As usual at this time of year, there are rats in the village. They are attracted by the huge quantities of rubbish left outside their houses by the departing tourists, The inadequate and overflowing rubbish bins which the council ‘forgets’ to come and empty, and by the fact that the cats, fed to satiety by the tourists, no longer bother to hunt.
They like to dance about at night on my balcony, and I set a variety of traps. The usual one here is the ξυλόγατο, ‘wooden cat’; a cage-like live trap. When this works one has the problem of disposing of a live rat. I also use the other type, with a big strong spring that whaps down when the bait is touched, usually breaking the rat’s neck. I set one last night and this morning went out to check. No trap; eventually I found it a couple of metres away, with half a tail under the spring.
A local friend points out that the loss of his tail is disastrous for a rat. I had thought they used them only for balance — one sometimes sees rats scurrying along overhead cables; they rarely fall off. But it’s not just that: apparently they use them to eat or drink olive oil: the rat dips his tail in the oil pot, carelessly left uncovered, and then licks it off. I have also heard from several people the story of rats stealing whole chicken’s eggs. I’m not sure I believe it, but they say two rats are involved: one grasps the egg with all four paws and rolls onto its back, then the other drags it back to their lair by its tail.