If You Live Here, Watch Out for Unusually Aggressive Rats

This phase of the pandemic has brought out tons of rats—and changed their behavior.

Rats are a problem everywhere, but especially in cities: They can chew electrical wires and gas lines, eat through food in the pantry, spread disease, and—to many people—be just plain gross. But now, they might actually be more problematic than ever, according to a new report that includes data on rat behavior at this stage of the pandemic. Read on to find out how (and where) rats are acting strangely across the country.

RELATED: This City Has the Worst Rat Problem in the U.S.

Rats in Chicago are behaving extra aggressively.

Aerial View of Chicago Cityscape in Autumn
iStock

According to pest control company Orkin's annual rattiest cities list for 2021, Chicago once again took the top spot for the seventh consecutive year. The study was based on the number of new rodent treatments and was performed by the company from Sept. 15, 2020 to Sept. 15, 2021. But this time, the problem isn't just in the volume of rats, the report found, but also in their behavior, too, NBC Chicago reports.

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The pandemic has made rats more aggressive.

Rats on garbage
Shutterstock

When many restaurants were forced to close during the pandemic, they eliminated a key source of food for urban-dwelling rats. Put simply, the rats got hungry, and this forced them to seek new food sources. Now, the report says, rats are "exhibiting unusual or aggressive behavior" in their quest for food.

When residents who had fled the city during COVID began to return to their homes in large numbers, rat populations in turn also returned in droves, eager to get a piece of the replenished food and water sources.

"As people resume normal activities, food availability will rise," Ben Hottel, an Orkin entomologist, said in a statement announcing the study. "Rodents are experts at sniffing out food and shelter, and they're resilient in their ways to obtain both. After a year of depleted resources, residential properties offer the ideal habitat for rodents, and once they've settled in, they're capable of reproducing rapidly and in large quantities."

Rat populations are exploding in major metro areas around the country.

new york city subway queens
Shutterstock

It's not just Chicago where rats have proliferated and changed their behavior. On its website, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) notes, "Some jurisdictions have reported an increase in rodent activity as rodents search for new sources of food. Environmental health and rodent control programs may see an increase in service requests related to rodents and reports of unusual or aggressive rodent behavior."

In New York City, the number of rodent complaints to a city hotline in March surged by 80 percent over the previous year to nearly 3,000 calls, Bloomberg reports.

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Take action to stop the spread of rodent populations, CDC says.

rat eating chickpea outdoors
Shutterstock / Hung Chung Chih

In this new normal environment for abundant and "aggressive" rodents across America, the CDC and pest control experts alike advise city dwellers to take action. Preventive actions for keeping rodents away from your home include sealing up access into your house, removing yard debris, keeping trash in tightly covered bins, and removing pet and bird food from the yard.

RELATED: 6 Things in Your Yard That Are Bringing Mice to Your Home.

Alesandra Dubin
Alesandra Dubin is a lifestyle editor and writer based in Los Angeles. Read more
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