Pied Piper 2.0:

Company Presents Humane Solution to Rat Infestation: Bum Them Out of Town

The iRat system blasts rodents nesting in water treatment plants and chewing on the cables with sounds they really hate. So they leave.

Two rats relaxing in Moscow's Red Square, March 22, 1993, a time when Moscow was experiencing a "rat problem."
AP

Westerners take water for granted, until the supply collapses. That can happen because of disaster, war, terrorism, climate change – or, for instance, rats.

The same applies to homeland security systems, electrical systems, food storage and in fact all infrastructure without which civilization as we know it would collapse. And what could bring down civilization, albeit one plant at a time, according to the company? Rats gnawing off the plastic coating the electrical cables that run the systems. Aside from all other problems, exposed wiring can lead to electrical fires.

Even rats can't eat plastic. Why is this happening?

Unlike human teeth, their little ratty incisors are open-rooted and keep growing for life. Gnawing is crucial to the rat's well-being. Otherwise they would become saber-toothed rats, admittedly an attractive thought, but not for them, at least if they want to eat.

Okay, they’re teething all life long but why would they chew on electrical cables?  "I don't know why but they do," says Yacov Gur-Arie cheerfully, and among his life's missions, set out to find a humane way to make them stop doing that without killing them. Rats also have a right to life and so on.

Thus the iRat SuperSonic, made by G.A. Electro Sonic, which emits sounds you can't hear but rats hate. It is sold to water and sewage companies, power companies, food manufacturers, telecom operators, technology companies, hotels and hospitals - any entity that uses water and/or electricity is a potential customer.

For instance, the whole water industry depends on pumps that operate on electricity, explains Gur-Arie. Sewage and water treatment plants typically maintain electricity facilities in the field. These rooms are nice and warm, while the fields are cold and rainy (in winter) and hot and dry (in summer), and abound in predators, from hawks to snakes.

So the clever rodents move into the inviting rooms and venture outside only to find food. And meanwhile they gnaw contentedly on the cables.

How does the iRat work? It consists of a master unit (like the central part of a stereo system), amplifiers and speakers that emit intermittent ultrasonic sounds that we can't hear, but that drive rodents around the bend. They can't stand it and decamp. Simple. No fuss, no blood.

Habeas rattus corpus

Why not use alternative means of pest control? Because of the humanity, says Gur-Arie. Even so, he notes that many unnerved utilities managers lay other pest-control devices outside the facility protected by iRat.

"Many clients demand to see the rodents dead!" writes Gur-Arie in an email to Haaretz. "I think that driving them away is enough to prevent damage. However, conventional pest control measure can become complementary elements in the customers’ eyes, as in, to make sure that rodents kicked out by the system don’t return. Personally – I’d make do with the systems."

Rats have a right to life too, even if you would rather they spend that life somewhere else. The picture shows Tomer Abramov, aged 15, rat breeder and aficionado, holding one of his pets in hand.
Itzik Ben Malki

Hasn't anybody thought of blasting rats with sonic booms or Tiny Tim remixes or something audially horrifying before? They have, acknowledges Gur-Arie, but what's on the market is mainly devices for the house, not systems. What these systems have in common, in his view, is that they don't really work.

iRat is modular, he adds: It can be scaled up to cover gigantic areas, with more central units and speakers. The company has installed systems with as many as 3,000 speakers, he says.

Of course, one could get cats, which presumably to howls of murine dismay, have been spared expulsion from Israel. Even cat lovers would admit, though, that not being temperamental and lazy, iRat is probably more efficient than YourCat.

As for cost, it's pretty low by any criteria, especially considering the cost of the damage the rats do, Gur-Arie says. The cost per client depends on how many systems and amplifiers and speakers they buy. But he provides an example of one system with one central unit and 3- speakers that cost the client about 20,000 shekels (about $5,250) – in an electricity room where the client racked up 900,000 shekels worth of rat-related damage (about $237,000), he claims.

iRat even comes with basic diagnostics, says Gur-Arie, meaning it can warn you that it isn't working, for some reason.

So, do these systems effectively deter 100% of rat infestation? Nothing in this world is 100%, Gur-Arie says. One might always get a deaf rat. Or a perverse one. But, "We can state, with a very high degree of confidence, based on our 33-year experience with the systems that rodents will not cause any damage in the protected zones," he says.