Features / Mini Reviews

Cats and Their Rats


Soooo about a month or so ago, I left a cryptic twitter post as an SOS call that went something along the lines of “My cat brought back a rat. Halp”.

My cat left us a present of a beheaded rat outside the door. Not thinking very rationally, I put the carcass on the edge of a small garden patch so I could make a little grave elsewhere – removed from the edible garden. Which, I know,  sounds a little like I’ve just defeated the purpose of it all.

But then as I ended the rat’s funeral – it struck me – is that actually safe??? All thoughts of poisoning my whole family from that one stupid little rat or infecting them with a rodent disease plagued me for an hour or so.

So I’m taking this as an opportunity to indulge my paranoia and ask the question: Is it safe to bury a rat carcass in/near your vegetable patch and is your garden/vegetable safe to eat now that a carcass has been on it?

You’ll be surprised to know Yahoo Answers doesn’t answer me that. As in what if the rat isn’t whole anymore and it’s just an open carcass? With no head? All the organs are intact and nothing has burst but there is nothing holding those organs together. I don’t know where the skeleton went. I didn’t look closely. It’s a dead rat with no head. I’m not going to lean too close.

Here are a few things I obsessed over:

1) stuff I can’t see hiding in the fur

2) the possibility of infected tissue infecting the soil

3) stuff in any urine splatter

4) stuff in the organs itself that could or could not have leaked and

5) stuff escaping into the soil and stuff getting on the plants.

With ‘stuff’ a euphemism for bacteria, parasites, prions, viruses – oh my g- worms???? (Just an insight into my paranoid thought process.)

Quick google search refreshes me on rodent diseases – main concern being hantaviruses, fleas and leptospirosis.

Guess what CDC says about Hantaviruses. You can become infected if you touch infected mice urine and droppings and nestings and then touch your face. This can then progress to Hantavirus Pulmonary Syndrome in which your lungs fill with fluid and can be fatal without treatment. Firstly, avoid mice at all cost. Secondly, do not use your bare hands to touch dead mice or live mice for that matter. Another tip from CDC is to bleach like crazy any surface that the mice has left its remains. The general recommendation is actually to bag the rat and dump it. Let’s not question my logic at that moment. But, do not fear – we are in the land of Australia, an island far removed from everyone else and there have currently been no known cases of a hantavirus infection so far. In other words, it is unlikely any of our rats carry it – hopefully. Let’s not think about species jumping and bats just right now either.

So I’ve ruled out hantaviruses, and my cat receives monthly flea shots which leaves me Leptospirosis  to wonder about.

Rodent urine can actually carry quite a few pathogens if it so wants. Leptospirosis for one can also survive in damp soil and persist for weeks to months. Worryingly, your pet can become infected by such contact. Contact with your infected pet’s urine, blood or tissues can result in your infection. Some of the common symptoms are fever, vomiting, diarrhoea, muscle aches along with rash or chills. Signs can appear from a few days or a month after contact. Progression of the illness can be fatal with meningitis or kidney failure named as complications.

Taking a look at Leptospirosis notifications in NSW residents – it appears that cases are reducing and have gone from a total of twenty three in 2010 to seven as of present. This gives me slight hope that leptospirosis is frankly, an infrequent circulating pathogen. The local public health office has also kindly reminded me that simple UV rays also do the trick of nuclear burning all pathogens to dust.

With that grudgingly sorted, I have made sure that the contaminated patch has its UV dose and and from now on I swear to always wear gloves when cleaning my cat litter and wash my hands religiously. That may be standard behaviour for some people but I am unafraid to admit I am twenty one and a risk taker. (But as I have just vowed – risk taker I am, no more. I also always washed my hands for that matter. I’m not that disgusting.)

Sadly, the next day my cat brings me a moving lizard tail and its dripping blood over the verandah tiles. An hour later, I’m obsessing over parasites in the blood splatter and bleaching tiles.


Want some more CDC sites?





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