Look what the cat dragged in: dead rats signal 'crisis,' Centretown woman warns

A woman in downtown Ottawa, who has lived in the neighbourhood for nearly 30 years, says the rat population this fall is the worst she's ever seen.

Florence Street resident blames explosion in rodent population on infrequent garbage pickup

Shannon Lee Mannion says her cat Blackie brings home up to five or six dead or dying rats a day. (Supplied)

An Ottawa woman says the deceased rats her pet cat keeps bringing to her suggest her corner of Centretown is in the grip of a rodent plague.

Florence Street resident Shannon Lee Mannion, who's lived in the neighbourhood for 35 years, said the rat population this fall has been the most numerous she's ever seen. 

The evidence, Mannion said, is the enormous number of rat carcasses — up to five or six a day — her white male cat Blackie has been bringing home to offer as gifts.

We've got a public health crisis brewing.- Shannon Lee Mannion, Centretown resident

"Every time I open the door to let him in, he drags in another corpse," Mannion wrote Sunday in an email to the mayor, several city councillors and Roger Chapman, head of the city's bylaw department.

"In the past two days, my cat has brought home six rats in daylight hours. If you have read anything about rats, you know that this means that they are on the move; there is an over-abundance and they are jockeying for space," Mannion wrote.

Shannon Lee Mannion has emailed the mayor, city councillors and the city's bylaw chief to demand action on the rat problem in her neighbourhood. 'It's time for them to do something now.' (Stu Mills/CBC)

2nd email to mayor, councillors

The email, with the subject line "Something must be done," follows an earlier missive in October titled "Plethora of Rats." The latest email is accompanied by three photos of Blackie sitting beside dead rats, one of them decapitated.

"As I am completing this email, my cat has brought in yet another rat, this one alive. Do you have any idea how dreadful this is?" Mannion wrote.

Centretown resident Shannon Lee Mannion blames poor garbage handling for a rat problem in Centretown, and said one of her cats dragged in ten of the rodents last weekend alone. 0:35

Mannion said she doesn't have rats inhabiting her apartment — "other than the bleeding and dead bodies that my cat brings in" — but believes neighbours without cats "probably have rats in their homes."

CBC visited Mannion's home and found one dead rat in a garbage can beside her building.

Mannion said none of the politicians she reached out to has responded to her emails, but she did receive a reply from the bylaw services department offering assistance if she ever finds a live rat in her home.

Rats feeding on garbage

Mannion blames the apparent population explosion on the city-wide move from weekly garbage pickup to every two weeks in 2012. The problem has intensified in Ottawa's densely-populated downtown over the last few months, she told CBC News.

"We've got a public health crisis brewing," Mannion said. "It's time for them to do something now.... Are we going to allow vermin to overtake our communities?"

Blackie and another one of Shannon Lee Mannion's cats admire their latest kill. (Supplied)

Mannion believes poorly stored garbage in the area around her multi-unit walkup on Florence Street, between Bank and Kent streets, is attracting the rodents.

"It's because of garbage. They wouldn't be around if there was nothing to eat," Mannion said.

In her email, she criticized the city's reliance on poison to control the rodents, and said placing cameras in sewers to monitor the rat population is not the answer.

"We already know we have a profound problem," Mannion wrote.

City won't revisit garbage pickup

Instead, Mannion wants the city to do a better job monitoring garbage storage and collection in multi-unit buildings, and return to a weekly collection schedule for six months until the rat population is back under control.

My back porch is beginning to look like an abattoir.- Shannon Lee Mannion, Centretown resident

According to an emailed statement attributed to Marilyn Journeaux, the city's director of solid waste services, "There is no evidence that bi-weekly garbage collection had any effect on the population of vermin in the City. The City does not plan on re-visiting this policy."

Mannion believes some people are hesitant to call 311 to report rats because of the "stigma" attached to rodent infestations.

But she believes the problem has now reached a boiling point. "My back porch is beginning to look like an abattoir."

Mannion also scoffed at the suggestion made by some that residents of multi-unit buildings store compostable material in their freezers until garbage day.

"The garbage is not going to go in the freezer. That's a stupid idea."