There’s a rat in my garden - and my husband doesn’t know what to do

There was a rat in Ellen's garden

There was a rat in Ellen's garden - Credit: Archant

My husband is not a great fan of other people, writes Ellen Widdup.

He won’t mind me saying so – in fact his intolerance is so severe I sometimes wonder how he copes with a wife and three kids.

“Hell is other people,” he often whispers if someone annoys him, quoting one of his heroes and fellow miserable git Jean-Paul Sartre.

But he loves animals. His best friend is the dog, he swerves to avoid rabbits and believes any form of blood sport is barbaric.

He thinks zoos should be banned, has very strong views on abattoirs and has been known to swear at strangers wearing fur.

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It is all the more shocking therefore that in the past week he has turned into a blood-thirsty mad man in pursuit of a trophy kill.

You see we have a little – well really rather big - friend living in our back garden.

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A rat.

Now I grew up in London so I’ve seen a few rodents in my time.

I remember a time in the 90s when some tube stations were so infested, the rats became tame. Euston was notorious.

But I have never met a specimen quite like this one.

The first time I saw him, I thought the dog had been left outside – he’s that large.

He saunters across the lawn from one hedgerow to the next, stopping for a quick scratch and a cursory nod in my general direction.

Our pooch loves chasing birds – but has never been fast enough to catch one.

But when I ushered him out, thinking he would enjoy the hunt for the rodent, he scratched frantically at the door to be let back in.

“We need to do something about the rat,” I said, after watching Ratty from the kitchen window as he cleaned his whiskers in the winter sun unperturbed.

“He’s not hurting anyone, is he?” my husband whined. “What’s the problem? The garden is his home too.”

So, I pointed out a few rat facts: “Rats carry Weil’s disease, Salmonella, Listeria, Toxoplasma gondii and Hantavirus,” I said. “Shall I go on?”

“Well, don’t stroke him then,” came the reply.

I changed my tactics to hit him where it would really hurt. “What if he chews through the wires to the satellite TV? You’ll miss the football.”

“OK – maybe you’re right,” came the response.

He set off to the shops and returned with a humane trap.

The idea was to capture the intruder and transport him to a new, more suitable home where he could live the rest of his rodent days in peace and happiness.

The device – with a cheese treat inside - was set and, with utter confidence, my husband went to bed.

Next morning he dashed outside to look for the furry friend, only to return two minutes later with an empty trap. The cheese had vanished.

“How can this have happened?” he asked, scratching his head. “The trap has not been activated but he has taken the cheese. I don’t get it.”

He tried again the following night, leaving some cereal for Ratty.

This time he oiled the shutter door of the trap to ensure the mechanism was in full working order. But next morning a similarly confused scene was acted out in the kitchen.

“Maybe a field mouse is taking the food,” he pondered. “The rat has obviously moved on.”

“Nope – there he is,” I pointed to where the rodent was happily munching a cornflake on the lawn.

“OK – this is war.”

He dashed outside, grabbing a spade that had been left part-submerged in the flowerbed and bashed it on the grass in the general direction of the rat.

The rat scarpered but as my husband turned back, defeated again, to shrug his shoulders in my general direction, it poked its head out of the undergrowth and, with brazen cheek, sauntered casually across the patio behind him.

Now my husband was mad.

He went back to the shops and returned with some small but nasty looking traps that were far from humane.

“The rat has forced my hand,” he said, as he laced them with chocolate.

But next morning he had been out-foxed again.

“I don’t believe it,” he screamed, exasperated. “He has eaten all the chocolate and not set one trap off. He’s like a cat burglar.”

My son piped up from behind his breakfast: “A rat burglar maybe?”

When I returned from an afternoon out later that day, things had taken a turn for the worse. I started to wish I had just called pest control.

“DANGER: DO NOT COME IN THIS WAY – GO AROUND THE FRONT!” screamed a sign pinned to the back gate.

I joined my husband at the kitchen window as he surveyed his handy work. The lawn had been turned into a booby-trap.

There were five evil-looking traps liberally smeared with peanut butter. Each looked big enough to capture a bear never mind a rat and were surrounded by three smaller traps. At each potential exit point along the garden fence, was a box laced with poison.

“There is no way he can survive this,” said my husband, like Wile E Coyote desperately trying to capture Road Runner.

“Come and sit down, leave the rat to meet his maker,” I said, worried the stress of the hunt was getting to him.

“No. Can’t,” he said shortly, lifting some binoculars to his eyes to get a better view of the end of the garden.

“Need to stay alert in case a bird tries to get the bait – don’t want to hurt anything.”

Finally, with a chilling yet satisfactory thud, one of the traps activated (followed by several of the smaller) ones.

“Got him!” he yelled dashing outside.

An hour later the garden was cleared and life was back to normal but for the distant sound of digging. I ventured outside.

“What are you doing?” I asked my husband.

“I was just going to sling him in the undergrowth,” he said. “But I felt sorry for him so I’m digging a grave. He was an excellent adversary.”

I rested my hand on his back: “How sweet.”

I turned to go in the house when I heard a loud squeak behind me. “It’s back from the dead,” I thought, preparing to leg it.

But just as Warner Brothers dictates, Wile E Coyote had just got his comeuppance.

An overlooked trap had ensnared my husband’s trainer and he was hopping round the grass, squealing.

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