Ha anyone had to deal with rats in an area that the dog can get into?

Lovely uptown Phoenix is now fully infested with roof rats, a nice little wildlife species brought here by folks moving here from other states. They look much like a Norway rat, but mercifully are somewhat less obnoxious. In their habits, they're really more like a tree squirrel than like the household mice and Norway rats we know and loathe.

They subsist largely on citrus, of which I have aplenty in the backyard. Two large Arizona sweet oranges are growing out there, and (ungraciously), I am NOT sharing!

I've known at least one of them was out there for several weeks. They chew citrus rinds in a characteristic way -- you can't miss it.

Problem is, citrus ain't the only thing the little guys chew! They're also very fond of electrical wiring, automobile cables and hoses, and the hoses on your wash machine. If your washer is outside or in the garage, you're likely to be surprised by a nice flood one day, should they take up residence there.

They're very strong climbers, and they like to live in attics. I think my attic is pretty well secured -- all the openings are either screened fully or jammed full of steel wool. (Roof rats hate steel wool.) Once they take up residence inside your attic, you've got a problem.

Because there they will chew your electrical wiring, and that can be an expensive fix. Especially if they cause a short that catches fire to your house...

LOL! One day I was hanging out in the front yard when my neighbor Dave (former proprietor of Dave's Used Car Lot, Marina, and Weed Arboretum) hollered over, "Hey! Come look at this!"

He had an antique car he'd been keeping in his garage, and -- honestly, this is not an exaggeration! -- all of the hoses and cables were gone! You could see where little rat teeth had chewed them all off.

So, one would not like to have them set up housekeeping in the backyard. Or anywhere else.

The last time this happened, Ratty established an outpost in the garage. She was living under the washer and dryer and going in and out to eat the fruit. I poisoned that one with rat bait.

However... at the time I had a German shepherd, who couldn't easily reach into the places where the rat was sheltering -- under the laundry appliances and behind an old set of bookshelves I'd put in the garage. I knew that once poisoned, the rat would retreat under the washer or dryer (which it did, ultimately), and the dog couldn't get at it there.

This little guy, though, resides in the backyard. I think it's nesting under the cat's claw. Three times I've seen it dart across from an orange tree and dive into the vines, Ruby hot on its tail.

So far, Ruby hasn't managed to catch it. But I'm afraid if she does, it'll bite her. They carry a number of unpleasant diseases, to say nothing of fleas and ticks, and so in addition to not wanting her to get hurt, I'd really like her not to tangle with the critter.

But I'm afraid to put rat bait out there. The rat bait available at the Home Depot is strychnine. If the dog finds a poisoned rat corpse and eats it, the dog is likely to die, too. Coyotes and hawks are commonly killed around here from scavenging on poisoned rats.

So, it was off to the Ace Hardware, where one of the proprietors sold me a perfectly horrible-looking plastic rat trap. The regular rat traps -- the ones that look like mouse traps on steroids -- are not something I want to mess with. I've never been able to set a mouse trap without pinching my finger. If one of those spring rat traps snaps on your finger, it'll break a bone!

Ace has a plastic thing that you can set by stepping on it with a booted foot.

Ugleee, eh? You put some peanut butter or some such in a little cup in there, and then set the thing's evil jaws.

This, of course, presents the issue of keeping Ruby and Cassie out of it. Fortunately, I still have the garden borders and the X-pens that I used to contain Ruby's puppy depradations.

When really determined, she can climb over the garden border (or get her head stuck in it...). Besides, the ground is so hard out there, I couldn't push it into the ground very effectively. But did contrive to prop it up around the area where the rat is believed to nest.

Then I created an outer border with lengths from an old X-pen, which I'd already deconstructed to form a makeshift fence to keep her out of the pool.

Hence, a double-layered border:

The outer "fence" is tied in four places to each of those chairs. I hope that will keep Ruby out of it.

Ruby is not much bigger than a rat...well, she probably is, but she's small enough and agile enough to pursue one to ground. I'm afraid if she spots it in a trap, she'll try to get in there.

Ugh! What a pain in the tuchus!

Anybody got any better rat coping strategies?

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Comment by Beverly Butler Redford & Tucker on September 27, 2015 at 12:06am

If peanut butter isn't working, try protein bars-a friend of mine swears by them as bait

Comment by Stephen Bale on September 24, 2015 at 3:03pm

This is why the UK is a class one country along with Ireland New Zealand and Australia. No Rabies and other horrible's, Cannot understand why Australia is so good when it has spiders and snakes. What about borrowing a Diamond Python, that would have it They live in the guttering in Sydney and wait for unsuspecting people to put the puppies out in the garden.


Comment by Vicky Hay on September 24, 2015 at 2:12pm

@ Stpehen Bale I love their tails!!!! Why can't we have tails on our Pembrokes? Americans are so weird about docking dogs tails and (worse!) ears.

So far, Ratty has turned up her nose at the rat trap's peanut-butter bait. Could be it's not a rat (seemed a little small for a rat, but both times it moved so fast all I saw was a streak). I think if it were a mouse, though, it would've roamed into the trap.

I'm a little wary about letting the dog kill it because of the diseases rodents carry here in Arizona. Hantavirus has become increasingly common -- usually up on the plateau, but it's been seen in the low desert, too. Every year we have cases of bubonic plague, also transmitted by or by way of rodents. And of course they have the usual array of fleas and ticks. These dogs sleep on my bed! We don't need some rat's fleas up there. :-D

The city doesn't cover pest control. If you have a problem with rats (or roaches, or whatever), you have to pay someone a hefty fee to come deal with it. I'm trying to live on Social Security, which puts an exterminator out of my price range. If anyone deals with Ratty, it's gonna have to be me.

Comment by Stephen Bale on September 24, 2015 at 7:20am


Don't like poison because it kills up the food chain. Used to go out with forks and Jack Russell's in the allotments and a JR would dispatch a rat in split seconds, throw it away and look for the next. A cat will play with it and if its poisoned get killed itself. The fork was to run the rats that get passed the JR and you run after it and run it through.

Here in Pembrokeshire I can show you non show Pemmies. The old type non corrupted corgi native to Pembs. These corgis will kill anything that comes in the yard including cats.   

Does the council have a rat man?

Comment by Chris Payerl on September 23, 2015 at 10:51pm

YUK! I have had mice die in the heating vents of my car (While stopping to chat w/ a neighbor as I was pulling out of the driveway, her little boy pronounced loudly for all to hear, "You have a POOP car!" due to the smell.) and relatives have had squirrels and raccoons in the house between the walls and in the attic, and a bat in the lake cottage (necessitating rabies shots as it flew into me and I had pairs of tiny little red marks on my leg after falling asleep on the couch) but thank goodness no rats. That would be the end of me. Just that picture you posted makes the hair on the back of neck stand up. "Snowbird" friends who go to AZ for the winter have heard of people having trouble with packrats chewing the wires, hoses, upholstery, etc., on cars left in carports for extended periods. They leave a light on a timer out in their carport as the rats avoid light, apparently. They have never had any troubles with their cars and have been going down there for ages.

@Jane- I'm in WI and my car guy, who pulled the mama mouse and her nest of dead babies out of the vents, told me the mice like to hide in the heat vents for both the heat and the condensed water, since most water is frozen in winter. 

Comment by John Wolff on September 22, 2015 at 1:55pm

My first clue was that quiet gnawing sound in the middle of the night.....

I don't think the modern rodenticides are strychnine, but I do believe they can cause secondary poisoning -- your dog could get sick by eating dead poisoned rats, and the stuff has been showing up in coyotes and cougars, etc. -- if you want to control rats, it makes little sense to poison their predators.I briefly used those rat-bait boxes, but discarded them (as toxic waste!) on second thought.  I saw  one sick, weak rat beside my house, easy prey for a corgi.

I've spent 3 full weekends working on my house to exclude my guests from the attic.  When you get your house roofed, make sure they do a rat-proof job with rat-proof materials, unlike the criminals who did mine. Exterminators complain about the poor quality of vents -- plastic, with flimsy metal screens that will keep out sparrows, maybe.  Fortunately, I was thorough and stapled heavy hardware cloth under my vents from the inside -- this kept the rats out of my attic, but did not prevent them from destroying the vents from the outside -- my first clue was the water damage to my ceiling.  I R & R'd my plastic vents with metal ones, but even they were inadequate -- I had to disassemble them and replace the flimsy screening with heavy hardware cloth (1/4" welded screen, itself questionable).

Once rats get into your roof, the urine smells they leave behind are a longlasting attractant to others.

There are  battery-powered electric rat traps that should be inaccessible to pets and safe.  Capacitors can store high-voltage electric charges from small batteries (the capacitors in oldfashioned camera flash units can store a lethal electric charge, dangerous even when batteries are not in the unit).

If you venture into your attic/crawl space: N95 respirator!  Dusts are allergenic & nasty.  I don't know if roof rats vector Hantavirus (deadly), but some species of wil mice do.

I've had mice in my car's air filter too.

On a lighter note:

Upon getting into the car after a long mountaineering trip, someone said, "There's a dead mouse in the car."

"No, that's Carl's socks," I replied.

"No, it's a dead mouse.  I work in a mouse lab.  I know what a dead mouse smells like," she rejoined.

"I climb with Carl.  I know what his socks smell like," I retorted.

Carl may have been feeling sheepish.

Comment by Vicky Hay on September 21, 2015 at 4:49pm

@ Beverly, David & the Boys: I've suggested to Cassie that she could support us all handsomely if she'd just go on the road with Barnum & Bailey as The Amazing (Endlessly) Talking Dog, but she seems to have the same opinion as your boys do... :-D  I'll check out Amazon.

Comment by Beverly Butler Redford & Tucker on September 21, 2015 at 2:35pm

Vicky-I did a quick google search for rat traps-there are some pre-baited ones at Ace Hardware (online at least).  Home Depot has some battery powered ones that electrocute the rat.  

When I still had my ex's cats, they used to leave halves of lizards in the living room.

I understand the cost issue, I keep asking my boys when they're going to get jobs (other than barking at everything that passes by and manufacturing poop), but they just lie down and go to sleep.

Comment by Vicky Hay on September 20, 2015 at 10:44pm

@ Linda:  LOL! Problem is, there's no place to move that doesn't host the little fellas. They first showed up in the Arcadia District, but they're now all over the city.

Bats in the HOUSE???? I would faint dead away! The darn things carry rabies.

Ha ha! What a nice gift the cat thought she was bringing to you. I've read that some scientists believe cats bring prey to the humans because they regard humans as not-quite-bright kittens who need to be trained to hunt. Bringing in a prize is a way of getting the critter's attention. Presumably once you elicit some enthusiasm, the cat will then take you outside and teach you how to stalk a mouse through the grass.

Comment by Linda on September 20, 2015 at 10:34pm

Rats...I would be moving. Sorry...I don't do rats or bats.  Just ask my husband about me and having had 2 bats in the house.  I will run out screaming and abandon everything one..human or pet.

We get mice every winter and the cats usually handle that.  I don't mind when they kill and I find the body outright but when they mortally wound the damn thing and crawls off and dies some place.  Then I have to track it down by smell. Ick ick ick.  Of course the dead one Gemma put in my bed, under the covers near my feet that I found when I went to strip the bed that morning was not fun.  For weeks I would pull all the covers back every morning before I made the bed.

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