Two Plagues Upon our House (or, Why I’m Asleep with my Eyes Open)

I am. So. Tired. Seriously. Not quite face-plant on the keyboard, but in the neighborhood. Why? you ask.

You may recall that our bad-ass Ninja Kitty passed away in early 2022, followed a month later by our beloved canine companion Fred. Hubs and I joked that Ninja’s rat-wrangling mojo reached from beyond the grave.

That is, until we hit his one year death anniversary, and rat signs began appearing in the carport.

They escalated to gnawing soap in the outdoor shower, then made it inside, scritch-scrabbling overhead while we tried to sleep. I swear, they were building skyscrapers above my desk while I tried to work. In fact, I swore profusely (sorry, neighbors), beat on the ceiling with a broomstick, and sprayed mint in the seams until our house smelled like the York peppermint patty factory. The Hubs picked up a small live trap, but the rats were not impressed. We witnessed their comings and goings, using the roof trusses as a rat highway.

To complicate matters, Hubs had an impending work conference in Oakland. I was packing the night before (I see that look—when do you pack?) and discovered the incursion was worse than we’d realized. Opening a kitchen cabinet for protein bars, I found that someone had beaten me to them. 🐀🐀

Once I finished swearing (there’s a pattern here), we scrambled to secure any food not encased in glass. We drafted hard plastic tubs that had previously kept dog and cat food safe from rats back into service. At the airport the next morning, we vowed to commit to serious rat warfare on our return (and to not think about what awaited us while we were gone!).

Fast Forward: Oakland was awesome, despite unusually snotty weather there. However, thanks to a bad night of never-ending hotel fire alarms (including two fire department responses and a blaring half-hour from 1:30-2 a.m.), we arrived home in Hawaii already sleep-deprived to find…

Utter. Devastation.

The fact that it was dark just reinforced the sense that we’d entered a horror movie. In addition to pooping everywhere, the rats had chewed on everything. An unopened (apparently plastic) jar of peanut butter had been consumed, jar and all, almost to the lid. It was genuinely creepy. On the lanai, a tub of Vaseline we use on our solar system batteries had been breached, tasted, then discarded.

I’ll refrain from giving you more nightmare images (here’s a cute rat pic to take the edge off), but anything and everything had been fair game, as we discovered in daylight the next day.

They’d chewed through packaging beneath the bathroom sink to access dental floss (?), presumably to help them remove the peanut butter from their teeth. They’d pooped and peed all over supplements and shampoo and everything.

Just. Everything. 😩

We spent the next day throwing stuff away and cleaning rat nasty. The Hubs picked up supplies and we did what we could to bar entry and avoid being carried away come nightfall. We put a Havahart trap in the crawl space above the bathroom, where they’d obviously been having a Rodent Rave. And by we, I mean I held the ladder. 😉 That’s generally my level of involvement unless I specify otherwise.

The first time the trap triggered was during dinner, and by the time we checked, it was empty. Hubs re-baited it (peanut butter, of course) and later, around 11:30 p.m., BANG! There was a rat inside! It was a big guy, but relatively chill (we would soon learn). The Hubs put the cage in the car, drove it a mile or so away to some empty jungle lots, and released the bugger with a cry of, Be free! Or so I’m guessing, since I stayed home on clean-up duty.

Let me reiterate: no rats were released in or near an evil neighbor’s yard. Though it is another reminder to be nice to your neighbors.

Capturing the second rat an hour later was… less exhilarating. No judgment—I wouldn’t appreciate being caged while roaming the aisles of the grocery store—but Rat #2 acted kinda psycho, employing any means necessary to get out of the cage. Since it was smaller than the first one, being psycho started to work! It shoved its head through the spaces between the heavy wire, and we tried to bop it back inside without being bitten. Then the toothy bugger squeezed a shoulder through. Shit—who knows Rat Plan B?

Racing outside with the cage, we tried nesting it in a bucket (too small) and then an empty tub (also too small). By that point, the rat was stuck halfway through the wire, twisting to bite anything within range. No way were we were putting the cage in the car like that, so Hubs carried it into the jungle on our property and we went back to bed.

In the morning, the rat was gone, and we hoped sufficiently traumatized not to return. That night, we simply placed the trap on the kitchen floor instead of up by the Rave. Honestly, I thought our chances of catching rats there were slim, but I was hoping to get some sleep, so that was fine by me.

We caught three more rats. Every hour, starting around 11:30 p.m. I couldn’t sleep between them or even after the third one, vigilant at every sound.

And then, because life wasn’t interesting enough…

The next day, Hubs tested positive for Covid.

He hadn’t been feeling great for a couple of days, but almost always gets sick when we travel. The only thing that shocked us more than his (+) result was my (-) result. Which thankfully has continued so far. [knock on wood]

Cue him masking and me sleeping on the couch.

Poor Hubs got miserably sick, leaving me to caretake. In the Rat Zone. The kitchen has a narrow pathway—between the always-set rat trap and the stacked coolers and buckets and tubs of unseeable food—for food prep and dishwashing. Good times.

You know what else continued? Rat catching.

The couch is uncomfortable and has a stellar, insomnia-producing view of rats in the rafters. It doesn’t help that it’s a two-way view; I often open my eyes to find one staring at me. I also know instantly when a rat has been caught; I wake Covid Hubs, and we get to it.

Our system: Hubs lowers the cage onto a long cardboard flap that I quickly tape into a box shape around it to prevent wily escapes. Then he drives the buggers down our pothole-ridden, bum-breaking road and sets them free. Even when he’s sick, bless his heart.

Fortunately, Hubs has been feeling better. Yesterday was his Eleventh Day and, exhausted, I finally lifted kitchen restrictions (his burgers have never tasted so good). I also slept in the bed. Oh boy, did I sleep! I slept through Hubs literally chasing a rat in the kitchen multiple times. I finally woke when he knocked over a thermos, and I joined him in the chase. The score?

Humans with a kitchen towel and Homer Bucket: 1; Remarkably Chill Rat: Relocated.

A bit of Random Rat Knowledge: there are three species of rats on Hawaii Island. We’re pretty sure the psycho-acting rats were roof rats, though the bigger Norways are supposed to be aggressive, too. The Polynesian rats were universally chill, often just hanging out and eating the peanut butter bait while they awaited their fate. Maybe they knew we’re vegetarians.

Number of rats caught to date? Twelve. But our captures have slowed, so I’m hopeful. 🤞 This weekend, I’ll start moving items (food, toiletries, etc.) from their protective locations to their proper, accessible spots. Gradually. In stages. And I’ll be cleaning. A LOT. If you see a 5’3″ (ish) chick wearing a mask coming up your driveway, just leave any spare bleach by the front door. Thanks in advance. 😉