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Friday, March 17, 2006

New Rats in the Neighborhood

I was informed that my new computer would most likely arrive on the 16th, so yesterday I came home from work early. The only thing that arrived was a small box of software *sigh*.

So I sat around waiting and waiting for the UPS truck, watching Season II of Bertie & Jeeves from Masterpiece Theater, which features the very young Hugh Laurie & Stephen Fry. I love House and Fry narrates the Brit version of the Harry Potter series. I think both gentlemen did very nicely for themselves.

Then in the late afternoon the rains began again and I looked up to see Rum Kitty, proudly marching across the hardwood floor with a HUMONGOUS rat hanging from his jaws. Rum is a dedicated & eager ratter but this was by far the largest rat I have ever known him to tackle - the rat was even larger than the squirrel he caught for me several years ago.

Rum's rat was so fresh a kill there was a trail of blood drops across the wood flooring. Ewww. Rum put the rat down and gave me the 'You know I take better care of you than you take care of me' look of reproach.

I told Rum what a brilliant kitty he was, a credit to his race and scourge of all the rats in Fair Oaks. He seemed pleased that I could appreciate his cleverness.

Then I noticed this rat was was not the same old, same old! Normally Rum catches Black/Roof Rats - which can be easily ID'd by their tails which are longer than the body length. Roof rats are the Rattus rattus - traditional carriers of Bubonic Plague.

No, Rum's catch was a Norway Rat - the baudy rat of my childhood in New York City. No - I did not live with rats but they were always there and though I never saw one I often heard stories that the Bronx rats were 'larger than cats'. I believe it then, but now take that as urban legend.

Norway Rat: Rattus effinghuge

I examined the drippy rat as I carried it to the trash bin in the garage - the beast's tail was thick and well less than half the length of the rat's body - yes, Rattus norvegicus. I usually photograph Rum's prey, but could not, my camera being one of the stolen items.

I had no idea there were Norway Rats in my neighborhood! By comparison, Roof Rats are rats of gentility, rats of distinction, rats that keep aloft, nesting in trees & in roofs - penthouse rats.

Black or Roof Rat (Rattus abouttownus)

By contrast Norway/Brown Rats are homie rats - rats from the hood - a different species entirely.

Somehow it seems to all make sense now - ought to have realized there were rats in the area when I got robbed a week ago. The raccooons have probably moved on now too - marked for ultimate replacement by jackles.

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