I really only know dormice from the cute illustrations in childrens’ storybooks. Some while ago though a friend of mine who lives in Germany wrote: “A not so pleasant encounter with nature has been the fact that some dormice have made themselves a home in the insulation behind the shuttering outside the upstairs bathroom. They are cute little animals, but the smell is dreadful. It does fade somewhat during warm weather, but is back with a vengeance as soon as it rains. We can’t find where they’re getting in, so will have to set up a trap to catch them alive. Then one must apparently deposit them at least 10 kms away or across a river or stream, else they find their way back. Amazing fact when you know how small they are.”

Note the mention of “catch them alive”. They are small creatures. They are regarded as being ‘cute’ – who would wish to ‘do them in’?

For three mornings in a row I have rescued a tiny elephant shrew (the same one?) frantically swimming in circles in the swimming pool. Each time it scuttles off into the shrubbery as soon as its feet touch dry land. It is small, unthreatening and ‘cute’ and so I shall look out for it again tomorrow.

Less welcome has been the large rat at the feeding station nibbling at food intended for the birds. It was very timid at first, darting away at the slightest sound or movement nearby. Over time, however, it became so bold that it even began chasing birds from the cut apples. That’s enough! No more tasty titbits in the garden – for a while anyway – on the off chance it may seek easier pickings elsewhere.


Could it possibly be the same rat that moved into my kitchen the night before my departure for a two-week sojourn in Cape Town? I wouldn’t put it past the wily creature, which probably thought it had landed in rat heaven with a whole sack of grain (for the birds) to nibble at undisturbed. I squashed that idea by sealing the crushed mealies and the wild bird seed in large plastic containers I usually use when camping.

Wily beast that it is – neither small nor cute – it managed to sidestep the three traps and the bait we put out. There was nothing further to be done on my return other than for me to clear out the cupboards and drawers, to scrub the kitchen from top to bottom, and to wash every utensil and item of cutlery the rat had wandered over so freely.

Perhaps this whirlwind of frenzied cleaning drove it away for it has left no tell-tale sign of its presence for days … or is it that rat which woke me up at 3 a.m. skittering across the windowsill of my bedroom?

You can all say it together now: UGH!


  1. A friend reminded me that rats are highly intelligent creatures that do not deserve the negative image we have of them. ‘Our’ rat is at the top of the pile when IQs were handed out – a pity about the destruction left in its wake!


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