An Invisible Plague of Rats

It’s magnolia time. These flowers are a symbol of perseverance, which is a strong trait in rats.

Magnolia tree in spring

They are back. In the shed.

Rat hole through shed door

The shed is the place to find things after you have looked everywhere else. It has spare plastic, tools that might be needed, and a huge hole in the floor for access to the new basement apartment.

Rat hole in the floor

It has to be rats. I know that because corpses have appeared. One beside the car, which was interesting because it was flat, and one on the lawn, which was unpleasantly not flat.

I stand over the hole, listening for squealing and scrabbling from the seething mass, and keep the door open in case they decide to storm me. Nothing. The last time I saw a live rat was 10 years ago in a cage. He was a nice, intelligent member of the household. I forget his name. Was it Ratty?

Rat Facts

Are they black or brown? The dead ones were too faded to tell. Google says common UK brown. We have about 120 million and they are crucial for our ecosystem. They clear up rotten food, propagate our flora and fauna by spreading seeds, and feed carrions by dropping dead in public places.

Wild rats can spread disease. Normal social distancing rules apply if you meet one.

They are cheap, clever, easy to keep, genetically close to humans and useful for experiments. That is Bad, if it is about lipstick, but confusing to think about if you happen to need a nice dose of chemo.

Like humans, they are sociable and live in communities. Maybe they are better at that than we are.

I stare at the entrance to the working community of clever, social rats. Can they carry on living here? Plenty of people live in this house, and the guidelines for choosing who fits in are always the same. Can they be applied to rats?

Things to Consider Before Sharing a Home

If there is going to be a problem it will start in the fridge, with a shortage of cheese, especially treaty, creamy, wax wrapped cheese. Never share a fridge with other cheese eaters unless they like buying it too.

Will they take your food? Is the first question to ask, and the rats have lost a point.

Remains of sunflower seeds

This was a neat pile of dried sunflowers, ready for summer in case we needed to run a sunflower farm. Looks like they had a hell of a party one night, lost all control, and nicked the lot. However, they have not come into the house so call it half a point.


You don’t want pans left to soak, washing going mouldy in the machine, crumbs on the side, or no plates because they are all in one person’s room. Always share with people who like wiping surfaces and hanging up their own washing.

Yep, the rats just lost another point.

Rubble of hole dug by rats

They clearly do not intend to tidy up. I think of Ratty, who tidied his nest daily. To be fair I have not been in this shed for months. Perhaps the rats did not realise I need a flat floor to walk on. Take it down to half a point again. 


If you are irked because your best blanket is on somebody else’s bed, and you can’t say anything because it is only a blanket, or if a hammer is gone but it keeps the peace to buy another one, you might be living with the wrong person. Then it gets complicated because they might be good at buying cheese and wiping surfaces. 

What did the rats take?

Stuff in a shed

Nothing. It’s all still there, even the soil testers and the pitchfork. No points off but I wish they had taken the soil testers because I don’t know what they test for, or why there are three or them.


Avoid people who laugh with Other Friends at 2 am. Aim for the ones who tread lightly on stairs and manage to play your kind of music exactly when you felt like hearing it.

Rats are silent. No points off.

Getting Along OK

Shared spaces are full of fine lines. They stretch from friendship to accidentally getting inside each other’s heads. They can take you from happy feasts, games, and laughing at the cat, to post-it notes about putting the wrong plastic in the recycling, or missing cheese. Always get the lines in order and never stop laughing at the cat.

Is the novelty of occasional corpses or an interesting hole in the shed going to wear thin?   

Yes. Sorry rats. More points.

The Final Score

I lost count, but sheds need floors so the rats must leave. There is no point asking the cats to sort it out. They’ve got Catnip and are busy with a complicated game of ‘Who owns the stairs’, and a ratcatcher would be cruel. What to do?

Luckily I can’t ‘have a talk’ with them. That never works anyway. It’s time to drop a hint and make it hard for them to stay. I will fill the hole with cement and hope they move on. Less said the better with this kind of thing.


Magnolia flowers only last a few days so remember to enjoy them if you spot any.

7 thoughts on “An Invisible Plague of Rats”

  1. Love it Jo. We have the same problem in our shed where we keep the wild bird food (in bags stupidly). Rats thought they’d discovered food paradise when they gnawed through the wall:)

  2. Rats do give me the creeps. It’s a tribute to your writing that I managed to read this. Now I’ll go hide under the bed for an hour or two. The cat keeps it rat-free, if not dust-free.

    He can’t do everything. I do understand that.

    1. Well done for reading it. There are no rats in my next post. No words either at the moment. Perhaps I’ll write about training cats to be useful.

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