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Rats and Mice: A Little History

Tuesday, February 07, 2012
"Rats!" Charlie Brown made the innocuous "expletive" something of a cultural icon back before TVs had flat screens and kids weren't all grown up by the age of 9.  Once upon a time, "Rats!" was a slang word of choice, dare we say, a lightly salted "cuss" word. That's because rats have held a negative connotation in human society — pet owners notwithstanding — ever since they ventured out of their native northern China, stowed away on trade caravans and ships, and made the world their home. Or rather, their empire. Rodents can be found anywhere humans are, and we humans seem to possess an inherent, general revulsion towards them. Perhaps it was rats' role in spreading disease through the Middle Ages, their propensity to garbage and filth, their creepiness factor. They are nimble, quick and highly intelligent, can get through an opening as small as a quarter-inch in diameter, and they continue to carry the potential for disease, continue to wallow in garbage and filth, and frankly, continue to creep most of us out. Of course, pet owners worldwide will come to their defense, as they well should. But there's a big difference between a domesticated pet rat and a wild one shimmying through your walls, helping itself to that open bag of Goldfish in the pantry, chewing through that Williams & Sonoma oven mitt, and leaving droppings in the China cabinet. Rats and mice (members of the same genus, by the way; if it's bigger it's a rat, and if it's smaller it's a mouse) have thrown their lot in with humans. Thousands of years ago, they figured out we provide free shelter and free food. Nothing has changed to make them think otherwise. In future posts we’re going to share some tips on how to make your home less inviting to rats and mice, but first, a word on cats. Cats can be an effective means of controlling problem rodents. They are just as smart, bigger and quicker, and they love the hunt. Unless you own Garfield, they should catch mice. Of course, it helps to be a cat person (litter boxes, anyone?), and committing to rat control through cat patrol just may entail Mr. Tickles plopping into your lap with a maimed or dead mouse in his mouth. Just an FYI…  

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