So I woke up in the middle of the night to the sounds of rats in the attic. They must have been busy chewing the upholstery on some old chairs as I can see in the daylight that seats are torn into, stuffing missing. My guess is they were trafficking stuffing from the chairs to a nest somewhere across the attic.You can follow the trail of droppings to get a rough idea of their route.
The pest control specialists come tomorrow, and as I listened to the rats cavorting over my head in the middle of the night and watched them appear here and there in my dreams, I started to panic. I don’t really know how many rats are up there. I don’t relish the idea of poison or pesticides in my house, not with kids and a dog running around. I fear the thought of poisoned rats stumbling around the innards of our walls and ductwork to die and decompose. Our house has the musty smell of something that has survived Florida’s humidity for the 71 years it has. If we add rotting rat to that melange, I’m not sure I can take it.
But the rats must go. They poop. They leave behind their hair. They urinate while running. They even leave an oily residue along walls from the oil in their hair. Humans can unwittingly inhale or ingest any of these remnants and contract a panoply of nasty and even fatal diseases. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention tracks rat-related disease and fatalities. Did you know that rats were responsible for two deaths in Florida and Washington due to rat-bite fever (RBF)? Did you know that rats may zoonotically transmit Heptatitis E? Sigmodon hispidus, otherwise known as the cotton rat, is common to the southeastern U.S. and is a known carrier of hantavirus strains that can cause hantavirus pulmonary syndrome (HPS) in humans. HPS has been fatal.
Though my children have been taught by Disney that rats, like the one in the film Ratatouille, get a bad rap, I know better. Rats are gross. In my dream last night, a rat sat perched along a ledge in the garage. When it spied me, it started to hiss and wiggle its butt in preparation to lurch at me. Then it turned into a raccoon which then turned into a person in a raccoon suit. Maybe even in my dreams I am trying to temper the panic I feel at the realization we are infested by a plague carrying rodent. In the daylight, though, my intention towards them is a lucid death wish. Though I feel panic at the thought of their dying in my house, I am clear on what we must do. Rats don’t belong in human abodes. The war of the rats around here continues — without sympathy.