A Rat In The Closet (On Knowing When It’s Time To Move On)

The rat is dead.

It has to be. No one has woken to frantic scrambling in the attic, or the click of nails on the windowsill. Little poops no longer cover my floor like confetti. Food crumbs remain on the kitchen floor.

Somehow, in a country without any native mammal populations, we’ve managed to lure the island’s largest imported Norwegian Rat into our house. Or my closet, to be more specific. The backpack on the top shelf, which used to carry my life, now carries rat-diseases and rat-breaths and rat-pees and all sorts of ratty-other-things.

A sign it’s time to move on? When your travel luggage has been left unused for so long, a large rodent turns it into a toilet.

moving on from Queenstown New Zealand

So, while I angrily fumigate my backpack again and again, the male flatmates search for a body. I go back and forth between guilt (Ode to a rat, who was born very fat, his only crime, leaving the attic at the wrong time); and relief (Am I showing symptoms of meningitis and the mad-rat-sickness?).

Killing a native animal is a legal offense; but poisoning a rat/trying to stab it with ski poles/trying to trap it with peanut butter/trying to bash it with a dinner plate – that’s normal work for a handful of local extermination experts.

I wish it had ended differently, I do. If only he’d chosen to burrow into someone else’s prize possession, things might have had a positive conclusion. But it’s too hard to love the little guy who, through constant bowel activity, reminds me that I’ve stayed settled long enough to own a pet…

How do you decide when it’s time to move on?


Norwegian Rat photograph by Tomas Cekanavicius, Wikimedia Commons.

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