Old Maine farmhouses have granite blocks or huge stones for foundations. Over time, whatever filling was used between the blocks falls out.
Eventually, mice, rats, and the occasional red squirrel, get in and immediately set to work looking for ingress to the main house because they smell ………..food!
Mice can get in through tiny holes about the size of a dime, but they’re easy to trap with regular wooden mouse traps. Rats are much harder to deal with.
Rats are extremely persistent. You can hear them gnawing on the beams and wooden walls at night working very hard to get IN THE HOUSE, their primary life’s work.
I pound on the wall where they’re gnawing, and that stops them long enough for me to get back to almost-sleep, then they begin again. And then again, and yet again, seemingly ad infinitum.
One night at my old farmstead (which burned down years ago) in Charlotte, Maine up near the Canadian border, one particular rat would not give up gnawing just below the outside door. This rat was under a low porch where neither I nor the barn cats could reach it.
This critter disturbed my sleep every few minutes for most of the night. Pounding didn’t work. Exhausted and frustrated, I picked up my roommate’s firearm, aimed where the rat was gnawing, and fired the gun right through the house wall!
Rather desperate tactic, I’ll admit. Well, it worked for the time being, although I did have to patch the wall next day.
I got a few hours good sleep before arising early to feed the sheep, chickens, geese, rabbits, ducks, along with the stray rats and mice which ate right along with the legitimate livestock. I never did fire any more holes through the house, figuring it wasn’t a really good, long-term solution.
You can’t set rat or mouse traps or poison in a barn full of livestock, so one must outsmart the marauders, which is not easy when dealing with rats.
One other time, this was when I was living alone in that old farmhouse, I thought I heard noises in the night. All foodstuffs were kept in glass or metal containers so critters couldn’t get to them, but it was winter and very cold out; in the early 80’s every winter was Polar Vortex time.
Rats like to be comfy, too; they appreciate the warmth of chimneys and insides of houses. I kept hearing soft noises I couldn’t identify. Noises in the night cannot be ignored; one must figure out from whence they’re coming.
One night I stayed up and left a small light on so I could see what was going on. Absolute stillness is necessary because rats are smart and wary; they’ll disappear at the slightest movement.
Finally, something made a soft noise. As I watched, moving only my eyes, a large rat squeezed in next to the chimney from the cellar and – Bingo! – it was in the house!
Rat ran across the floor and squeezed through a small hole into my bedroom clothes closet. Yikes! Rat in the house! In my bedroom closet!
I immediately opened the closet door to see where the rat had gone. A cedar chest with some sweaters piled on top was blocking my view, so I removed the top layer of sweaters.
Aaaargh!!! GACK!!!! NOOOOOO! Out popped baby rats falling every which way! Baby rats among my sweaters! Rats breeding inside my house……..Eeeeeeeeeek!!!
Insupportable, unacceptable, unlivable……..What To Do?!
Fortunately, there was an answer close to hand.
Living with the livestock and keeping the barn mostly mouse- and rat-free were several barn cats which preferred to be outside cuddling in the hay rather than in the house – their choice. So I brought two of the friendliest barn cats – the other three were feral and would not be touched – into the house for a few weeks.
I always have fed barn cats well so they’d be strong and healthy. Otherwise they and their kittens would have fallen prey to rats, weasels, raccoons, coyotes, and foxes, all of which were around the farm. Not all kittens survived these predators, anyway, ensuring the barn cat population never got overwhelming.
Because rats are large and mean, cats have to be strong to tackle them. These barn cats – females because they’re the best hunters/killers and because they hate rats since rats kill and eat their babies – were able to tackle and get rid of all the house rats within a couple of weeks.
While cats hate rats and will kill them on sight, they rarely eat them. Especially if the cats are well-fed.
So, killer cats and dead rats in the house. Finding mutilated and rotting dead rats around the house in unexpected places wasn’t pleasant, but occasioned much relief. Finally, I had a rat-free home again.
After the rats were gone, these two beautiful, calico female cats (called “Money Cats” in the local vernacular) decided to stay in the house, which made me happy. Nothing like a purring cat on the bed at night to ease one into sleep.
The Rat Wars – end part one