Huge demand for pest control hints at a city at war with rampaging rodents
I have been passed by one scurrying down University Street. I watched them from the window of my old office in Queen's a few years ago. When I was a child the housing estate I lived in was reported to be infested with 'rats the size of cats'. Sometimes on a stroll along the riverbank you will see a big brown one shuffle along the water's edge and disappear into a hole.
There is no point in pretending they are not near-neighbours.
Like the robin and the spider, they hang around close to us looking for our cast-off scraps. We are part of an ecosystem after all, but nothing is quite as disturbing as a rat.
Or as persistent, as ugly, as dirty, as - yuk - as creepy.
A family home in Edinburgh Street, off the Lisburn Road in Belfast is crawling with the brutes.
The family is waiting for the electricity to cut off because rats are gnawing at the wires.
Rats don't seem to be fussy about what they eat. They are digging into the concrete in the floor.
And there are children in that house, but the problem is not unique and it is not a small one.
The family have been told pest control officers won't get round to flushing the vermin out of the house in Edinburgh Street for another 10 days, and why not? Because they are so busy.
A city council spokesman said: "There is a huge demand on our free pest control service."
That's not reassuring. It hints at a city that is at war with encroaching rodents.
The landlord of the house in Edinburgh Street, who does not want to be named, said: "But that's not satisfactory with a family with three kids and rats running through the house. The council told me that I would need to get a private firm but my man is doing what he can do with baits but the problem is outside the house.
"It's taken four days and cost almost £500 to get rid of them."
The man killing the rats is Johnny McCluskey and he says there are more since his purge of them at the weekend.
"I personally caught 16 rats after I set the traps on Friday and I came back on the Sunday and I killed 10.
"They were in the traps and I killed them humanely as I could.
"They were alive and I put them in the water and had to drown them. I have never come across anything on this scale in my life. It's unbelievable."
Mr McCluskey isn't finished: "When I came back yesterday the woman living in the house was nearly crying again, she saw another large rat in the back bit of the house.
"It's pretty hard getting rid of all the rats as I am cementing all the holes to keep them closed off but they are eating their way through the concrete as they have eaten their way through the floors.
"They are coming from beneath the ground and going straight up."
In the past year alone, more than 12,000 manholes have been baited for rats, and that tells you where they are coming from, out of our drains and sewers, sniffing their grisly ways towards our homes.
They live steeped in filth yet through it all those twitching little noses can pick up the scent of the steam from our kitchens, the leftovers in our bins and - unaccountably - the tasty plastic insulation on our electric cables.
They leave disease-bearing urine on our floors; they sometimes die and decompose under our floorboards, leaving a smell in the house that you can never find or explain.
A quick search of Google suggests if you are one of the many in the queue waiting for pest control to get to you, then the best option is to bait your traps with peanut butter and pray.
Ask yourself how far we have come as a species from the swamp if we have brought our filthy neighbours with us - the rats.