Off The Record: Living with a rat … and hating it – Mercury

Posted by Big Rat on Campus on Aug 31, 2013 in Rat News | Subscribe

I hate rats. I’ve always hated rats. I hate river rats, sewer rats, city rats, country rats, red-eyed pet rats, stuffed rats, plastic rats, cartoon rats and, yes, Michael Jackson’s rat Ben. Especially Ben.

I once jumped into the middle of traffic on a busy street in Oakland’s Chinatown to avoid a rat. Turned out my best friend Manhattan Jake, who was walking with me on the sidewalk, had said “cat” not “rat” but it didn’t matter. I heard “rat” and that three-letter word sent me frog leaping over a meter, scrambling across the hood of a parked car and vaulting myself into the middle of the street much to the shock and awe of both Jake and the drivers whose vehicles I leaped in front of. (Oy! Forgive the dangling participle.)

Years and years ago I used a bottle of Dos Equis to knock a sewer rat unconscious in the basement of a bar. Of course this begs the question, “What was I doing with a bottle of beer in the basement of a bar?” But that’s an entirely different and unprintable story.

So a year ago when my darling daughter told me she had a new pet, a rat she’d named Cheesus, I was totally creeped out but since she wasn’t living at home what did I care?

Then she graduated and moved back home, with the rat. And then she left for her first semester of grad school in Brazil on Monday, without the rat.

So now Cheesus lives in his cage on the bar between the kitchen and dining room. I have learned, through great self-discipline and fortitude of motherly character, to “just deal with it.” Ugh.

I refuse to touch him with my bare hands. However, by wearing yellow rubber gloves and not thinking too much about what I’m doing I am able to put my hand in his cage to feed him, shoo him out to clean the cage and, heaven help me, give him a bath in the sink.

Rats don’t like baths.

Rats can jump six feet especially when given the right motivation such as bath water. I now have a tented piece of chicken wire I put over the sink during bath time.

“Cheesus, you dirty rat, I gotchya now.”

Every evening I open Cheesus’ cage so the rodent can have a “time out.” I create a little rat maze with old PVC thingies with various treats and bits of paper, broken chop sticks and old Fudgesicle sticks tucked inside.

Cheesus with his beady little rat eyes, long skinny little rat tail, sharp little rat fangs and twitchy little rat nose creeps his little rat self out of his cage to spend an hour or so running back and forth from the maze to his cage where he stashes all the bits and treats. Now I fully grasp the term “pack rat.”

Before I go to bed, I shut Cheesus back in his cage, wipe the counter with bleach and load the maze parts into the top shelf of the dishwasher.

It was all good until last night when I fell asleep on the sofa.

I woke at about 1 a.m., opened my eyes and came, literally, face-to-face with Cheesus who was sitting on my chest looking at me with his little beady rat eyes, twitching his little rat nose.

I screamed and jumped. Cheesus let out a little rat shriek and launched his little rat body off of me and onto the coffee table.

The next 15 minutes was total chaos and bedlam.

I scrambled to the kitchen for the rubber yellow gloves. Cheesus scramble off the coffee table for cover. I yanked on the rubber gloves. Cheesus dived under the sofa. I belly flopped onto the floor reaching hopelessly with a yellow-rubber-gloved hand under the sofa. Cheesus darted out and ran across my legs. I screamed (again).

Cheesus let out another little rat shriek and took cover under the love seat. I jumped up and moved the love seat. Cheesus took off at full rat-speed across the dining room floor. I was in hot rat pursuit when Cheesus’ little rat paws with little rat nails lost traction on the wood floor and he went into an uncontrolled spin. I lunged and got him by his little rat tail.

Rats don’t like having their little rat tails grabbed.

Rats are skilled Yogi.

Cheesus flipped his little rat body double and backward to sink his little rat teeth into my yellow-rubber-gloved hand. I screamed (again) and Cheesus went flying (again) with an impulsion assist from me. He landed in the door way of the den and immediately took cover under the arm chair.

Breathless, sweating and seriously annoyed at both God for creating rats and my daughter for buying one, I cursed loudly. Cheesus made no reply but Spurs, my beautiful long-haired cat, meowed from the other side of the screen door.

That’s when my light bulb of brilliance lit up. I knew exactly how I was going to catch the rat.

I opened the screen door. Cool hunter cat Spurs strolled in.

I sat on the floor bleeding through my rubber glove waiting and watching.

It was over in minutes.

Spurs caught and pinned Cheesus down.

Spurs was purring. Cheesus was shrieking little rat shrieks.

Letting out another scream, more like a war cry really, I lunged and simultaneously grabbed cat and rat and pulled them apart. Spurs hissed, clawed and tried to recapture his snack.

Cheesus shrieked, bit and clawed to get away. I wrestled both, keeping a firm grip on feline and rodent as we stumbled and crashed around the den in a swirl of hair, fur, claws, teeth and yellow rubber gloves. It wasn’t pretty.

I dumped Spurs unceremoniously back outside and Cheesus in his cage. I gave Spurs a piece of salmon as consolation and Cheesus a bit of cheese for not clawing out my eyes.

I washed the scratches and bites, applied antibiotic cream, bandages where necessary and went to bed thinking I hate rats. I hate drowned rats, gutter rats and rat finks.

I hate mall rats, rat holes, The Rat Pack, rat nests, rat tail combs, the rat race, ratted hair, rat traps and the Nut Cracker’s Rat King. Especially the Rat King.

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