As you’ll have gathered, I’m interested in my local wildlife. This means that I go out and try to find different species. Sometimes, however, the wildlife comes to me. And it isn’t always welcome.
Yesterday, our cat, Mayfield, caught a young rat. This is fine – this is part of her job, keeping the vermin under control. However, instead of killing it she brought it alive and kicking into the house. There followed 24 hours of the most relentless battle between man and beast since Ahab vowed vengeance on Moby Dick. After moving countless pieces of furniture and several near misses (rats can jump surprisingly high when pressed) I managed to finally corner and trap the little horror. The damned cat was no help whatsoever.
Normally, any rat caught on the property would be summarily despatched – no last meal, no final cigarette, nothing. Unfortunately they are vermin and they need to be controlled. But after chasing this one for so long I’d built up a grudging respect for it and in a fit of sentiment I took it outside and let it go.
So here you are, a new species for the blog – Rattus Norvegicus – the Brown Rat.
They’d be an interesting species, if it wasn’t for the fact that a) rats are nasty, disease-carrying beasts (leptospirosis anyone?), b) I don’t want them anywhere near me or my chickens, and c) I certainly don’t want one living with me in my house. But any amateur naturalists should make a point of reading Rats: A Year with New York’s Most Unwanted Inhabitants by Robert Sullivan, which describes how he studied the rats in a single alley in Manhattan. If you ever feel that there’s no wildlife where you live, this book is an inspiration. But I still don’t want one in the house.