An army of government officers yesterday raided a flat claimed to be a rat paradise - but social workers had to persuade the woman tenant to put her pants on first. It was the third and biggest raid on the Sai Ying Pun flat where neighbours claim the woman, Chan Wai-wah, has been keeping rats as pets in her room. Hygiene officers laid baits, set traps and caught at least five rats in two raids earlier this week, but Ms Chan refused to let them into her room. Yesterday, armed with a search warrant, 45 officers from the police, Food and Environmental Hygiene, Home Affairs and the Social Welfare departments, helped by Central and Western District Council members, descended on the flat in Hing Hon Road at 11am. At first Ms Chan refused to open the door, saying she did not have any pants on, but after 45 minutes' persuasion by social workers, she agreed to get dressed and let them in. Probably scared away by the commotion, the rats - which neighbours have said sometimes behave as though they are having a rodents' carnival - were nowhere to be seen. But officers carried away five bags of rubbish in the four-hour operation. Ms Chan, who has rented one of the flat's three rooms for five years, denied she kept rats as pets, but said she loved small animals and 'respects' rats. 'I didn't feed rats, the food and water I left on the patio was for birds, I love small animals,' Ms Chan said in her foul-smelling room. 'I respect rats. They have lives too. I don't understand why every rat has to lead a miserable life: die after eating poison or be chased or caught by humans' She hoped the government would sterilise rats instead of killing them. But her neighbours were annoyed and angry about noise from the rats and poor hygiene. 'There are many rats and they are not afraid of people. Sometimes in the daytime, they go out in a group, as though they're having a carnival,' said residents' committee chairman Ip Kwong-chiu. A neighbour on the upper floor, who would not give her name, also said the rats had seriously affected her social life because she was embarrassed to invite friends home. She has installed nets outside her windows to keep rats out.