My neighbor Donna saw a rat in her house. She freaked out and tried to keep it contained in her guest bedroom. The rat chewed or clawed through some of the carpet in the room. When she saw the destruction, she opened the doors and hoped it would leave.

She thought I would be shocked. I wasn’t. I had lived in the Arcadia area of Phoenix where the roof rats first showed up, about ten years ago. A pair came on a moving truck from California. They loved the citrus on the trees in Arcadia, a former orange grove. The telltale sign of a roof rat is the shell of an orange with a hole in it. The roof rats suck out the insides. We had thirty-two orange and grapefruit trees, so we saw the evidence. When we drained our pool, I was horrified to see them congregate at the bottom. Roof rats do not carry diseases but they can chew through wires in attics.

When I was divorced, I moved to another home in Arcadia. I had only five citrus trees, but I saw the signs of roof rats. One day, as I was getting into the shower, I saw a dark blob in my toilet. I thought, who used my bathroom and didn’t flush? I looked a little closer and screamed! It was a rat! I closed the lid of the toilet and put a humongous and very heavy bottle of mouthwash on the lid. My son Max was about fourteen and he was pounding on my bedroom door.

I threw on a shift and opened the door. He thought I had hurt myself. I told him there was a rat in the toilet. He wanted to see. I carefully removed the mouthwash and lifted the toilet lid.

“Can I keep it?” he asked.

“Absolutely not!” I said. “I’m calling the exterminator.”

I got an answering machine when I called the exterminator. I called the county and the city. They said to call a private firm. I looked in the yellow pages and found critter removal company. The dispatcher said they would be overjoyed to rid me of the rat for $75.00. I considered that a bargain.

By this time Max had phoned a few friends. Every time one arrived, he had to be shown the rat. My bathroom was becoming famous in the neighborhood. I got out my camera and took this picture for posterity.


The critter removal guy showed up with a tall plastic bucket and a tool that looked like tweezers on steroids. He quickly plucked the rat from the toilet.

“Don’t let him out!” I said, not realizing I had a bloodthirsty streak.

“Oh, this rat isn’t going anywhere,” he assured me.

“How do you think it got in?” I asked.

“Do you have a fireplace?” he asked.


“Do you close the flue after you use it?”

“I never thought about it,” I admitted. As soon as he was out the door, I closed the flue in my fireplace.

So when Donna told me about her rat, I didn’t panic. I told her to get some rat traps. She caught a mouse the next day, but no rat. She’s borrowed her daughter’s cat. Maybe that will convince the rat to move on. Probably to my house.

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