Beliefnet
Beginner's Heart

ratThis is Rattus norvegicus, the common brown rat. It’s the same rat many lab rats are bred from, and it’s SMART. Also, not so nice to have as a wild resident. As in: living in your laundry room. Even if the laundry room is only an occasional outing (inning?) from the garage, where it’s set up house.

My niece used to have a pet rat. But it was white, and looked nothing like the rats that lived (we hope it’s past tense!) in the garage. Her rat’s name was Murphy; he lived well, let me tell you. The rats in the garage are known only by that label: we did NOT name them.

Our rats are almost certainly the result of a rat the cat brought in, and we didn’t get away from her in time. Sigh…. Luckily? It went to the garage, and didn’t move in to the pantry. Still, there were RATS. PLURAL. But I didn’t know for a while — it took the cat food disappearing out of the laundry room (where we feed her) for me to figure out there must be something else going on. Sophie is NOT a large cat.

And then… I saw its tail. Did I mention I was completely creeped out by the flick of that naked ratty tail slipping beneath the washer??

But you know what? I’m a Buddhist. One who no longer eats pigs, or veal, and feels guilty about the meat she does consume. One who carefully picks up spiders and carries them outside. Rescues wasps on brooms to put them outside. In other words, I did NOT want to kill a rat. Much less the three (so far!) who turned up…rat trap

Because rats aren’t ‘things’ to me, I have to tell you. They’re living beings, w/ babies, and mates, and households. And I’m quite certain several of you are shaking your heads in bemusement. The plague! You’re thinking. I know. But baby rats. You can’t KILL mommy & daddy (or baby) rats. So you have to buy a live trap.

As the most fortunate of animal lovers, I give thanks that my beloved indulges me. He baited the live trap (three times!) with cat food. Obviously, our rats think natural cat chow is a delicacy. And each time we caught a rat, we made the trip to the nearby park and released it.

I know this will seem crazy to many people, but I am the product of a childhood in which the connected, web-bedness of all life was made clear to me over & over. As I watched the monks sweep the paths before them carefully, gently, trying not to step on the many ground insects, I learned that even bugs deserve their tiny lives. I still believe this, although I’m not nearly as good as the monks were.

But I can rescue three rats, and take them to wild. Even if the hawk catches these town rats, it’s part of the natural cycle, and better than poison or pain traps. And it makes me feel at least a very little bit more compassionate. Which is worth far more than the $24.99 the Havahart trap cost.

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