For once I’m not going to talk about my running difficulties. I want to talk about my socks.

(OK, they are running socks)

My socks are vanishing. Now I come to think of it I’ve probably lost 4 pairs in the last week or so. I wasn’t really paying attention.

But I know I left my socks stuffed in my shoes after yesterday’s run, and they aren’t there now. Most peculiar.

Well, I got out some new, clean socks and went running. …and as I was cooking dinner just now, out of the corner of my eye, I saw something streak across the floor. Ah, ha! I’ve got a rat.

I wonder… do rats build nests out of socks?

I’ve already put out some traps, but I didn’t bait them with cheese, or peanut butter — I’ve baited them with sweaty running socks!

Sigh. Unfortunately the rat did not take the bait. It seems to have given up on socks — last night it took my bathing suit.

(Still, if anyone could lend me a spare cat for a day or two, I would appreciate it.)

Around midnight there was a snap! Got it! Vanilla and Peanut butter seems to have done the trick — unless there’s another…


There is a second rat. The evening after I captured the first, this second seems to have gone nuts. It’s running all over the room, showing itself to me four times. I was sitting reading the newspaper and it ran right up beside me — I was so startled I didn’t even strike at it that time.

Time to clean out and reset the traps.

Got it too. I really hope there isn’t a third.

Drat, there is a third. I don’t believe that. There must be a hole somewhere. No have-a-heart traps this time. Something with jaws.I do not like killing things. But I don’t feel I have a choice.

In an old, unused door to my kitchen I see a hole that is too small for a rat. But, I guess rats can squish down to a very small cross section. So I block it up.

The trap goes snap not long after I set it. One rat down — but there’s another scuttling around somewhere. This one is trickier — it takes me two days to trap it. This second rat seems to have a penchant for high tech — no socks for it — instead it destroys two ethernet cables, two phone cables, and (somehow) my ethernet switch, it made a start on one of my power cables, but (un)fortunately gave up before any sparks flew.

And I still can’t find my socks.


I found them! Four years later


4 Responses to “Rats…”

  1. annietoth Says:

    Cute photo! Last summer when Carl was away in the field I found a rat on our back porch in an empty bucket. She was a mom — with ten babies! Yep, that’s right, ten! I hate killing things too, but felt like they were intruding. I didn’t know what to do, so I put a sheet over the bucket and carried it outside to the green waste area. As soon as I pulled off the sheet the mother rat leaped out of the bucket leaving her babies behind. Can you believe it? What a bad mom. With gloved hands I then picked up the babies one by one from their tails and dropped them on the ground. I don’t know why I just didn’t tip over the bucket. Later that night I heard a noise on the back porch and turned on the light and what do you know? She came back!! I told her that her nest and babies were gone and she hasn’t since returned.

    Anyway, the nest she made was composed of all sorts of weird stuff — plastic bags, baseball gloves, etc. I wouldn’t be at all surprised if that’s where your socks have gone.

  2. georgeruns Says:

    Baseball gloves? How on earth could a rat even move one, to say nothing of plural, baseball gloves?

    My socks are in the nest on your back porch? A novel idea — could you check?

    I think you are being rather hard on the mom rat. How would you react if something that out-massed you by a factor of 100 or so loomed over you and you had no hands with which to pick up infants? After all she did come back.

    If she stayed there was a good chance she would die too. The death of a litter tends to cause estrous to restart fairly quickly (which is why infanticide is a common male primate strategy when a male takes over a new troop), so starting a new litter probably seemed like a better reproductive strategy.

    Remember that your morality grows out of tens of millions of years of primate evolution where singleton births were the norm. We, as an order, invest a lot of energy into each infant because there aren’t very many of them, each one represents a significant fraction of our total reproductive output. Rodents have evolved a completely different strategy, producing a large number of infants but caring much less for each one (Rodents have nothing on Tenrecs though which will produce up to 30 in a litter, or fish). The rodent approach has been highly successful too. Let’s not denigrate it just because it isn’t ours.

  3. Adger Says:

    George, you didn’t say where you let your invaders out. Everyone I’ve talked to has asked me that question, mostly in the form of, “How far away did you drive to release them?”

  4. georgeruns Says:

    I left the rats outside the front door. I believe it is illegal to transport live wild rats as they are seen as disease vectors. I assumed they had entered the house through the front door, which I generally leave wide open (It’s california, it’s October, it isn’t cold), and I figured I would simply close the door in the future denying the rats ingress.

    I was wrong on that point.

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