DEAR JOAN: Gas prices are too high for me, and as a retired part-time teacher, I do not drive my tiny Honda Fit that much — once a week mainly. My neighbor just cleared out all of his 60-year-old junipers and found a lot of rats nests. We both live at the edge of a watershed with a park below both of our houses.
I had problems with the rats in my truck in my garage, and actually thought they were pretty clever making an acorn nest on top of the air filter. Had to pay a lot to to repair the wires, and so now I always keep my rat zapper on the engine, leave the hood up to discourage any more damage and the light on in the garage. But the Honda is outside.
Recently, I felt like I had a gift from this very intelligent rat, because every part of the motor it could reach was very carefully covered with small, precisely trimmed juniper branches. Later, when I checked the car, this very beautiful, beige rat scrambled out and ran.
I reversed the way I park, moving the car nearer the garage door, but I was surprised, especially after I had just applied more peppermint spray, to find this artistic display of the juniper greens on top of the motor the next day.
I will try putting some rat zappers under the car and will move the car around more, but the space under the hood in this car is too small to put a rat zapper in.
Is there anything else I can do? Honestly, this rat is so beautiful, but I cannot afford to have this creature eat my insulation or wires.
Aisjah, San Mateo
DEAR AISJAH: The rat zappers, which kill instantly with a jolt of electricity, are not recommended for use outdoors. Other animals might be tempted to get to it, plus damp outside conditions can short out these not-so-inexpensive devices.
It’s much more difficult to deal with rodents in the great outdoors. There are far more of them than you, and you need to be sure your attempts at control don’t snare other animals, including pets.
While rats like to live near us, they don’t want to be too near, so make a practice of visiting your car at different times throughout the day. Your tawny rat might be building that magnificent nest during the night, but it will be napping there during the day.
Always honk the horn before starting the engine and maybe drive around the block. Your presence, disrupting its nesting time, might be enough to discourage any more artistic nest building.
If the peppermint spray isn’t working, try a hot pepper spray, which you can make yourself with powdered hot peppers, water and a few drops of dishwashing liquid, or buy a spray at your local home improvement store. It will need to be applied every few days.
You also can purchase special pepper-infused electrical tape to wrap around the car’s wiring. Honda actually produces a rodent-deterrent tape that you can purchase or ask your dealership to install for you.
Placing a battery-operated light under the hood can also deter your unwanted visitor; just remember to remove it before driving the car.
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