Let me tell you a story. A story about rats in Holland. A few days ago, I was sitting on the tram on my way to work and I noticed, while looking by the window, something moving behind the bushes in the street. Moving really fast, actually. Was it a cat? Was it a bird? Nope. That was a rat. A big fat rat, bouncing around in day light like it was 1805 again.
I then started remembering all those times I have encountered a mouse or rat since I have been living in Holland. Whether it was in a bar, in a flat, or in the street. And that’s when it hit me: there’s one thing nobody will tell you before you move to The Netherlands, and it’s the fact that it is infested with mice and rats. Yes, really. That’s the curse that comes with having a beautiful country built on water and filled with canals: rodents love that!
That’s also why I always find the “cat lovers nation” kind of funny; yes, the Dutch love cats, but they mainly find them extremely useful to keep the mice and rats away. Have you ever wondered why there are so many cats in bars and restaurants of Amsterdam, Utrecht or any other Dutch city? Well, now it seems pretty obvious doesn’t it?
A cat in a restaurant a day, keep the mice away
Cats are actually illegal in restaurants (like everywhere else in Europe) because, you know, they are cute and all that, but when it comes to food hygiene, it’s not the best if you want to get that 5 stars rating. But still, owners of bars and restaurants argue that poison and dead mice in the kitchen are much worse for food safety, and I cannot but agree with this!
That’s why, when I saw a little white mouse running between my feet and the tables in a bar of Utrecht a few weeks ago, I went to tell the waitress. Of course, nothing happened then, and nobody panicked. Dutch people are pretty obviously used to their mice. However, when I went back a few days later (yes, it does sound like I spend a lot of time in bars, please don’t judge me), I had the pleasure to sit next to a pretty black kitty.
And trust me, being a cat in The Netherlands is living the real thug life.
These kittys are kings and queens of the streets of Holland, or any other public places. If one is taking the only « free » chair in the bar, you will be expected to cope with it; nobody disturbs the cat while it’s taking a nap.
They also get free food of course, and not only from the bins outside: they are not scared of approaching any table to ask for food while you’re enjoying your meal. And if you think ignoring the cat will make it go away, you are a fool… a fool who will soon end up with a cat’s ass right in front of his face, while the kitty will be eating directly out of your plate, on the table. Like I said, cats are kings or queens.
I personnally love these little balls of fur, but if you don’t, well, you’ll just have to cope with them. Think of them as the spiders of Holland ; they might repulse you or scare you to death, but they serve a purpose.
Why there are so many rats in Holland
Everybody living in The Netherlands has experienced life with a mouse. If you haven’t yet, don’t worry, your time will come.
We have also all heard horror stories of friends finding a mouse in the kitchen, or not being able to sleep at night because of all the scratching in the walls and the fear of waking up with a mouse sitting on your forehead. Or the fear of mice running free in the kitchen, your friend being either desperate to catch it, or too scared to dare do something (and instead choose not to open a particular cupboard in the kitchen because it is where the mouse lives now).
I myself found a mouse in the first flat I lived in. Well, to be fair, it was half dead already because the owner of the flat did not bother with feelings and just put poison everywhere. But still, ’twas a half dead mouse (picture a zombie mouse… you’ve got it).
The second time was at a friend’s house, whom captured a little mouse and decided to take it out on a bike tour, only to release it somewhere where the grass was greener. Quite literally, as she picked a park. Apologies in her name if that mouse ended up behind your kitchen stove instead.
Rats and mice numbers are increasing in Holland
If you are scared of mice and/or rats, I’ve got bad news for you. Their number has allegedly increased by 30% in 2016 compared to last year. This is apparently due to the fact that the winter in this country was so mild. You’re not the only one who enjoyed it, so did the rodents.
So what now? Don’t leave your bin outside on a balcony if you have one. For the rest, just pray… or get a cat. Rodents are very good at climbing and could crawl almost anywhere.
The good thing is, you will hear them coming… most of the time. Scratching inside the walls to climb up and make their way through your flat is quite a loud process.
If you live near a canal, you are also playing with fire. And because I live life dangerously, I just moved in a few meters away from a river, in a building which displays warning messages about rats. So of course, I anticipated and already checked if I could get a cat. But I am a cat lady anyway.
Dutch Rats Police Squad
When it comes to turning something to your advantage, the Dutch are quite good at it. Even when it comes to rats. As these rodents are reproducing fast and are never going to disappear anyway, why not make use of them? You know, to feel like you’ve still got control of the situation.
Rats have a quite good sense of smell and can sneak in almost everywhere, an advantage that the Dutch police forces are now using with trained rats. That’s right, you’ve read correctly: trained rats. A bit like dogs, but in a much smaller version.
The police forces in Rotterdam have been using them for a couple of years already. Rats have been trained to recognize various smells, from drugs to explosives. Making them the first rats police squad in the World. Talk about an accomplishement!