In which we have unwelcome visitors

Although we have lived in the country for the past 8 years, we have been very blessed.  We have never seen a rodent inside the house.  Well, except for the ones in cages, like all the gerbils we bred as snake and tarantula food.  And also the rabbits the kids brought into the house, but they were cute and domesticated, and are they technically even rodents, or just closely related?

Anyway, I felt very fortunate that we had never had to deal with an invasion of rats or mice.  We’ve had other invasions – armies of daddy longlegs come to mind – but never rats and mice.

But a few weeks ago, we came home to a kitchen that almost looked like it had been ransacked.  An entire row of jars holding dry goods had been knocked out of one window sill, and another row of pint jars holding water in rainbow colors had been knocked out of the window over the sink.  One cabinet door had been torn loose and was dangling from a single hinge.


We were shocked and puzzled.  We cleaned up and pondered what to do.  It was a very busy week, and somehow I managed to “forget” about the problem.  This wasn’t quite as hard as you might imagine, since there were no further signs of occupation.  No poop, no chewed packages in the pantry, nothing.  It never happened, I told myself.  The jars must have fallen, somehow.  Maybe the cat was taking liberties on the kitchen counter, and the dogs had challenged his right to be up there.

A week or two passed with no further signs of unwelcome visitors.  We had family from out of town staying with us, and all of us left in 3 vehicles to brave the crowds and do a little last-minute gift shopping.  I returned home late in the afternoon with a few of the children, and we found that there had been a poop party in the kitchen.  The entire counter was littered with rodent dropping, and things were moved about.  I was horrified, and we bleached every surface in sight, throwing away any food that might have been accessible.

Now it was obvious that we had been invaded.  I became obsessive about hiding every scrap of food before we went to bed at night.  I was concerned that hiding the easy food sources might encourage the critters to invade the pantry, but it never happened.   I checked the pantry constantly for signs of rodents, but found nothing.  I bought and set some old-fashioned mousetraps in the kitchen, placing them along the window sill, against the wall, and anywhere I had noticed a heavier share of droppings.

The next morning all the traps had been sprung but we hadn’t caught a single varmint.

Aha, we thought.  RATS.  We needed the big snap-traps.  We bought the big’uns and set them all over the counter.   Instead of relying on the prebaited traps, we smeared peanut butter on them.  Just for good measure, we also bought some rat-sized glue boards. We wanted to be sure this time was successful, because I was afraid our invaders would get smart and avoid the traps altogether if we didn’t catch them soon.

We had a few peaceful days with no signs of visitors at all.  Then we left again for a daytime outing.  When we came home, all the rat traps had been sprung and the bait was untouched.  The glue boards were empty – except for a few footprints!  They looked like this:

And they were surprisingly big.  We briefly wondered if we were dealing with a very young raccoon, but thought it would have been far more destructive.  It was a big rat, we decided.  And since the droppings varied in size, maybe it was a mother accompanied by her half-grown offspring.  I felt a rising sense of panic.  Did you know rats can have up to 20 young in one litter?

We gave up on the snap traps, but left the glue boards out just in case.  We caught 6 flies, 2 geckos, and our 12yo cat, Tim.  He was not happy about this.

Our invaders grew bolder.  We began to hear noises during the day.  We heard them behind the refrigerator.  We heard a big scuffle when we opened the laundry room door.

We considered our next move.  Should we get a younger cat, maybe a female with some hunting experience?  I wasn’t entirely ready for the longterm commitment of a new pet, but was ready to consider the possibility.

Perry came home with a battery powered trap shaped like a small mailbox that would electrocute rats.  We were seeing a lot of droppings on the dryer, so set it up there and baited it with cat food.  It was much too small for the cat to fit inside, so it seemed fairly safe.

Finally, it happened.  Deanna was the first to actually lay eyes on our visitor.  She was carrying a basket to the laundry room and as she swung the door open, she caught her breath.

“Mom!  I just saw it!  It’s not a rat.  Do you know what it is?  Do you know it is???”

read part 2


  1. Possum or rac. We have them by the boatload around here. We also have tons of skunks, but I don’t know if that’d be them. Racs ate all of one family’s food last fall on our homeschool campout. They’ve also been known to unzip people’s tents while sleeping!

  2. I have no idea if the tracks match but I think possum. Obnoxious ugly suckers. Thanks for leaving us hanging…

  3. I’m sorry for your invasion, but I want to congratulate you on achieving epic cliffhanger suspense! For those of us who are truly dying to know what this is and aren’t content to wait patiently, it’s also been very educational googling “rodents native to Texas” and comparing each of their tracks to the ones in the post.

    The fun part is that those tracks don’t look EXACTLY like anything I found. The closest match seems to be a gopher, but that’s probably wrong, too. Oh, well. I eagerly await Part Two!

  4. I’m thinking a squirrel?? We have seen what a mess they can make! Now tell us what you did, how did you catch the little guy? 🙂

  5. Ackkkkkkkkkkkkkkk! I don’t know but this would freak me out!!!

  6. Well done! I hope you get/got it out sooN! And (as I said over on f/b) I think the glass jars were lovely! Do tell?

  7. It was a red squirrel.

  8. An armidillo! That’s my guess!

  9. blossomteacher says:

    Them there’s coon tracks!

  10. Eeeek! Tell us soon!

    And a rabbit is indeed not a rodent. It is a lagamorph 🙂

  11. A raccoon. We had one at the ranch that started hoarding grain inside our gator. He also chewed through the brake line. Fortunately my mom wasn’t headed toward the edge of the canyon with my children when she discovered that she had no brakes. They’re very clever.

  12. Lois Groat says:

    Oh! And the rainbow jars are so pretty! Now I want to make some for my windowsill!

  13. Lois Groat says:

    How dare you stop in the middle!!!!!

  14. Noooo!
    You can’t just leave us hanging!

    I had a similar problem in my old apartment and I’m itching to know if you had a rat problem too!

    Please end my misery and tell us what it is….pretty please? 🙂

  15. WHAT? You’re going to leave us hanging????? Tell us soon, before we burst! 🙂

  16. I think it was the grinch trying to steal christmas! ha!
    and………since I haven’t seen any other name for the racetrack thingie giveway, I”m assuming I won! ha!

  17. A Jackalope! 🙂
    You do love a cliffhanger, don’t ya?

  18. Living in Australia, I’d have to guess possum

  19. It has to be a possum. I had one that entered through my dryer vent a few years ago and scared the daylights out of me. Sorry to say but I grabbed the nearest thing to me (a broom) and smacked it. My husband had quite a mess to clean up that evening when he got home.

  20. And also, why DID You have rainbow water in jars?

  21. awww….you can’t DO that!!! I don’t know how you slept thinking you had rats!! I would have been at a hotel!!

  22. CHUPACABRA! Kidding, of course, and glad I liked your page on facebook so I won’t stay awake all night wondering. 😉

  23. If it’s a weasel, read _Never Tease a Weasel_. It could be a great help in the recovery phase.

    Sorry, Kim!

  24. OH! I tried to check the file name but couldn’t figure out my new computer and the tracks image!

  25. Opossum? We came home one time and found one in the bathroom….home from a LOOONNNNGGG trip with no bathroom breaks. Someone (ahem…) was so startled when they turned on the bathroom light they nearly had a little accident!

  26. It was a squirrel, right?

    Hopefully all is peaceful now!

  27. Ooops, there’s info on the picture file you posted that gives it away. Red squirrel. But you had me going…I googled a bunch of animals before almost giving up.

  28. Carolyn C says:

    With more research we have concluded that you have either Alvin, Simon or Theodore.
    Not a Marmot.

  29. Carolyn C says:

    Thanks for prompting a short science lesson on animal tracks. My son and I have looked over internet and books. He has come up with it being a “Marmot”. Do we get a prize if we get it right? 🙂

  30. Eep! Is it a BEAR?? Do bears live in Texas??

  31. I agree with squirrel. I think the droppings of an opossum or raccoon wouldn’t have looked like a rats droppings and a squirrel can do a lot of damage.

  32. Yeah, squirrel. Or maybe a shrew. But I’m thinking squirrel. How fun. 🙂

  33. Elizabeth K. says:

    Well, this is the first time that I’ve commented on one of your postings, and it’s because I’m wicked CREEPED OUT. Like, my skin is crawling and I feel a little vomitous.

    I don’t really care what the animal is really (I don’t even like to think about it), but I’m hoping against hope that it’s NOT a rat. It seems like it may be a R.O.U.S.

  34. They are basing their guess on the tracks. I’m basing mine on what else would cause such suspense and drama…

  35. I’m thinking possum. Or skunk, though you might have smelled it.

    In the suburb I used to live in, we were fairly (within a mile) close to a creek and for awhile there, we’d have raccoons and possums helping themselves to the cat food. The cats didn’t seem to mind.

  36. My children think you had an opossum invasion. I think it was a chupacabra baby or two…

  37. What a cliffhanger! I always enjoy your posts in my reader. This one caused me to comment!!

    I’ve just spent too much time googling paw prints. My 10 y/o votes for possum. I vote for raccoon (or maybe ferret or guinea pig), though I think it’s some type of special to Texas animal I can’t think of. I looked up capybara tracks and they don’t match. See…too much time! 😉

    Please don’t wait to long to tell us! 😉

  38. I know because I saw a picture of this rodent. 🙂 I am not telling though!!

  39. OH MY GOSH! I have to know!!! Come on, now!

  40. adoptingmama says:

    You can’t just leave us hanging like that! Horrid 🙂

  41. It’s a squirrel!! I have had one of them in my house too, and they do make a BIG mess!

  42. i’m thinking coon, too

  43. I think it is a Raccoon!

  44. I’m going with opossum as well.

  45. that’s not fair!!!! 😉
    I think fox.

  46. Maybe a Possum?

Don't just think it: say it!

%d bloggers like this: