Cats and Rats

This post probably isn’t what you’d think from the title, like how the cats deal with the rats.

It starts with Sunny, my orange inside-only cat. He is inside-only because our house is too close to a road with fast-moving cars and hay trucks, and we see a fair share of flattened cats, opossums, and other critters on the road.

Sunny got out once a few years ago and was gone for three weeks. Now we think that he’d been in hiding under the house but he just wouldn’t show himself. He came back skinny and ended up with a urinary blockage.

He doesn’t usually try to go outside, but about a month ago I was waiting for Rusty to get up the stairs to come in (at 13 he’s slow on the stairs) and the cat snuck out. He darted around the side of the house, under the deck, and under the house. This was, of course, after midnight. I got a flashlight and peeked into the crawl space. I could see Sunny. I got his favorite toy—a bunch of feathers on a stick and the laser pointer. Those didn’t work. He watched me but wouldn’t come closer. Eventually I couldn’t see him anymore. I blocked off the openings to the outside and went to bed.

The next day I couldn’t get to the cat problem until the middle of the afternoon but I figured that he was still trapped under the house and I’d just squirm my way under there and catch him. To shorten up this story I’ll just say that I didn’t see him again in person for two weeks. That first day I crawled under the house (disgusting) to no avail. There is a cellar that is about 10 x 10 so I could access the crawl space from there (with rubber boots because that area was flooded from all the rain). I put a bowl of water and little food where I could monitor it. I called him. I shook his toy. I rattled his food. I put a live trap down there. The food was gone, but was it the cat or rats, etc.? No sign that anything went into the trap.

I talked to my daughter and she suggested using a game camera. Brilliant! She said you could get them at Wal-Mart. Uh, maybe in Texas where she lives, but not in Dixon. I found one on-line.

Game camera view of cat under house.

Ignore the date there. I didn’t get that set until later. But sure enough, Sunny was eating the food. The camera showed that he came about three times between 12:30 a.m. and 6 a.m. It didn’t pick him up at all during the day.

I borrowed a bigger trap than what I had at first and put the camera in a different position so I could better see what Sunny was doing. At first I set the trap up so that the door wouldn’t fall. I wanted to make sure that he would go all the way in before it fell on him and spooked him. I had a little food outside and then started putting it inside.

Cat in live trap.

I started putting tuna at the end of the trap. Then I set the trap to close. That night I got this photo. He was in the trap but the door didn’t fall down.

Game camera view of cat
Trapping a cat under the house.

I fiddled with the trap until I was sure that it would work. That night I was going to bed late so I thought I’d check and see if he was caught and my flashlight caught his eyes glowing behind the trap. I started talking to him and he didn’t run off. Slowly (so as to not slosh the water in the cellar) I walked to the trap and eventually he let me grab him.

Cat on handspun blanket.

At night we usually make our bedroom an animal-free zone because they are too disruptive. But that night Sunny got to choose his spot on the bed. He purred loudly all night.

Orange cat
Orange cat

He continued to be a little more needy than normal the next few days.


I didn’t need the game camera under the house anymore so I thought I’d find out what was going on in the chicken house at night. I set up the camera and the next morning had 467 photos. (I’d had maybe 35-40 each night when Sunny was under the house). The camera can be set to take one or more each time it senses movement.

Rats in the chicken house

I knew there was a rat problem but I didn’t know there was a rat party going on all night. I count six in this photo.

Rats in chicken house
Rats in chicken house.

I probably need a few cats in the barn but I haven’t figured out a realistic way to do that with Maggie around—a dog that will chase anything she sees. I just saw a video about a trap that can catch all of these rats in one night. I may go for that.