My house is a heritage-style home and is more than a hundred years old. We didn't have real problems with rodents on my floor until we built a deck off my upstairs kitchen with steps leading up from the ground. Since then, both rats and raccoons have had easy access to the roof, since my deck is on a level with the eavestroughs. They chew their way in, and once in, they skitter down through the walls. Well, not the raccoons. They just stroll in through the kitchen door if I leave it open when it gets hot in the summer, and have to be chased out with much shouting and waving of brooms or mops. They are much less insidious than rats!
Now, I have not yet seen a rat for this particular go-round, thank God. I've just found evidence of their presence, like chewed stuff, poo, and of course, the beginnings of 'the smell.' Adult rats are slightly more discreet before they have young 'uns. Once the babies arrive, the destruction they are capable of rachets up a few degrees. They run everywhere and chew everything and they can't really be controlled. For the first few weeks when I was still trying to convince myself we had squirrels again, the rats were staying out of our living quarters. But then I had a few busy days at work when I didn't check the pantry because we were either eating leftovers or I wasn't cooking at all, and the rats got into it. Yuck, yuck, yuck. I had to throw out a lot of stuff. When this is over, I'll have to go in there and disinfect and sterilize everything.
I headed out to buy traps and poison. I'm aware that many people are down on poison. It has advantages and drawbacks. But I am in no way a novice. The first time I experienced a rodent infestation, which was many years ago, I wasted several weeks trying to solve the problem with traps. Of course I only caught the babies because the adults are far too canny to fall for traps. The big ones kept on having more babies. That was a terrible time. The smell got more and more suffocating every day. I had to call a professional exterminator and when they arrived, to my surprise, they used a combination of traps and poison. I followed the guys around and asked a lot of questions, thus learning more than I had ever wanted to know about the social structure of rat and mouse colonies, plus methods of extermination. The poison apparently slows the rats down enough that they get caught by the traps. If you think you have one rat (ha) then go ahead and try to catch her with a trap. But once you have a whole family of them, the clock is ticking. Especially if they're in your house with you. I might be a little more patient if I thought they were outside lurking in the shrubbery and holding nightly meetings about how best to gain a foothold inside the house. Unfortunately, they're already in, and this means war. It's them or us.
At the hardware store, I asked the pair of young women working in the Garden Centre where I could find rat poison. One of them led me straight to the section, but the other one stared at me in horror. I'm assuming she is an animal lover. By the time I returned to her checkout counter with my box of poison, her horror had morphed into outright hostility. She told me coldly that her till was closed and I would have to take my purchase upstairs. I shrugged and did so. She really looked upset. I bet she has never had rodents chewing holes in her living quarters before. I hope she does someday, and I don't mean that in an unkind way. If you've never had to share your living quarters with disease-causing vermin, which is how I regard rodents, then you are free to regard them in a benevolent light. Yes, rats are intelligent and capable of affection, and lots of people all over the world have them as pets. But it's really different when you have one or two rats as pets and you keep them in a cage and take them out at your convenience to play with them. When you have a rapidly growing colony living in your walls and ceiling, it's absolutely disgusting! But it's a learning experience.
As an additional complication, I have a guest arriving on February 03! I have to solve this problem by then. Wish me luck!