Just as the Beijing Health Bureau broke the news that the Beijing rat population has increased 15% in the past year, we started hearing noises in the night. Disappearing food and rat poop confirmed that we had a resident rodent.
Now we’re no strangers to rats. Just two years ago we were stalked by our fury foe back in Wellington. Then last year we went on a pilgrimage to the rat-ridden Karni Mata Temple in Rajasthan, India. Yet no matter how many run-ins you have with the genus Rattus, you will never get used to them.
What happened to those Old-Fashioned Spring Loaded Rat Traps That Munch Fingers?
As every self-respecting homemaker would do, I went in search of a rat-eradicator at the local hardware store. Using every combination of Chinese words for rat and trap that I could remember, I was directed to a small pile of cardboard next to the light bulbs. I was told rats couldn’t resist the glue-covered card and they’d soon be out of our lives forever.
Unfortunately in the heat of the Shanghai summer, the adhesive melted into a gooey paste that was no match for our Chinese rat and we woke to sticky paw prints across the kitchen. We needed a Plan B.
Scouring every supermarket, hardware and odds & ends store from Luwan to Pudong, the only rat traps anywhere were those useless glue cards.
Taobao.com, China’s stupidly popular online retail portal, has a collection of mass-produced gizmos, so I invested in a cage. Unfortunately as rats are reputedly as smart as the average seven year old, our rodent was far too clever to be wooed by a plump baguette morsel and didn’t climb through the one-way door.
Once all of our unrefrigerated food supplies were gone and the rat started gnawing through the plastic flour wrapper, we knew we had to up the ante.
China is the Switzerland of the Rat World
While the Chinese daily rags are littered with news of food scandals and toxic food additives, the rats in China enjoy a haven of innocuous and untoxic traps. I needed something with more firepower.
Doing a Google search for rat poison in China, the first page revealed:
- A Chinese baker who mistook rat poison for flour and ended up poisoning half a dozen diners
- Young kids in the rural China who died after eating rat poison
- Some crazy local who killed two toddlers at a kindergarten with rat poison
- Another crazy local who murdered seven family members with the stuff
- A rat poison outbreak that killed 100 Chinese.
It explained why rat poison seemed impossible to find in Shanghai. Asking around, I was told that the ruling powers had ordered rat poison registers and had banned rat poison varieties fearing it is just too dangerous for the average Chinese resident. I’d need to know someone really important to get my hands on some.
So with limited and ineffective rat trapping techniques, our saga continued.
Chinese Rats have Panty Fetishes
We’re not the only Shanghai residents feeding a rat colony. There are an estimated 96 million rats lurking around Shanghai; four rats for every human, infesting trenches around food markets and restaurants, construction sites, sewers, dark and dingy corners and our house. I know an expat girl in China who left her panty drawer slightly ajar. Doing a spot of cleaning one day, she discovered a small mountain of rat poop in amongst the underwear. It seemed the rodent found snuggling up amongst the soft cotton knickers much cosier than the average sewer.
All gore aside, this story has a happy ending. After many nights of tweaking the bait in the cage and on the glue traps, and pumping cool air into the kitchen, we finally apprehended our big dirty rat. That means there’s only 95,999,999 left.
On the bright side, we’re lucky that we don’t live on the banks of a recently flooded Yangtze River in Central China’s Hunan province where an estimated 2 billion rats have overrun farming communities. Or our Chinese rat didn’t have 2.5cm/1 inch long teeth like this rat caught in the Southern China. That would take a lot of glue.