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Animals in the Attic

I woke up at 5:30 in the morning because of a scratching sound above my head, coming from the attic.  It sounded like a squirrel trying to stack acorns.  Which is different from the time that it sounded as if a serial killer was dismembering a corpse in our attic.  Still, as much as I didn’t want a serial killer in the attic (likely a man and likely someone who hadn’t bathed in weeks and likely someone who was going to track bloody chunks of intestine through my house), I also really really really didn’t want a squirrel.  Or a bat.  Or a mouse.  Or an opossum (which is only one step above a cricket, in my book).

I went into the hallway to see if I could still hear the sound, and there it was, a tiny pattering, a scratching.  I went back in the bedroom and woke up Josh.

“There’s a noise,” I told him.

He sat up in bed to listen, heard it too, inexplicably went to turn on the light (why?  So we could see the animal’s face poking out from the ceiling as it gnawed its way through the attic floor?), turned back off the light when I hissed at him, and then grabbed his phone to Google for answers on what to do, missing the bed as he tried to sit down because I had made him turn off the lights.

Meanwhile, the squirrel gleefully danced around his acorn structure.

*******

Back in college, I had a friend who wrote a short story called “Bats.”  It was about a husband waiting for his wife to come home so he could confront her about her infidelity, and in the meantime, his young son has woken up due to a noise and wants his father to investigate.  The dad lies in his son’s bed with him, waiting for the noise, contemplating the worth of changing the course of their lives by leaving his wife.

That’s what I was thinking about as we Googled.  That the dad was awfully calm in that story.  He wasn’t nearly focused enough on the bat in his attic.  And while, yeah, I get that the rest of his life was falling apart, it turns out that when you hear an animal in your attic, you drop all that other shit and Google.  You focus on the animal that has moved into your home, not the animals (human or otherwise) outside your abode.

*******

We decided that the sound didn’t fit the description of a raccoon.  And it didn’t fit the whispers of bats who apparently don’t scurry at all but sound more like someone rubbing their finger against the wall.  It was probably a squirrel or a mouse.

“We’ll go up in the morning,” Josh decided.

“After the kids go to school because we’re never telling them about this,” I agreed.

Josh set up the ladder while I was out at drop-off, and when I came home, he grimly climbed up while I stood in the hallway with my hands clasped over my mouth saying over and over again, “What if something runs out?  I will diiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiie if something runs out.”

Nothing ran out.  He explored the attic and save for a tiny hole near the roof that he covered with duct tape (and said had been there since we bought the house) and a patch of wall where we could see the siding (again, apparently there since we bought the house, though that doesn’t seem good, does it?), there was nothing unusual in the attic.  No gnaw marks on the bags of clothes in storage.  No animal droppings.  And no acorn sculptures.

No sign that anything had been there at all.

He set a trap anyway and climbed back down.

It’s possible that the sounds were on the roof as they were last time with the crow.  It’s entirely possible that if I had remembered that blog post at 5:30 in the morning vs. when I sat down to write this that Josh would have gone outside, seen an animal on the roof, and we could have saved ourselves a trip inside the attic.  Or it’s possible that we’re going to be lying in bed one night in the not too distant future and hear the sharp snap of a trap closing.

*******

It’s time like these that I wonder if it’s worth being a home owner.  Aside from the ability to decorate as we please and build equity in a piece of property, there are so many drawbacks to home ownership that I sometimes think that we would have been better off renting.  This could have been someone else’s problem.

Instead it is ours.  It is one of those things you never think about as a kid when you’re waiting to grow up.  The twins talk about how they’ll be able to have cookies for breakfast when they’re an adult and not go to school and stay up late.  But they never gleefully exclaim, “And I’ll be forced to deal with animals living in my attic at 5:30 in the morning!”

It sucks to be an adult.

16 comments

1 Lindsay | Solo Mama { 02.17.15 at 8:15 am }

Yeah I don’t know why we spend our childhoods itching to grow up. Adulthood isn’t all its cracked up to be.

I grew up in Central PA, and bats in the attic (and even sometimes just the upstairs) was a ‘thing’. I have many a memory of me, my sisters and cousins screaming while my uncle tried in vain to catch bats and release them outside. Ahhhh good times.

2 loribeth { 02.17.15 at 8:47 am }

Yes, remind me again why we were in such a hurry to grow up?? :p

If you have squirrels on your roof, it can certainly sound like they’re in your attic. We haven’t had as many since we had the neighbour’s trees pruned (the branches were scraping on our roof & I feared for my shingles). Of course, they can also climb up the brickwork. I’ve woken up & there’s been a squirrel sitting on my windowsill, surveying his domain (one reason we don’t generally sleep with the windows open, even though there’s a screen). I’ll bang on the window & he’ll just look at me, like, “What??” I once woke up & there was a half-eaten rotting apple sitting on the (second-storey) windowsill — three guesses who left it there. Dh had to knock it down with a rake.

3 AMS { 02.17.15 at 8:47 am }

Ugh. My parents just spent the entire summer dealing with squirrels in their attic. $3k later and a month of having someone come every other day to empty and move the traps, they are finally squirrel free and now ready to face getting all the trees trimmed back to make it a little harder for the tree rats to get on the roof in the first place. The noises those things made in the attic were frightening!

4 Ana { 02.17.15 at 9:18 am }

Squirrels in the attic, mice in the basement. Yeah, adulthood is glamorous.

5 Valery Valentina { 02.17.15 at 9:22 am }

Before we bought our house we could see there was a mouse problem. After we renovated (and downstairs was empty for a year) the mice seem to have gone. Thanks for reminding me what a luxury that is!

6 deathstar { 02.17.15 at 11:07 am }

As a renter, with a roof, I’m pretty sure the landlord would have left it our problem. We get a lot of crows here. Particularly in the summer eating whatever they can on the corrugated roof on the deck outside the bedroom door. The sound of their claws scratching and hopping back and forth always wake me up. If we did own a house, my husband would not wake up at 5:30 to Google anything.

7 Lori Lavender Luz { 02.17.15 at 11:12 am }

How is Josh’s patooty after the fall?

8 andy { 02.17.15 at 1:29 pm }

being an adult does suck. Not only do I have to deal with these things in my own home, I am also the landlord to the people we rent the basement to, so I have to be all grown up when things go wrong in their home!

9 Turia { 02.17.15 at 2:48 pm }

My mother and stepfather’s house is being destroyed by squirrels. Destroyed. They are unbelievably persistent.

We have had plenty of tap dancing squirrels on our roof and they certainly sound like they’re in the attic RIGHT above our heads. But they always turn out to be outside.

And if you are renting, you get the experience I had where we had mice and our landlord put out poison and then a mouse died in my bedroom wall, which meant my bedroom stank of decaying mouse for weeks, and when I complained, my landlord bought me a scented candle.

I’d rather deal with it myself. 🙂

10 earthandink { 02.17.15 at 3:05 pm }

Nothing you can say will deter me from wanting my own home. I am so tired of renting. Trust me, renting has its own problems, primarily greedy landlords who are bat-xxxx crazy. I’d rather deal with bats. (I have stories. Big bad stories.)

That said, this made me a little nostalgic for the times when we couldn’t Google something and fix it, but instead lived with the problem at least for the wee hours of the morning, and had time to lay next to our frightened child, and think about what it is we are giving up when we walk away from the lives we’ve built.

I hope it was the crow on the roof and you don’t have to deal with anything else.

11 Mali { 02.17.15 at 6:33 pm }

I’d far rather deal with something in the ceiling (two or four-legged) than with ants or other insects. Ew! And I grew up in an old farm house, so I know what I’m talking about. Unless there is a very big hole from the ceiling cavity to the rest of the house, it would be hard for something to get through. Ants though, cockroaches or other insects, get everywhere. (I have a horror of ants after living in Thailand, and waking from an afternoon nap with a trail of ants on my leg.)

You’ve reminded me of a story though. I might have to tell this on A Separate Life.

12 Justine { 02.17.15 at 9:36 pm }

Oh, yes. SO many reasons not to be an adult. Sometimes it baffles me that someone thought to put me in charge of a house and two kids. What were they thinking? What was *I* thinking?

Hope that all is resolved, and the noise disappears … we have mice that run inside the walls at night, after S. has gone to bed. Disconcerting to say the least.

13 Jess { 02.17.15 at 9:59 pm }

I give you so much credit. I would be hiding under the covers convinced some kind of horrible creature was in the attic, especially if nothing was found. I am terrible with animal sounds in the house and any kind of scritching in particular. When I was a teenager, we had a mildly obese cat named Ascher who would carefully climb the stairs at 3 in the morning, sounding like a creeper coming up to kill us all, and occasionally vocalize in a way that sounded like a human moaning, “Eric!” Nothing you could do about that… Our current cats usually deal with many of our critters in our house, although we live in the woods and so get a lot of mice and once, a chipmunk. I don’t think my cats know how to kill, only how to play, so in both cases we had to rescue the rodents (I cry over traps). I took a mouse outside in a blueberry pint container once. I never would have thought I could do that, but I guess that’s what adulthood is about? I am terrified for the day when I have to be the one to kill or relocate the giant spiders that lurk in our house when we have kids. You have to be the brave one, right? (google “wolf spider”) Good luck with your noises, I hope it’s a crow and not something that will need to be cleaned from the trap. Excellent serial killer image, by the way.

14 Cristy { 02.18.15 at 1:02 am }

Years ago, I had a colleague roommate who spent the night having a bat chase her around the house. By the time the neighbors figured out exactly what was happening, the poor animal was curled up in the window sill trying to figure out how to escape from the crazed woman.

Yeah, homeownership sucks. Especially when the answer to a problem requires you doing something you fear. Mine is spiders and our building is littered with them.

Hoping what is ever dancing in your attic decides to find a new home.

15 Tiara { 02.19.15 at 8:01 am }

It was while I was renting that I had all my mouse & bat incidents! What struck me the most: please tell me you aren’t storing your clothes in bags!! Get thee some Rubbermaid bins stat!! Then place a dryer sheet at the bottom, middle & on top & this will keep them fresh & ward off bugs!

16 Battynurse { 02.25.15 at 2:44 am }

But bats are GOOD! Granted I wouldn’t want them in my attic thanks to the whole poop issues. But really! Bats are good.

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