the walls is okay.

  18. So. I'm moving to Orlando in August. and. I HAVE TO WORRY ABOUT CEILING RATS?!?!?! o god... My boyfriends going to have LOTS to make fun of me for if this happens to us.

  19. Roof rats are an invasive, destructive, non-native species. If you want to help the native wildlife in your area, feed the next one to a 'gator.

    1. Actually roof rats are black rats, which aren't nearly as invasive as the Norway Rat. They are less adaptable than the Norway Rat and significantly smaller. It was believed that the black rat carried the fleas that caused the Black Plague (recent studies have suggested that it was actually gerbils), and the Norway Rat, being bigger and tougher, drove back the black rat. If it was a Norway rat then it would indeed be against the native wildlife, but they do really live in southern warm climates.

  20. So, we have TOTALLY had attic squirrels. We had one lone bachelor who lived there for years and resisted all attempts to trap him. And then we had Attic Squirrel Part II, in which we hear squirrel-in-attic again, catch him outside (HA!) and husband blocks entrance with a piece of wood while squirrel stands nearby yelling at us. And then yells at us for two days, every time we come outside. And then my husband calls me at work and explains that he figured out why squirrel was so pissed off... there were like four other members of his extended family in the attic, too. (Happy ending -- all squirrels evicted alive).

  21. Yeah, you may want to check your local laws about releasing rats. Most places, that's a big no no. We have them in my city, I've seen them walk across my yard in the middle of the day. I'm not going to try trapping them cause then I'd have to kill them. I have a soft spot for the ratties.

  22. Awww. Rats ARE cute. I think he's a cute guy.

  23. Then don't think of it as releasing it but as re-homing it instead. There, illegality problem solved;)

  24. My dad had squirrels in his attic & apparently you can buy fox urine to spray around up there & scare them off. Maybe not-squirrels would be scared of foxes too?

  25. john (the hubby of Jen)May 17, 2012 at 5:24 PM

    Hey all. john (the hubby of Jen) here.

    Yeah, a part of me knows that I will probably have to hire an exterminator to come in and kill the rats especially if they could be harmful to one of my cats. But for me anyway, catching an animal of any kind and looking them in the eye, I could never kill them. Sure, I might have to drive 30 minutes away to find a place away from humanity to release him but the only thing he did wrong was try to survive.
    And honestly, if releasing an innocent, living creature into the distant woods is a crime, then come and arrest me.

  26. You guys are braver than I am. I found a rat in our kitchen one evening and turned into that cartoon lady who lept to the top of the table and started screaming "get it out, get it out! It's not invited!"

    did I mention that we had guests over at the time?

    We were able to stop rats from getting into our house by stuffing steel wool in the areas where they were getting in. It took awhile to find all the spots but it did work. Our house didn't have a chimney, though.

    Good luck!

  27. We have a cage just like that. We caught a half-dead vole a few days ago. My husband still insisted on driving it out to a field and setting it free (to die in the wild.)

  28. The visual of you yelling "we got one!!" a la Janine just cracked me up. Thanks for that, I needed a good giggle today! Your little not squirrel is quite cute. The fancy ones make great pets, but I wouldn't try it with the roof not squirrel variety. :)


  30. I had something living in the wall of my dorm room when I was in college. I told myself it was a squirrel hiding in there for winter, cause anything else was too horrible to think about. I used to light incense right next to the occupied wall to get him to shut up, hoping he would get scared the place was on fire and leave. In spring, he finally left. I still maintain it was a squirrel.

  31. "And honestly, if releasing an innocent, living creature into the distant woods is a crime, then come and arrest me."

    Awww, John. And Jen. Y'all are such sweeties. I don't have any experience with roof rats, though I understand from a friend that they're really a bit of a plague. But hooded rats (what you usually see in pet stores) are the coolest, sweetest little critters. Raised them for years until I got too allergic to be around them. So bless your kind, sympathetic hearts, you two!

  32. Oh, and as an actual helpful comment, my mom had a really bad rat infestation in her attic and she tried everything, finally resorting to non-humane traps, but they just kept coming. Finally she had to call out some experts who had to put up mesh to block all the vents and ways they were getting in, and that finally solved the problem. So, in case you continue to have problems, probably best to call out experts to have your house rat-proofed sooner rather than later.

  33. Try hearing him chewing under your bed at 3 in the morning, then spend an hour chasing him around the apartment. I picked up a backpack so he couldn't get in there, only to have him jump out of it at me. I squealed and jumped up and down. Finally caught it under a bucket and released it over a wall.

  34. I am acquainted with your visitor. Ick. While I was out of state teaching, I had some set up residence in my home. It took two visits from a professional to rid my home of them. These are not your average *cute* rats. They are creepy and destructive. They like high places like attics, they chew wiring and cause fires and they do not travel alone. They also get VERY big. **YIKES!** And worst of all, my exterminator told me their, um, 'waste' attracts other roof rats. I have two house dogs, one large, one small, and these rats carry disease that could affect myself and my dogs. No one has a softer heart than me for animals, but that was all I had to hear. I still keep one large trap in my attic baited with a piece of apple, which works the best. I hate doing it, but I have to put my buddies first. They depend on me!

  35. We've had a guest in our attic since we moved in (about 2 years now). We tried putting a humane trap up there with some foodstuffs but, so far, we've gotten nothing. I haven't heard it up there in a while, but once I did hear him/her/it rearranging furniture. After watching a PBS show on racoons (those are some flexible animals..), I thought for sure that's what was up there. Now I'm thinking it might be a rat. Eep.

  36. We had a toad that took up residence underneath the step on our back porch. The step is made out of bricks, and there is just a tiny hole in the mortar that he used. I was amused and named him Edgar Allen Toad. No, I did not finish bricking him in.

  37. If you want to keep rats out, you're gonna want to make sure to block off any entrances a half inch and larger... cause they're self-collapsible unless they're fat. XD As a rat owner, I've seen rats squeeze in and out of weird places. Also, that's a rather charming rat you've caught. When they're not freaked out and defending themselves, rats can be surprisingly friendly... just not particularly sanitary.

  38. I would totally pee myself if I saw that in real life. Cage or not. Rats (and most rodents) scare the bejesus out of me!!! Put the trap back to be on the safe side. OMG. And maybe some rat poison! *shudders*

  39. Aww, that's just a baby! I have pet rats, and they're awesome. This one looks like a little girl (trust me, it's quite obvious when they're boys, haha), only a few months old at most. Still looks all soft and fluffy and big-eyed. Good on you for the catch and release, it makes me sad when people kill ratties.

  40. The only vast expanse of woods I can think of in Orlando happens to be very rodent friendly... Though, I'm not sure that Mice and rats get along all that well... Of course, Remy lives there, too... so.. maybe?

    Seriously, though, if I did live in the greater Orlando area, and DID have to release a rodent into the wild, I would SERIOUSLY consider Disney property... I'm sure there are TONS of varmints out there.. or none at all... I can't decide.

    We had a rat once in the house.. I was a child and woke up in the middle of the night to see it crawling along the top of the curtain rod, and it's late night shadow being cast hugely along the wall by my night light.. yeah, I wasn't COMPLETELY FREAKED OUT or anything!!

    And you're right, the tails are the squickiest part about them!! EW!!

  41. I totally feel your ickiness. I had a mouse problem a few yrs ago living in an apt in a 100+ yr old house in a wooded area of a small city. they were all heading into my bathroom of all places. turned out I was feeding them by using a cornstarch based baby powder. ew ew and more ew. 3 were found, 3 were killed. no humane traps for us. more ew. I now have two cats and tons of steel wool stuck in every crevass I could find. no mice for yrs, but I STILL jump everytime I see my own hair out of the corner of my eye, thinking it's a mouse. shudder

    oh and growing up in the country? a kitty gave me a present on my freaking pillow of HALF a mouse. cause she loved me. EW!!! A 12 yrs old should not have to go through that!
    Kathy T

  42. This post=Made. My. Day. Thank you for the laughs.

  43. Poor little scared rat. Hopefully you find a safe solution to keep out anymore scritchy scratchy visitors.

  44. I should tell you about the time we had a mouse in the dishwasher.
    We had a mouse in the dishwasher. Whaa? Well, apparently there was a little gap between the cabinet and the dishwasher and the mouse could get in. And do things like eat the rubber scraper covered in brownie batter. And freak out my mom. We called in the pros, they were going to set traps in the crawl space, etc. Well, my mom goes to load the dishwasher and screams and slams the door closed. Our mousie friend was back. But in slamming it closed, she sort of broke its neck, and we had a new problem. Dead mouse in the dishwasher. Ummm. We got someone to remove it, because no way I was going to touch that thing, even with gloves.

    Anyway, no one else has a story about a mouse in the dishwasher. No one else has even heard of a mouse in a dishwasher. UNTIL NOW.

  45. "leading a rodent jazzercise class" is an amazing visual.

  46. > No one else has even heard of a mouse in a dishwasher.

    Definitely a task for the Pots & Rats setting.

  47. Rats are actually very intelligent. They can learn their names, come when called, do tricks, and if handled from the time they're born they adore human attention. They're like teeny tiny dogs. Perhaps if you think of them like that, they will appear less scary.

  48. We also had some scratching in the attic noises that we thought were squirrels, but then one day we saw what it really was in the garage...a big ol' raccoon! He was crawling around in the rafters and getting in and out of the attic space along the eaves. So, a co-worker gave a trap and we got him! Then (after much squealing by me) I asked my boyfriend now what do we do? We put Mr. Racoon in the back of his truck and released him in a forest preserve about 15 miles away. The freaky part was opening up the trap (I stayed in the truck!). He ran into the woods and we went home, freaked out but glad to be rid of him!

  49. Yeah, my "not squirrels" were really much, much cuter when I thought they were squirrels. I really hope you have a rogue. My problem was long and drawn out. John better get used to looking for greenspace. My brothers used to have pet rats, but when they are uninvited--no bueno!

  50. Hopefully the problem is solved and the entry hole is all sealed up. Did John peek in there with a flashlight to make sure it didn't have babies in your wall? Mwuahaha!

    My friend once showed up at my apartment desperate for me to come out to his car. When I got there and looked in the back seat, there was a full size opossum in a have-a-heart trap. Yeah, he was terrified of it and wanted me to rehome it. He screamed and ran when I let it out of the cage in the woods.

  51. Hmmm. I adore pet rats but I'm not enthused by your visitor either.

    Hope you don't find more.

  52. I was all ready to say it was probably a possum, but nope, that's a rat. But it least it's not a nasty sewer rat. And geeky Heather is right, rats seldom live alone.

  53. Oh baby. Good luck with THAT! I saw an adorable, hungry rat by our bird feeder a couple of years ago & thought, "Oh, he's so cute! Someone's pet must have gotten loose." So, I fed it. Because everyone knows that STOREBOUGHT rats have had the 'gross' bred out of them and they make lovely pets. Turns out, this rat was the kind of 'rat' that give rats a bad name. He brought his friends. He fathered children. MANY children. He and his family made our neighborhood miserable. In conclusion: Wild rats are evil and selfish, and will eat you and your house and car and your neighbors if you don't watch your back. That, my friend, is why there are laws against releasing them back into the innocent "Oh, they're so cute!" world.


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