“Now, I’m a simple creature. I don’t want much from life, just somewhere safe to sleep, a little bit of warmth and, of course, access to water and food. Even when it comes to food, I’m not that fussy. Whatever is left in bins, on the floor or ignored at the back of a store cupboard is fine by me. It’s one of my strengths…adaptability. My ancestors learnt to exploit whatever opportunities were presented to them, be that food related or ways to access human buildings. In many ways, humans are their own worst enemies and our best friends.
I live in a burrow next to a railway line. Once you get used to the trains, it is a great place to live as no one seems to be interested in cutting back the foliage. This makes it very easy for me and my family to access the neighbouring properties in secrecy.
On one side of the railway there are gardens with houses at the back, and on the other there are industrial units. While I like the gardens, the people in the houses seem to have got wise to our presence. They have stopped putting food waste onto their compost heaps, keep their gardens tidy, no longer scattering bird seed on the floor, and they have blocked up the ways we used to enter their homes. Also, in recent months, there have also be a lot more of them hanging around their homes, which has made it more difficult for us to enter.
The businesses, however, are a rich source of food and materials. Sometimes we don’t even have to leave the scrub land by the railway to find food, they just throw their sandwich crusts into the long grass. Delicious. When we go onto their properties there are even more opportunities. They often get lazy and don’t bother putting the stoppers back into the bottom of these large wheelie bins. These bins are always a great place to start looking for food. The hole at the bottom makes it quite easy for us to get in and then, because people don’t seem to enjoy hanging around their bins, we are basically left alone to find all the food scraps and materials we need.
Some of my friends have even accessed their buildings. They found a pipe coming out from a storage room the humans very rarely enter. The pipe didn’t have an interceptor on it, and so my friends just walked in and found a quiet area in one of the roof spaces to make their home. In general, us rats don’t like going into human spaces, we leave that to the mice, but they have certainly thrived in this storage room. They are basically left alone, and they have access to food and harbourage, what more could you ask for?
There is one business we don’t visit. At first, it looked like they were inviting us in but, being neophobic, we didn’t like the look of the boxes that suddenly appeared in their buildings and around the fences. Then, when we tried to enter their buildings, we found all the access points had been blocked by the same people that had brought the boxes. The people working at the unit even put the stopper back into the bottom of the bin after they had washed it out.
The good thing about being a rat though is we are never stuck for opportunities. We don’t visit that business but the ones around them are extremely helpful and, if these businesses don’t provide us with food, we can always go further afield. Normally, stay quite close to my burrow, no further than 100 feet, but if I need to, I can go much further field.
This has been the case in recent months when the humans all seemed to stay at home and there was less food available on the streets and the pubs, restaurants and takeaways seemed to be closed. I’ve therefore been forced to travel a lot further to find food. Because I hunt at night, a particular favourite is an overflowing dustbin or a bin bag that has been left on the ground. The foxes will often get their first. You might say, they set the table for us! They are brilliant at tipping over dustbins and ripping bin bags. However, they are limited in what they will eat, well, limited in comparison to me. Also, while the gardens near the railway have cleaned up their act, there are always people putting bird seed in places where I can find it.
A final tip to my fellow rats, never forget duck ponds. Humans seem to like feeding ducks bread, sweetcorn, porridge, peas and bird seed. The silly creatures don’t always find it all and so it can make a nice little treat when you are having a drink. Don’t forget, it’s important to always stay hydrated.
The last year has certainly been challenging. For one thing, there are more of us. We’ve had multiple litters and our traditional sources of food haven’t always been available. That’s where being a rat is so brilliant, we’ve easily been able to adapt to these changes.
Now it looks like things might be going back to normal as people seem to be going back to work. Personally, I’m hoping things can settle down. After all, I’m 18 months old now and seen as something of an elder statesman. Still, I know I can pass on to my offspring all my knowledge of where to find the best food and shelter.”
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Image by Karsten Paulick from Pixabay