Growing stuff on hot concrete – gardening in tropical Penang – rain and rats

Penang has food for sale everywhere – legal and illegal stalls, coffee shops, restaurants, markets, grocery stalls, supermarkets… Between them food is for sale almost everywhere, 24 hours a day.  So rats live nearby.  And when it rains heavily, or especially when it floods, rats can be seen scuttling around.  They look for a new place to live.

Unfortunately, after flooding a rat usually finds my garden.  It visits at night when I am asleep and wreaks havoc on the garden.  This time it found the only four cherry tomatoes I was growing and which were almost ripe, and ate them.  It seemed to attack the cabbage hearts.  And it destroyed several cape gooseberry plants that had some immature fruit growing on them in order to use the foliage for a nest.  And some seeds I planted were dug up.

rat’s nest

And from experience it turns out to be only one rat each time this happens. I try to have a rat unfriendly habitat, but this is not enough.  I have  tried several methods to catch the rat:

Poison, which I don’t like because birds or even a cat might also eat it, and besides it didn’t work.

Sticky mats, which supposedly will trap the rat as it scuttles over it.  It could catch birds, though, and mostly likely, me. (It did.)  I didn’t catch the rat, though.

Conventional rat trap with bar that comes down and traps creature when it takes the bait.  Could catch birds.  It usually catches my thumb when I try to set it.  But the rat took the food and didn’t get trapped.

Finally the only effective way is a cage with an open door, and food hanging inside, which, when the animal enters and the food is touched, it springs the trap and the door closes.  If put out at night it won’t catch a bird, is too small for a cat, and doesn’t harm the creature. It costs about RM11 from a hardware store.

rat trap cage

The most humane way to kill the rat seems to be to simply put the whole trap in a full bucket of water.  Apparently it is illegal to transport rats.  If you set it free it will just come back.

I heard that Malaysia used to have a bounty of RM1 for each rat handed in to the government, as a way to eliminate rats.  Of course, some people just created rat breeding businesses so they had plenty of rats to hand in.



    1. Once you catch a rat they look so innocent and sad. Even though they have destroyed so much of your garden it is hard to dispose of them once you see them. So I couldn’t do it as a business.

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