I have been rearing local chicken in my backyard, generally for eggs and some organic chicken meat. I built for them a very small house where they retired everyday after chasing insects.
Overtime, because of the quiet shelter, and a pile of stones underneath the chicken house, a rat found a home. Its friend joined in and before long it was a family.
These “family members” would loiter around the compound, even in broad day light. Soon afterwards, the rats started eating the chicks, sneaking into their house at night and killing them in cold blood. They also started stealing the dog food. Then, they started sneaking into my house and terrorising us. I bought poison and traps but none of this helped. Even the rat gum would be bypassed! At this point, I decided to buy a cat. I got a kitten, about one month old. After just one week in the house, all the rats retreated to their stony home under the chicken house.
The kitten was tiny and rarely moved out of the house. Its presence alone drove all of the rats out of my house. Although still in the compound, I was very happy that the rats were out. When the kitten became of age, and was used to the environment, it started moving around the compound.
From the day the dogs saw it, they got angry, backing all of the time. They wanted to lynch the cat, unaware that it was that cat which chased the “fellas” that used to steal their food. Initially, the cat got scared and ran away. Over time, it noticed the dogs were locked up.
So it didn’t mind them. It went about with its business irrespective of whether the dogs barked. One time, my boys released the dogs to see what the cat would do. Of course it ran, and it was faster! It ran a second time, a third and so on. Later, it stopped running. It stood its ground. When the dogs came with force, it ‘swelled’ and they retreated with their tails coiled between legs. From that day, it started walking around as it wished. Respect had been earned!
Meanwhile, at the sight or even sound of the cat, all the rats hid under the stones, almost permanently trapped there. It learnt they were there and spent nearly all day there, occasionally catching those that dared to peep! The survivors learnt never to get out. I am sure many starved and died.
It’s now six months since the cat died. It was pregnant and had gone sunbathing over the fence when a neighbour hit it with a stone.
Despite its death, no rat has dared to move out of its hole. Most likely, the parent rats told their children of the resident enemy and they learnt not to get out. It is possible that all the parent rats have now died, the enemy is no more but the children are stuck in the past, unable to enjoy a new normal.
The lesson here is that don’t simply follow what others followed long ago. What worked for them could have been appropriate at the time, but may not work for you. Check and see if the circumstances have changed. If they change, please change your ways as well – and be sure circumstances will always change.
Also, you always need to stand up to your enemies, the exact way the cat dealt with the dogs. If you can’t manage, run, and be sure to run faster than them. But sometimes, those who think you are an enemy may not even know that they owe their very survival to your efforts.
In all circumstances, never be like the chicken. Clearly a cock is stronger than a rat but they chose to look on as their babies were being killed. In this year 2021, change your ways, things are different and you can’t live in the same old way. If you manage a business, just know that the new normal will require new ways of doing things. Stay the same and you’ll be condemned.
Celestine Katongole, PhD, Founder, workandrise.com