Hey! Leave Those Rats Alone!

According to the RSPCA, rats are highly social animals, with an excellent sense of touch and smell – and can form close human-animal bonds. Why then, am I still reading headlines such as “Summer of the cannibal rats! Hungry, aggressive, highly fertile – and coming to our homes”? And not even from the usual tabloids which I suspect you’ve already thought of. No, this one came from a source I expected better of – The Guardian.

Photo by freestocks on Unsplash

Rats, along with mice, have co-existed with humans for centuries – and despite the incessant efforts to poison and wipe them out, they still remain. And will do long after we have gone. Although apparently – according to this recent article – the lockdown brought upon us by coronavirus has unleashed a plague of zombie rodents. Well, OK. I’ll admit to a little exaggeration on my part – but only if the author of this rather irresponsible piece does the same.

These zombie mutant rats will apparently launch themselves at us in the streets, due to the aggressive behaviour as a result of cannibalism. News flash – rats (as with all mammals) were always subject to resorting to cannibalism when times get tough. I’ve not hung around McDonald’s for long enough during lockdown closure to find out just what happens to the human species without their fix of a semi-cold slab of meat and limp, greasy fries. And I don’t intend to – even for the experience.

What I’m saying is – we’re not about to head into a Walking Dead style situation here. I don’t think we need to worry about Negan unleashing a plague of angry rats upon us anytime soon.

Rats and mice live close to people due to the availability of food – and sometimes we make it all too easy for them. Discarded food waste, overflowing bins, bird feed scattered around the garden instead of in contained feeders. Yes – the most common cause of rat infestations is bird feeding – however, we feed the birds in controlled feeders, and no rats! In fact, populations of mice and rats and often exaggerated by pest control companies to get more work – and the media also demonises them. And yes, rats can carry diseases, but if we clean up our environment, we wouldn’t have the numbers of them to cause significant issues. Humans carry diseases too – and we’re not putting down poison all over the place to deal with that.

Let’s work out how to co-exist with these animals, instead of running in fear and trying to constantly kill off the things that are an inconvenience to us. Rats are very intelligent animals and don’t like new things. So when you put down poison, they don’t like the change. They won’t take the poison, they’ll just move on. So why not just clean up the food they have access to instead? Block up holes in your property if they’re coming in. Remove the ease with which they can settle and hide out in your garden. Petition your local council to put in better waste facilities and teach people about the issues with littering. After all, rats have adapted to live alongside humans.

Let’s not take it out on the rats – they mean us no harm, and we – as humans – should use our intelligence to learn to be more tolerant of other animals, as a species.

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