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This eBook was prepared by Les Bowler.

Full Revelations of a Professional Rat-Catcher,
after 25 Years' Experience
by Ike Matthews.

[Title page image: title.jpg]


In placing before my readers in the following pages the results of my
twenty-five years' experience of Rat-catching, Ferreting, etc., I may say
that I have always done my best to accomplish every task that I have
undertaken, and I have in consequence received excellent testimonials
from many corporations, railway companies, and merchants. I have not
only made it my study to discover the different and the best methods of
catching Rats, but I have also taken great interest in watching their
ways and habits, and I come to the conclusion that there is no sure way
of completely exterminating the Rodents, especially in large towns. If I
have in this work referred more particularly to Rat-catching in
Manchester that is only because my experience, although extending over a
much wider area, has been chiefly in that city, but the methods I
describe are equally applicable to all large towns.

Yours truly,




In the first place my advice is - never poison Rats in any enclosed
buildings whatever. Why? Simply because the Rats that you poison are
Drain Rats, or what you call Black Rats, and you can depend upon it that
the Rats that you poison will not get back into the drains, but die under
the floor between the laths and plaster, and the consequence is that in a
few days the stench that will arise will be most obnoxious. And there is
nothing more injurious than the smell of a decomposed Rat.

Having had a long experience in Manchester I am quite sure of this. As
an instance, I remember a private house where I was engaged catching Rats
under a floor with ferrets. I went as far as possible on my belly under
the floor with two candles in my hands, and I saw the ferret kill a large
bitch Rat, about six yards from me against a wall, where neither the dog
nor myself could get at it. I finished the job and made out my bill for
my services, but in about two or three weeks after they again sent for
me, declaring they could not stay in the sitting-room on account of the
smell that arose from beneath the flooring boards. They had in
consequence to send for a joiner; and as I knew the exact spot where the
Rat was killed I ordered him to take up the floor boards just where the
dead Rat lay, and the stench that arose from the decomposed Rodent was
bad in the extreme. I disinfected the place, and I was never sent for
again. This was under a cold floor, and it is much worse where there is
any heat.

Now to deal with the different methods of catching Rats. The best way,
in my opinion, is,


Whenever you are trapping, never on any consideration put bait on the
traps; always put traps in their runs, but you will find Rats are so
cunning that in time, after a few have been caught, they will jump over
the traps, and then you must try another way. A good one is the
following, viz.: - Get a bag of fine, clean sawdust, and mix with it about
one-sixth its weight of oatmeal. Obtain the sawdust fresh from under the
saw, without bits of stick in, as these would be liable to get into the
teeth of the trap and stop them from closing. Where you see the runs put
a handful in say about 30 different places, every night, just dropping
the sawdust and meal out of your hands in little heaps. That means 30
different heaps. Do this for four nights, and you will see each morning
that the sawdust is all spread about. Now for four more nights you must
bury a set trap under every heap of sawdust. Thus you will have 30
traps, on each of which there is a square centre plate; you must level
the sawdust over the plate with a bit of stick, and set each trap as fine
as you can on the catch spring, so that the weight of a mouse would set
it off. They will play in the sawdust as usual, and you will have Rats
in almost every trap. You will find that this plan will capture a great
many of the Rodents. I have trapped as many as 114 in one night in this

In time, however, the Rats will cease to go near sawdust. Then you must
procure a bag of fine soot from any chimney sweep, and you will find that
they will go at the soot just as keen as they did in the first instance
at the sawdust. When they get tired of soot (which they will in time)
you must procure some soft tissue paper and cut it fine, and use that in
the same way as the sawdust and the soot. You can also use light chaff
or hay seeds with the like result.

I must not omit to tell my readers to always trap Rats in the night, and
to go very quietly about it, for if you make much noise they will give
over feeding. You must not go about with too big a light whilst
trapping. You should stay at the building from dark until midnight, and
every time a Rat is caught in the trap you should go with a bull's eye
lamp, take it out of the trap or kill it, and then set the trap again, as
you have the chance of another Rat in the same trap. From experience I
can say that you need not stay in any place after 12 o'clock at night, as
I think that the first feed is the best, and that the first three hours
are worth all the other part of the night. You can go home at 12
o'clock, and be sure to be in the place by 6 or 7 a.m., for many a Rat
caught in the trap by the front leg will, if it gets time, eat off its
leg and get away again, and they are very cunning to catch afterwards.


Handle them as little as possible. Always catch as many Rats as you can
in your buildings in January and February, as they begin to breed in
March, and every bitch Rat means, on the average, eight more. Also get
as much ferreting done as possible before breeding time, for a young Rat
can get into the ends of the joisting under a floor, where a ferret
cannot get near it, and the consequence is that a ferret is unable to
cope with its task. The best thing I can advise for clearing young Rats
is a good cat, one that must not be handled nor made a pet of, but
allowed to live in almost a wild state. A good cat can do as much, in my
opinion, in one night, when Rats are breeding, as two ferrets can do in a
day, especially in a building where there are cavity walls, as it is
impossible for a ferret to follow a Rat in such walls.

This is all the information I am able to give on the trapping of Rats - a
method I have proved by 25 years' experience to excel all others. Still
another way of clearing the pests is as follows: - The majority of Rats
are Black, or what we call Drain Rats; if they are in a building they
will in most cases come from a water-closet. Sometimes you will see from
the drain pipes in the water-closet, say, a six-inch pipe fitted into a
nine-inch pipe, and the joint covered round with clay, through which the
Rats eat and scratch and get into the building in great numbers in the
night, but most of them return into the drains during the day. Now, if
it is the breeding season (about eight months out of the twelve) they
will do much damage to silk, cotton, leather, lace, and, in fact, all
other light goods. And one would be surprised to see the quantity of
cloth, paper, etc., they will procure for their nests whilst breeding.

The way to get clear of these is to go in the day with two or three
ferrets and leave the drain pipe open. Ferret them all back into the
drain; don't put a net over the drain for fear you might miss one or two.
If they got back into the building they would be hard to catch, as they
would not face the net again. Then, after ferreting, make the drain
good, and if there be an odd Rat or two left in the building you will get
them in a few nights by baiting the trap.

There is another way of catching the Brown Rat which breeds under the
floor in large buildings where there are no drains. They are very
awkward to catch. Always have a trap or two set, but do not set them
where they feed; place them in their runs. But there are other methods
for other Rat-infested places. For instance, take a restaurant, where
they feed in the cooking kitchen; we will suppose they have eaten four
holes through either floor or skirting boards. The best way to catch
these - however many holes they have leading into the kitchen - is to block
up (with tin or similar material) all the holes with the exception of
one, and let them use that one for two nights. Then put a plateful of
good food, such as oatmeal and oil of aniseed, as far from the hole as
you can in the same kitchen; then run a small train of meal and aniseed
from the hole to the plate. Next drive two six-inch nails in the wall,
with a long piece of string tied to the nail heads. Put on these nails a
brick or piece of board right above the hole 2 inches up the wall. Be
sure the nails are quite loose in the wall over the hole, and leave in
that position for two nights, so that the Rats will get used to it. On
the night that you are going to catch them, before leaving the place
carry the string from the nail heads to the door or window; let the door
or window be closed within an inch, with the end of the string outside.
After the place has been quiet for thirty minutes return to the door or
window very quietly, and you will hear the Rats feeding. Pull the
string, the loose nails come out of the wall and the brick or board drops
over the hole. You can then go in, close the door, turn up the gas and
catch or kill them at your leisure, as they cannot get back again.

By this method I may mention that I have caught a great number of Rats,
and it is quite possible to clear a place in this manner: that is, if
they do not come out of the drains. I have caught upwards of 103 in six
nights in this way. The best time to catch Rats in any building is
always at night, and always about half-an-hour after the place has been
closed, as Rats are generally more adventurous to come for their first
feed. Always go about as quietly as possible.

In some of the very old Manchester buildings that were built in the days
before drain plans had to be submitted to the corporation, one finds
under the cellar floors old-fashioned brick and flag drains (better known
as "spit" drains), that were left in when the place was built. Once the
Rats get in these disused drains all the professional Rat-catchers in
England could not clear them without pulling the building down. The Rats
have, by some means, got out of the main sewer, probably by the bursting
of a sewer into one of these disused dry brick drains. It is then
impossible to get underground to see where they have got into the dry
drain, and the only thing that can be done in a case of this sort is to
engage a professional Rat-catcher occasionally, and keep two or three
good cats to keep the Rats down. These places as a rule are more plagued
with them when it is very wet weather and there are floods running. This
is the best time to catch them, as they are all under the floor of the
building, and are very easy to catch in the night with the traps.

As a rule the Black or Drain Rats feed only in the night, very rarely in
the day, as they are of a dirty nature, and prefer being in the drains.
In my opinion the Black Rat is more vicious than the Brown.

There is another Rat I call the Red Rat, which is akin to the Brown Rat.
You will always catch these at a tannery, or about kennels, where hounds
are kept, and they generally feed on horseflesh or offal. Red Rats are
the "gameist" Rats I know, for whatever kind of Rats are put into the
store cage, these Red Rats kill them the first night they are left quiet.

I may describe another mode of catching Rats. In any Rat-overrun
warehouse, storeroom, or cellar, where there is a deal of rubbish such as
packing cases, wrappers, waste paper, etc., throw a lot of food, say
oatmeal or soaked bread, carelessly amongst the cases or rubbish and let
the Rats have a full week's feeding at their leisure, and then if you
know the holes round the floor wherefrom they come, go in some night as
quick as possible, turn up the lights, run to the three or four holes,
and block them up with pieces of rag, etc. Now as all the Rats will not
run out of the packing cases or waste paper, but will hide amongst the
same, this is the time to take a good terrier dog or two with you, and to
have a bit of sport. Let one dog hunt among the cases, etc., and hold
the other, for the Rats will soon make for the holes, but the rags
preventing their escape you will catch and kill a great many by this

It should be stated here that as Rats are very cunning, it takes a lot of
study, dodging, and experience to be able to rid them entirely. When you
are feeding Rats anywhere, never feed them with other than soft stuff,
which you can squeeze through your fingers, for if you feed them with
anything lumpy, they will carry pieces into their holes and eat at their


Ferreting is a very good plan for destroying Rats in cottage houses,
stables, hotels, etc., as it can be done in the day, but in buildings,
say five or six storeys high you cannot ferret very well as you cannot
tell where to set your nets. The only way to ferret a large building is
to ferret one floor at once, and always start at the top storey first.
The majority of floors are laths and plaster. This is what the Rat
likes, especially the Brown Rat, and there are more nests found in these
places than anywhere else. To ferret thoroughly in such places you will
require to have a board up at each end of the floor: the two end boards
that run crossways with the joist; then you must have a man to put the
ferret in at one end, and ferret one joist at a time; have a net set at
the other end. The best way at the catching end is to have a long sheet
net about a yard wide, and the full length of the boards that are up, for
sometimes under the boards the Rats can get out of one joist into
another, and if you use the long net you can catch them whichever joist
they bolt at.

Now we will suppose you are ferreting a seven-storey building, which
might occupy three or four days. If you have ferreted two stories the
first day, during the night the Rats that have not been ferreted on the
lower stories may get back again to the top storey.

How to prevent this happening I will give you a plan of my own, which I
don't think any Rat-catcher but myself has ever employed. The course of
action - a rather expensive one I admit - is the following: While you have
the boards up you must go to the druggist and get two shillings' worth of
cayenne pepper, and put it into a pepper duster. Scatter the cayenne
along the boards and joist where you have had the long sheet net, and
also along the other end of the joist where you put the ferrets in, and
you will find that under no consideration will Rats face the cayenne
pepper. Cayenne is alright for any dry place and will last a long time,
but it will not do in any water closets or any damp places, as dampness
takes all the nature out of the cayenne.

After ferreting in any kind of building, always go carefully round the
outside, and see that there are no broken air grids, or broken cellar
windows, as these are likely ways that the Rats get into the building at
first. When ferreting always be careful how you set your nets, and be
extremely quick on the Rats when they bolt, for sometimes if they get
back they will face the ferret before they will bolt again; then the
ferrets kill them under the floors, and this as in the case of poisoning
them is liable to cause an abominable smell, more especially where heat
is near.

In the whole of my experience of Rat-catching, which is a lengthy one, I
never gave a guarantee to clear a place completely, in Manchester or any
other town where so many large buildings are so close together. And let
me show the reason for this. Take Cannon Street, Manchester, as an
illustration. Here are six or eight different firms in one block of
buildings. Now, suppose four of these firms are suffering from the
damage the Rats are doing. Well, one or two of these firms may go to the
expense of having the Rats cleared away. But between the two buildings
there may be a hardware business or ironmonger's shop, where Rats cannot
do any harm to their goods. The owners of these shops will not go to the
expense of having Rats caught, nor will they let us go into their shops
at midnight; therefore the result is the Rat-catcher in his trapping and
ferreting is limited to these two places, and all he can do is to catch
some and drive the rest into the hardware shop. When under the floors in
such places one finds there has been so many alterations made at
different times that one joist may be a foot or six inches below the
other, and when the Rats are completely driven out of these places it
would require joiners and bricksetters to work for weeks under the floors
to stop the Rats returning. And most firms will not go to this expense.
I only give my readers this as an illustration of what has often happened
with me, and to show why I never guarantee to clear Rats completely in
large towns. If they are in a private house, stable, greenhouse, or any
block of houses, of say five or six, I might then, after looking through,
give a guarantee to clear them completely.

These are the fullest details I can give you, and if you will put any of
the ways I have mentioned into practice you will find that they are all
successful, especially the covering of traps. I can give you just one
more instance in Manchester, where I was engaged. The workpeople had
been tormenting the Rats with traps, not knowing how to set them. They
sent for me, and on my looking round the place I knew there was a lot of
Rats. I submitted my price to do the job, and when I went down one night
with 40 traps, dog, and two ferrets I thought I should catch 20 or 30
Rats, but I found that they had plagued them so much with their attempted
trapping that I only caught three in the whole night. This place
belonged to a limited company, and when I went before the committee the
next morning they were not satisfied. I told them that their own
workpeople had tormented the Rats so much with traps that the Rats would
not go near one. I then told the committee that I would still stick to
my terms, but I would leave the job over for a fortnight. Now during
that fortnight I went down a good many times, and laid the sawdust as I
have already described, and thus got the Rats used to it. The first
night that I went catching I took with me 33 traps. I had them all set
by 8-30 p.m., and by 12-30 a.m. I had trapped 45 Rats; the next night 31
Rats; and before I completed the job, with the trapping and the other
ways that I have mentioned, I caught 183 Rats! This I give merely as an
illustration to show the necessity of engaging an experienced man to
catch Rats - that is, if you want them caught. And to confirm the
statements above, I shall be most happy to supply privately the name and
place of the firm, and also to give a personal interview if necessary.

And now a word or two respecting the different ways in which Rat-catchers
are treated. Many people think that a Rat-catcher is favoured if they
give him permission to catch Rats on their farms or round the banks of
their corn or wheat fields. Well, on some occasions I grant this may be
a favour, for I have seen when I have had an order in hand for about 10
dozen Rats, and have had only a day or two in which to get them. Such
are the only times and circumstances when a Rat-catcher gives his
services gratis, and simply because he wants the live Rats. Most farmers
will send you word when they are threshing their corn, and then the value
of the Rats are worth the day's work to the Rat-catcher.

This is all right as far as it goes, but when one comes to consider the
yearly expenses of the Rat-catcher it will be found that they are very
heavy. Now, first of all it will cost, at the least, 5 pounds annually
for the wear and tear of traps alone, then there is the wear and tear of
nets; two dog licences; always three or four ferrets to keep (and ferrets
are often lost down drains or killed by Rats); also sundry other
expenses, such as store cages, etc. Then, again, the Rat-catcher always
has to pay a man to help him.

I don't call Rat-catching a trade only: I maintain that it is a
profession, and one that requires much learning and courage. I have
found this out when I have been under a warehouse floor, where a lot of
Rats were in the traps, and I could not get one man out of 50 to come
under the floor and hold the candle for me, not to mention helping me to
take the live Rats out of the traps. I just relate this because at some
places where we go and where we catch perhaps 30 Rats, the first thing
they say when the bill is presented is "Why, you have got 15s. worth of
live Rats!" They don't think of the damage 30 Rats can do to fancy
goods, nor do they consider the evil smells that men have to tolerate
under the floors or from the bad drains.

I could relate many interesting anecdotes of what I have seen and heard
about Rats, but I fear its perusal might take up too much of my readers'
time. There is, however, one thing I will mention. I dare say you have
heard of Rats running about in "swarms" in the night. Do not believe it.
In my whole experience I have never been so fortunate as to meet a
"swarm" of these, when I have had an empty cage on my back, and an order
for 12 dozen live Rats at 5s. per dozen. When trapping at farms on a
moonlight night I have seen a train of Rats almost in single file going
from a barn to a pit or brook to drink, and then I have simply run a long
net all along the barn very quickly, sent my dog round the pit and caught
all the Rats in the net when they ran back to get in the barn. For in
these places you must be as cunning as the Rats to catch them. The
quickest way for a farmer to get rid of Rats is to run a long trail of
good oatmeal outside his barn doors, and shoot them on a moonlight night.
I have seen 11 killed at a shot in this way. They will stay eating the
oatmeal because they cannot carry it away. At farms or out-houses you
might poison Rats round a pit or along brook sides where they go to
drink, although I don't believe in poisoning, as one never knows where it
ends - the Rats being likely to carry the poisoned food about, and then
dogs, hens, pigs, pigeons, etc., may pick it up.

There may be a few more ways of catching Rats than I have enumerated, but
I think I have given the best ways in detail. Some people think that to


is very good, but I think that the mongoose is no better than a good fox
terrier dog or a good cat, the only advantage in the mongoose being that
all the Rats it kills it will bring back dead to its habitation, and that
stops the dead Rats from smelling under the floors. I think that the
mongoose is not half so sly or sharp as a good cat, and a mongoose,
moreover, has to be taught how to kill a Rat (just the same as a dog). I
am fortunate in having actually seen a mongoose and a Rat put alive in a
tub together, and the mongoose would not even look at the Rat. And I
maintain that the mongoose cannot compare with the ferret anytime, for
the simple reason that a small ferret can get anywhere that a Rat can,
whilst the mongoose must wait until the Rat comes out to feed. For
instance, if a board of a floor be left up for a mongoose to get under
the floor, it can only get into one of the joists; but a ferret can
follow a Rat wherever it goes. Then again, the Rats can smell a mongoose
even more strongly than they can smell a cat. So these facts prevent my
recommending a mongoose on any account. I have also heard of people
experimenting with different sorts of


for enticing Rats out of their holes. I hope none of my readers will be
attracted with this device. I hold that there is nothing that will tempt
a Rat from its hole like hunger. The nearest approach that I have found
to entice the Rodent out of its hole is oil of aniseed or oil of rhodium,
but the latter is expensive. I can rely best on oil of aniseed, because
I have often successfully tried it in experiment upon the plate of a set
trap. I have placed only three or four drops of oil of aniseed upon the

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Online LibraryIke MatthewsFull Revelations of a Professional Rat-catcher After 25 Years' Experience → online text (page 1 of 4)