Rats "the size of cats" infest pensioner's Cotswold home
RATS the "size of cats" have left disabled pensioner Julie Morawicz scared to go upstairs in her own home and £1,600 out of pocket.
The attic at the 70-year-old's semi-detached cottage in Stow-on-the-Wold has been infested with the rodents for three months, despite the efforts of three separate rat-catchers.
Mrs Morawicz says three lodgers have also had to leave her home because of the infestation, costing her around £800 in rent so far.
And the retired casting agent, who now lives alone and receives disability benefit because of a lung condition, says she has already forked out almost £800 on pest control services.
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She said: "I daren't go upstairs in case one gets out of the attic and I see it. It's horrid to think of them up there, scurrying around.
"One of the catchers managed to catch three of them in traps and they were the size of cats.
"They keep coming back. The catchers have tried poison and old fashioned traps, but we can't get rid of them.
"They must be these so-called super rats that can resist poison.
"Your home is where you should feel safe, but I don't because of the rats."
Mrs Morawicz added: "I've lost two sets of lodgers because of the rats. I had a girl lodging with me for two years, and she didn't want to leave but she couldn't bear it any more.
"She could hear the rats scratching around in the attic above her room at night.
"When one of the rats was caught in a trap, she could hear it screaming. It was a horrific sound. I can't let out the rooms until the rats are gone because it wouldn't be fair to the lodgers."
Mrs Morawicz, who has lived in her cottage for 13 years, says her neighbours have reported seeing rats in their attic too.
She says she believes the rats are being attracted to the area by rubbish left in the alleyway behind her home.
The third catcher Mrs Morawicz hired has put down poison in her attic and filled in holes, and she is currently waiting to see whether the treatment has been successful.
A scientific study recently discovered that around 75 per cent of rats in Gloucestershire are resistant to commonly sold poisons.
Earlier this month workmen dug up pavements in the Battledown estate in Cheltenham after residents complained that their homes were infested with rats.
Graham King, who is a pest control technician for Pestforce Gloucestershire, told the Echo some of the reasons why it is so hard to get rid of rats:
* Rats have neophobia, which is a fear of new things in their environment, so they will avoid traps for up to two weeks after they are placed.
* Rats have excellent memory. Once they learn a road path, they will never forget it.
* The average litter of rats contains between seven and 20 babies. This means a single rat can have up to 80 babies a year.
* Female rats can become pregnant at just three months old and often have a litter every three months.
* Rats will eat almost anything, including dog waste and pigeon droppings.