Wednesday, September 1, 2010
When Home is... mice, rats or any rodent
Everyone seems to have a strong aversion to at least one uninvited wildlife guest in their homes. For some it’s cockroaches, for others it’s spiders (particularly huntsmen who seem to appear magically on walls after it rains). What’s it for you?
For me it is definitely rodents.
I’m not sure when or why this aversion began but I do remember never wanting a mouse as a pet when I was younger, despite loving the Beatrix Potter tale of tidy Mrs Tittlemouse. And I loved guinea pigs. An animal that looks like an overgrown mouse.
When I was 23 I was offered a job with a major book publishing house in London. With a salary that meant it would be nigh impossible to live in London. At the time I was offered the job I was there on work experience. While in the photocopying room I began talking to an editorial assistant about what it would be really like to live and work in London.
‘Well, you’ll have to get your boyfriend to move over from Australia,’ she began, ‘and then you both may be able to afford a room in a big terrace house.’
Sharing a house with maybe four other couples and one bathroom didn’t quite appeal. Let’s just say I was never a backpacker.
‘Or, you might be really lucky like me.’ She continued, her eyes sparkling. ‘My boyfriend and I have just moved into a basement flat. It’s so cool having our own place.’
This sounds more like it, I thought.
‘Yeah, it’s really great,’ she said as she collected her photocopying from the tray. ‘Although we do have quite bad damp. And rats,’ she added as an afterthought. ‘But we’re so lucky having our own place!’
Back in Sydney my biggest concern was cockroach invasions, which never disgusted me as much as the thought of mice or rats. But, judging from the news recently, mice and rats are becoming more of a problem in the city centre and near the harbour. Interviews with homeless people complaining of rats scuttling over them while they slept at night haunted me.
This conversation recently came up during my daughter’s ballet class. While standing outside waiting for the class to end the three-year-old sister of one of the girls in the class rushed up to my friend and me.
‘We caught a mouse last night in our house!’ she exclaimed. ‘It was living under the fridge and we could hear in making scratching noises all night. It was really cute.’ She looked so excited about this discovery while her father looked less cheerful.
‘Yes,’ he said, ‘they’re pretty hard to catch.’
My friend laughed. For one night she had come home late and the rest of the house was sleeping. She opened the kitchen cupboard to put something in the bin and there, sitting on the lid on its hind legs, was a little brown mouse sniffing the air curiously. She shut the cupboard door quietly and went to bed nervously.
The father complained of his veggies growing in the garden being eaten by rats and I commented we had similar problems with our strawberries. Although I assumed it was a possum. He smiled and shook his head. Thankfully the ballet class then finished.
One morning, a few weeks later I was chatting on the phone looking out into the garden. The back paling fence began wobbling and I wondered if a cat had jumped on it. Suddenly, from behind the tree ran a grey animal with a pointy nose and a long tail. It ran across the entire length of the fence.
A rat in broad daylight.
So much for rodents scuttling under a cloak of darkness...
Photos by Ned Leece