This is a guest post by Cassie Evans. We love having her as a guest blogger. She is a busy attorney who practices commercial/business litigation as well as real estate law (yes, she’s brilliant!). She lives in charming Hollywood Heights Santa Monica with her hubby and ever-changing menagerie of rescue and foster pets, some not so welcome. I do know that critter problems exist all over this city, including (shockers) Highland Drive, in Highland park, where one critter catcher once told me he saw the worst infestation of roof rats ever!
Now that Dallas has been very cold for the THIRD time this winter (that is my version of meteorology – just go with it), I am happy to report that some of my least favorite cold-weather house guests are gone. Gonzo. For good. Like if they come back, I just call a number, and someone comes over to evict them. There is even a “good riddance” guarantee that attaches this service to our house for life, should we sell. Every landlord should be so lucky.
I’m talking about my former house guests, roof rats.
When the temperatures dropped, apparently a newsflash went out in the Lakewood Roof Rat Times to come on over to our house. No bueno. You see, roof rats thrive from November to May in the South when temps are cooler and they can tootle around comfortably. Although rats are common throughout all parts of the U.S., roof rats can be found mostly in the Southern states and along the west and east coasts. Roof rats eat mostly grains, seeds, fruit, and garbage so you are likely to find roof rats anywhere there is a human population. And though they are active during twilight and nighttime hours, they like to have a command center from which they venture out 200-300 feet to run their little rat errands. Like acrobats,they can walk up and down the sides of houses, jump from tree limbs, or travel along power lines and vines. INTO YOUR HOME.
Somehow, our attic became The Command Center.
We didn’t know it was The Command Center right away. That’s the thing about these tricky creatures – they make you second guess yourself. They can sneak in through any opening the size of a nickel or larger. I know a lot of people don’t use change anymore. But if you recall what a nickel looks like, it ain’t big. So they get in pretty much almost anywhere in a house built in 1938. Or one built in 2000 — my parents had rats after a squirrel took their home’s virginity.
Our house is in amazing shape thanks to the seller we bought it from. (Selling agent: Todd Terry.) He was a decorator who completely re-did the (tiny) interior – all updated to perfection – yet retained the charm of the exterior, which is the biggest draw of this neighborhood. It’s modeled after a New Orleans cottage. These must be Cajun rats – they fell in love with it.
One night, while laying in bed, I heard something above us. I thought it was in the attic, but had never heard any noise up there before. Our attic is very small and only used for insulation. It’s not a storage attic – thank God. I looked to Husband, “did you hear that?”
“No, I didn’t hear anything.”
Of course he didn’t. I must be making this up in my head. There is nothing up there. It was probably a stick on the roof or a Lakewood owl out on the hunt. Something plausible.
The next night I heard it again – around the same time. At this point I thought maybe I needed to check myself in somewhere. An adult camp. For the crazy. Get a brain and ear tune up. Again, Husband heard nothing. I saw NO reaction from his face. I looked at our pack of dogs for a reaction. They were all lying in our bed on their plush dog blanket, relaxing after a hard day of nothing. They were not concerned with mommy’s hallucinations.
So I did what any normal homeowner would do. I looked to our rescue cat for advice. Right? Aren’t they good at this sort of thing? I went and got his precious highness off the ottoman in the living room where he lays in a tray (yes, I have trained him to lay in a tray instead of on my furniture) and looks out a front window. I buttered him up, telling him how much I loved him, how I wanted to snuggle. Put him in our bed. Pet him. Heard a noise. BAM, he looks straight up at the ceiling above our heads. HALLELUJAH! I’m NOT crazy! The cat has confirmed it! I go to bed and set my alarm. The minute I woke the next morning, I called Critter Control. Due to the icy weather, they could not reach a client who lived far away, but could come to me. Thank goodness. We have enough pets right now. We were not looking to take in stray roof rats. A trapper was chez Evans-Decker within 2.5 hours.
Not sure I was fully prepared for what happened next. After checking my attic, quietly, Mr. Trapper informed me that there were too many “critters” to trap. No, it wasn’t hundreds, but more than like 8-10, and, like bratty teens, they had become difficult suckers to trap. And then he told me what they were doing up there: POOPING. HAVING SEX! Roof rat scat, urine and x-rated activities in my pristine attic? Our Seller had just put in brand new, snow-white insulation a few years ago.
Oh, it’s no longer snow white, I was told.
Apparently, that type of fluffy, fun insulation is like roof rat crack. They LOVED it. The Critter Control rep took pics with his cell phone in the attic and showed me. I stayed grounded, no way I was going up there. Nor, actually, was the cat. He was back on his tray.
The Critter Catcher showed me photos of huge holes made in the insulation. He said they were really big tunnels for rats. Apparently, these rats weren’t just tunneling for warmth up there, peeing pooping and having sex. There was a roof rat frat gig going on with Hurricane Harbor slides.
Take it all out, I said, freaking, take everything.
I totally forgot there is important stuff up there. Like, oh, all the electrical wiring. And our surround sound speakers that are in every room. These freeloading guests could be causing THOUSANDS of dollars of damage and possibly cause an electrical fire. And I don’t know if you’ve checked your Homeowner’s Insurance Policy lately, but almost all contain an exclusion for rodents and rodent-related damage.
(But not for fire. And that’s all I’m saying on this topic.)
The rats had to be evicted, and this had to be a rush job.
I begged Critter Control to bump me up on the priority list. I had visions of a home we had owned for 5 months becoming infested and condemned by the City in two weeks. And it’s scary. Your home is generally your biggest investment to date, next to possibly student loans. Certainly ours was, or is.
Lucky for me, they took pity on our 13.5 year old Cavalier King Charles, Polly, who has congestive heart failure and just enough dementia to be adorable to strangers. Critter Catchers would save her from the rats. Apparently, rat poop and urine can spread some serious diseases to both humans and pets, including Rat-Bite Fever (good luck telling anyone you had that) and Leptospirosis. And they carry fleas, which carry a host of diseases.
They had to go. I was starting to google “blow torch”.
We chose Critter Control because it’s a national company and they provide a lifetime guarantee against further infestation that remains with the property – i.e. it’s a selling point, especially in areas that are prone to wildlife. They can pretty much handle ANY animal/critter. So the next time I see a spider, all I have to do is call them –kidding. But if we do have a snake, a possum, whatever, trespass, they will come to this home for free and humanely remove and re-home it. Truly is a good selling point.
So the weekend after Thanksgiving, Team Critter Control arrived for Operation Roof Rat Removal Day. There were so many men. They all wore the protective gear and masks and headed into my once pristine, now rat poop central attic. They sucked out the rats (some had left for their daily errands, but some were fast asleep), vacuumed out all of the insulation with these amazing, powerful vacuums (which they also used to kindly vacuum our landscaping and suck up all the leftover fall leaves – very handy), cleaned the entire attic space with hospital-grade germicidal cleaner, checked all electrical wires for nibbles and fixed any that needed repairing, and then blew all new insulation into our attic that rats do not like – cellulose based insulation coated in boric acid.
We are no longer providing them their dream environment.
Oh, it didn’t stop there. The rest of the Team was outside and scanning below the house, finding every point of entry for the unwanted animals, to ensure the elimination of recurrent wildlife invasions. Screens were vented, all eaves sealed, the chimney capped for rodents, under-house venting checked and all entry holes closed off. They also checked every single air duct to make sure no shenanigans had occurred in them and that there was no damage. All of this was included in one price.
So yeah, we now live in an impenetrable FORTRESS.
30 days post roof-rats, they came to check the traps in the attic. Not only were they empty and none of the bait touched, there wasn’t so much as a paw print in the brand new insulation.
When Icepocalypse 2013 hit, we really got to see how well insulated our home is. When it started warming up outside and everyone’s roofs were dripping water, our roof retained an even layer of snow and ice across it, gradually warming, but slower than every house on the block. Ok, we don’t just live in a fortress. We live in a Hot Pocket. This bad boy is about as green as you can get for a 1938 home with the new roof (thank you hail storm of 2012) and rodent free cellulose insulation. If I ever hear that noise again…. I just have to call Critter Control!
As a side note, I was shocked by how many people with small children – like crawling on the ground-age small children – confessed to having had rodent infestation issues but put out poison and do not do removal/professional clean up to “keep costs down.” I’m sorry – you want to keep costs down so you let your kiddo crawl around near rat poison, urine, and feces, and are fine with that?
YIKES. I have nothing else to say in print but, yikes!