By Debbie James

When I ventured into the attic to retrieve the Christmas decorations and spied upon the rafters shredded remnants of fabric that once adorned angels, I knew we had visitors and sadly not Santa and his helpers.

We’ve had had mice before, it’s goes with the territory when you live on a farm, but they do seem to be getting bolder.

Mice and rats are opportunists. Interesting fact: a rat’s skeleton is so flexible that it can squeeze its way through any hole or crack wider than half an inch.

My husband reckons not and questioned if my fact source was referring to an adult rat or a mere baby but the detail is incidental: to put it bluntly a rat can squash through the smallest of gaps.

The bait and trap approach seemed to be having little effect as my strategy of eliminate and control so the time came to call in the heavies.

My trusty troops now on the front line are four feral cats, kindly delivered this weekend by the Cats Protection.

They have been rehomed in an outbuilding and I’m hoping their appetites will be large so that I can once more sleep without one ear permanently tuned in to every sound.

Before that, the quartet must remain in their crate for a while to manage a homing instinct second only to that of a racing pigeon.

There is little that I am fearful of but mice and rats induce absolute terror – the speed they move at, those long tails; let’s face it they have few redeeming qualities.

I think I am on solid ground in saying that pest control is one aspect that farmers in every agricultural sector struggle with.

In the case of rats, humans have invented elaborate, gruesome traps, trained dogs, ferrets, and cats to kill them, invented ultrasonic machines to drive them away with high-pitched noise and poisoned them in their millions.

Still they are here, seemingly as indestructible as they are greedy. In the unending and brutish war, it is a battle they always seem to win probably due to their unnerving rate of reproduction – in a single year two rats can become 15,000. At that rate my cats are going to be very busy indeed.

I am resigned to an acceptance that we will never be completely rid of them but with my feline soldiers on the ground I am hopeful of keeping their numbers down.