May 19, 2010 1:45 PM   Subscribe

I came home from work this afternoon to find a dead rat lying in the spot where my cat likes to leave his 'catch of the day' for my approval. Usually he catches small squirrels, moles and birds, and this is the first (wild) rat I've ever seen in my life, alive or dead. I am super grossed out and horrified, and now I'm worried that there are rats around that could get in my house! (Although, I am a bit less worried than I would be if I didn't have a cat that can catch them!)

I have some woods behind my house, but it's only a small distance until there's a main road, and I live in a pretty well-populated suburb. I've always associated rats with being around urban it normal for rats to be around, out and about, and I just don't notice them because they aren't decaying in my garden? Or do I need to worry about a possible problem? I really don't want any rats around, alive or dead.
posted by cottonswab to Home & Garden (13 answers total)
Purely anecdotal:

I grew up with an orchard behind my house and a corn field at the dead end of our street... in other words, certainly not urban, but if we were outside at night, we would sometimes see rats.

Though we had mice in our house a few autumns when the corn had just been harvested and it started getting cold (which drove my mother insane), we never had rats, even in our garage.

In other words, your cat probably just caught an odd one, but based on my experience, they'll probably stay clear.
posted by MCMikeNamara at 1:51 PM on May 19, 2010

Everywhere there are humans there are rats.

They tend to like low ground cover so avoid having ivy and large lengths of shrubs around your property if you'd prefer to keep them at distance.

They also share the sewer with racoons, so there's that.

I live in a well populated suburb as well and what always creeps me out is when I see them walking on the telephone wires at late at night.

The good news is that rats generally aren't a problem until they decide to move into a house, which is comparatively rare. Make sure your crawlspace is sealed up tight and you shouldn't have any issues.
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 1:56 PM on May 19, 2010 [1 favorite]

They say that if you live in a city, you're never more than 6 feet away from a rat. So there probably are always rats where you are and usually don't trouble you.
posted by Not Supplied at 1:57 PM on May 19, 2010

I felt the same way when one washed up (dead) in the Loo. We're also in a well-populated suburb and I was worried that the sewers and pipes could be crawling with them. My SO did some research and discovered that the claim that Rats are all around us is greatly exaggerated (as is the "you're never more than 6 feet/20 feet from a Rat" claim). We were advised not to use the garbage disposal for food, as it may attract them. We haven't seen one since (it has been around 9 years or so).
Don't assume that you will be swamped by Rats. If your cat caught one, it was probably old or feeble in some way - Rats are good at eluding cats normally. It may have been made dopey by the sudden onset of warm weather. You are unlikely to encounter any more.
posted by Susurration at 2:02 PM on May 19, 2010

Rats are everywhere, if not within 6 feet of us. Your cat caught one because it was there, not because you have an infestation problem.

How thoughtful of your cat to leave the body out as a warning to others. I expect he is super proud of this latest contribution to the groceries. He is probably happily thinking "they throw it in the deep freeze, they'll still be eating it by Thanksgiving".
posted by tel3path at 2:15 PM on May 19, 2010 [3 favorites]

"I have some woods behind my house, but it's only a small distance until there's a main road," My guess is, before your house was there, the whole area was woods. This is the last vestige of what was once a wild open habitat filled with more creatures than you would ever imagine. We have, for more than forty years, lived adjacent to or within areas teeming with wildlife. This can include squirrels and other cute furry creatures as well as rats and other ugly creatures. Frankly, they are all just members of the community. We have learned to peacefully co-exist with 99% of them. Your cat is keeping both the good and the bad ones away from the house.
posted by Old Geezer at 2:16 PM on May 19, 2010

Don't sweat it. Did you know that, in Los Angeles (even in the good parts) there are rats in the palm trees? True. I didn't know, until one night I was parked while on the phone at night, in a quiet neighborhood, and I heard one scurrying down from the top of the tree all the way to the ground. Good times.
posted by davejay at 2:21 PM on May 19, 2010

I have lived all over NYC. Every neighborhood is infested with rats, even the nicer neighborhoods. I have never seen one inside or heard of anyone seeing one inside. I'm sure you're fine.
posted by milarepa at 2:39 PM on May 19, 2010

Lavish some affection on your cat tonight, particularly near the carcass.
posted by Pope Guilty at 2:43 PM on May 19, 2010

Good kitty! Not all of them have the balls to go up against a full-sized rat.

FWIW, one year I lived in an apartment on a block that developed a full-on rat infestation in the dumpsters. Rats running down the sidewalks in single-file lines every sunset, rats running out when you went to throw your trash away, roadkilled rats covering half the street... Totally, totally gross and nasty (needless to say, I was out of there as soon as the lease was up). BUT. I never had one single rat, ever, go into my apartment where my cats were. Rats don't usually like to be anywhere where a cat lives. They aren't dumb. If hundreds of rats running around in plain sight won't enter an apartment, it's probably a pretty safe bet that the odd rat out in the woods won't give up its safe burrow for a berth in a kitchen cabinet next to Mister Kitteh.
posted by kataclysm at 3:06 PM on May 19, 2010

Response by poster: Thanks for the reassurance...I feel a lot better now. I'd just never seen one before, but then again I never had a cat that was as much of a killer as this one is. I've even put a big bell on him but I swear the handicap just makes him a better hunter. He will definitely be getting extra love and treats tonight though!
posted by cottonswab at 3:29 PM on May 19, 2010

I imagine you haven't seen them before now because you've had cats (so the rats steer clear) and that you saw one now because your current cat sought it out.

I've never seen any signs of mice or rats in any of my homes since I've had cats, except for once: when my next-door neighbors tore their house down to rebuild it, I imagine they must have stirred up the local rat population a bit, and one of my kitties took advantage of the opportunity. They're both fixed and rarely ever strayed past the fence lines so it must have been a very exciting moment for whichever one of them got the kill.
posted by padraigin at 3:46 PM on May 19, 2010

Mod note: A few comments removed. Ironic/sarcastic comments and other non-answer metacommentary need to go elsewhere, please.
posted by cortex (staff) at 8:53 AM on May 22, 2010

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