Kitchen sink trauma
If you are chipping dry bits of food off a plate in order to eat you'd better read on.
With the body of a mutant beetle and the mind of Satan himself, cockroaches tend to cluster where you don't clean, especially humid areas such as air ducts and pipe work. At night, they scuttle out to forage for food, contaminating everything they touch and creating a serious health hazard.
Dealing with it: Contact your landlord, local council, or pest control company. Bait will be set down in the affected area, which foraging cockroaches take back to their nests and make a date with death.
Of all the things you touch in your hovel on an average day, from the cat's collar to the TV remote, food scores highest in terms of germ transmission. It's not just bacteria either, but toxins, viruses and even parasites. Here are some of the main contenders.
- Salmonella: Bacteria found in raw or undercooked eggs, unpasturised milk, meat and fish. Cooking food properly should wipe it out.
- E. Coli: Potentially life threatening if you catch the unlucky strain, this bacteria is found in raw or undercooked meat and can be left behind on chopping boards. Thorough cooking and scrubbing your paws after handling meat, should ensure you don't go down with a dose. Also be sure to wash up boards and utensils in hot water and detergent once you've finished - a wipe down with a cloth just won't do.
- Staphylococcus Aureus: This bug is largely spread by mucky hands and sneezes, and can't be killed by cooking food. So don't be a slob over the stove, and if standards slip, then consider some kind of salad bar sneeze-shield adaptation.
- Hepatitis A : A virus that can be passed by handling food with unwashed hands, causing anything from jaundice to liver problems.
- Toxoplasmosis: A parasite found in both cat poo and poultry dishes. Not because the cat crapped in your chicken before you tucked in, but because you haven't cooked it properly (the chicken that is, not the cat).
Dealing with it: Store and handle food correctly, and make hygiene a priority in your kitchen. This means washing hands regularly, keeping a cutting board for meat only, and scrubbing it thoroughly after use. If you plan on tasting food while cooking, don't go stirring with the same utensil afterwards.
Keep your fridge under 40 degrees Fahrenheit, and use sealed containers for meat products. Also change your dishcloth regularly, and if you can't bring yourself to buy a new scrubbing brush then boil it in a pan of water every now and then.
Mice and rats
Small, furry, but far from cute, rodents are guaranteed to make your grubby life even more horrible. They'll eat anything, not just food but bits of your hovel itself - from the wallpaper to wiring insulation. Then there's the disease to consider, which is carried on their feet and spread through urine and droppings, not to mention the threat of ticks and fleas.
Mice and rats are cautious of hovel dwellers, but tend to leave quite a mess behind - including dark brown droppings (mouse poo measures approximately quarter of an inch in length, while rat droppings clock in up to three times the size). You may even hear them in the very fabric of your hovel, scuttling about behind the skirting boards, laughing at your lot in life.
Dealing with it: If you're living with rodents, it's time to show them who's daddy. For a start mice and rats breed faster than a rabbit on a Viagra drip, so consider your options and fast:
- Traps: Baited 'snap traps' make an effective snare, providing you don't gag at the prospect of removing broken-backed corpses in the morning (wearing gloves, of course). There are more humane alternatives that effectively cage unwary rodents, but you have to be sure you can 'evict' them effectively. Visit your local hardware store and seek advice on a trap that works for you.
- Poison: Should be considered a last resort, as it's hard to handle safely and results in slow-dying vermin that crawl off to die in places you'll never think to look - until the smell of decay leads you there. Poison products are available from most hardware stores, but you might fare better in the hands of professionals. Consult your landlord, or look up Pest Control in the phone book.
- Prevention: The most effective option, and one that doesn't involve turning your kitchen floor into a slaughterhouse. Regular cleaning, combined with food storage sense, should deter vermin, as do pet cats.
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