Fate is not an eagle; it creeps like a rat.

– Elizabeth Bowen, Irish-British novelist and short story writer

What is the best bait to use in a rat trap? Cucumber. This I found out recently from a 40-year-old nephew who used to live with me when he was studying in Kuching.

This is an astonishing discovery to me; it just proves that we learn new things every day from not only our elders but also those who are younger than us.

“Rats are vegetarians,” continued this nephew who loved to joke.

“I used to compete with a friend. He used meat as bait in his rat traps while I used cucumber. Every day, I caught a rat while he did not.”

Jokes aside, I was willing to use any bait he suggested. For months, a big black rat had been terrorising my home, especially my kitchen, every night.

While my nephew was in my house recently, the rodent appeared twice — once to run across the kitchen floor and hide behind a cabinet and another time, to race up some malfunctioning window panes which refused to shut tightly and disappear straight into the night outside.

I first noticed this fearless rodent in January this year when I was doing spring cleaning for Chinese New Year. Evidence that it and at least two other smaller rats had entered the house, leaving faecal droppings, urine trail and shredded paper inside the cabinet.

When my sister-in-law and I cleared the cabinet, the rats ran out and hid somewhere.

Fearful of the diseases brought about by rats and their urine, such as Weil’s disease (leptospirosis), my sister-in-law threw away many of the precious baking utensils I kept in the cabinet.

Then she bought me a rat trap and used salted fish as a bait. The salted fish had remained untouched in the trap since then. Meanwhile, the rat continued to terrorise my kitchen every night even though I did not leave any food on the table or floor.

Besides the window panes which had malfunctioned from wear and tear for the past 30 years, the rat had gained access into the house through a big hole in the bottom half of my kitchen door. The hole was again the result of wear and tear for many years.

Before I asked my nephew to prepare a new bait for the rat trap, I had spent many nights looking at YouTube videos on how to drive rats out of the house and ways to get rid of them naturally.

That led me to discover peppermint oil, reputed to keep rats and mice away for good. The rodents are said to be not too fond of the strong scent of the peppermint which can irritate their nasal cavities.

From the YouTube, I also learnt that lavender oil is an effective repellent for rodents because they hate the odour. Since lavender oil is hard to find, I thought I should opt for lavender floor cleaner. Yes, I thought of killing two birds with one stone — get rid of the rat and make the floor smell nice at the same time.

So off I faithfully went to a pharmacy to buy the peppermint oil and to a supermarket to buy the lavender floor cleaner. I was shocked by the exorbitant price I had to pay for the peppermint oil — RM54 for a 10-ml bottle!

That day, I spent almost RM70 on the peppermint oil and the lavender floor cleaner.

That night, I diligently applied several drops of the undiluted peppermint oil as well as the lavender floor cleaner to cotton balls and dropped them in areas where I suspected rat activities.

What my nephew said about YouTube is true — don’t believe what you read.

The so-called cures to the rodent problem did not work at all, much to my great disappointment.

After I shared my findings with one of my nieces, she went even further. “Did you read the reviews?  You must read them. Some netizens will complain if the ideas do not work.”

“No, I didn’t,” I replied.

I am not particularly fond of mousetraps. I would have preferred the big, black rat that terrorised my kitchen to leave my house on its own. The mousetrap was my last resort.

Yes, the cucumber bait did work! That rat was truly a vegetarian. After my nephew set the trap with a piece of cucumber as a bait, the rat was caught. I will spare you the gory details of how I was forced to exterminate it. If my nephew had been around, I would have asked him to do it.

Suffice to say I kept apologising to the rodent as I carried out the difficult task.

“I am sorry, rat. You are to be blamed. I have given you many chances to walk away and leave my house. I am sorry, I am sorry, I am sorry.” I kept saying to the rat as I bade it goodbye.