Keep an eye out, Chicago. The Windy City was the most rat-infested city in the country in 2013, according to pest-control company Orkin. The company based its rankings on the number of rat-eradication service requests it received in specific cities.
The company says cities can be great homes for our rodent friends because they can thrive with help from human infrastructure -- specifically by eating out of our garbage and taking shelter in our buildings.
From a press release that announced Orkin's rankings:
Fall is a prime time for commensal rodents to actively seek food, water and shelter when temperatures drop and before the winter weather arrives. Each fall, rats and mice invade an estimated 21 million American homes. It only takes a hole the size of a quarter for a rat to squeeze inside, and a hole the size of a dime for mice. Rodents are also known to chew around holes to make them larger, after which they can slip into homes. It is not uncommon for homeowners and businesses to begin spotting rodents beginning in October.
Orkin reminds city-dwellers that besides being gross and annoying, too many rats in an area can also be a health issue. They can carry and spread respiratory and neurological diseases and are the hosts for several types of insects that can carry and spread even more diseases. Plus, they can trigger allergic reactions. Pregnant women and children are at particular risk.
Five of the most infested cities:
2. Los Angeles
3. Washington, D.C.
4. New York
5. San Francisco
See the five cities that round out the top 10 most-rat-infested cities in the U.S. at Reboot Illinois.
The City of Chicago website says the Chicago species of rat is called the Norway rat-but the species originated in Asia.
The rat has an average life span of six to twelve months. Beginning at the age of two to three months, a female rat can produce four to seven litters per year with each litter containing eight to twelve pups. Females can become impregnated within 48 hours after giving birth. The number, size and survivability of litters produced depends upon the amount of food and shelter available.
They prefer fresh food, but will eat many things such as pet food, dog feces, garbage and plants. If food is scarce, the strongest rats may even eat the weakest and young.
Norway rats prefer to live in burrows in the ground. They are excellent climbers and swimmers and most active at night. They have very hard teeth and can chew through wood and plaster or any other material that is softer than their teeth. They can crawl through holes the size of a quarter, tread water for three days and land unharmed after a five-story fall.
Norway rats live in colonies that have very well defined territories. The strongest colonies get the best places to live.
A rat in an alleyway may be creepy, but a rat in the home is downright icky. Orkin offered some advice about how to prevent and deal with these twitchy pests.
- Regularly inspect the home - inside and outside - for rodent droppings, rub marks or burrows.
- Seal all cracks and gaps around utility penetrations larger than 1/4 of an inch, as well as install weather stripping at the bottom of exterior doors.
- Trim overgrown branches, plants and bushes near the home, and consider keeping a 2-foot barrier between any landscaping and the home.
- Store all food (including pet food) and garbage properly in sealed containers both indoors and outdoors.
- Remove all pet bowls after animals are finished eating, and remove pet waste from the lawn promptly.
- Contact a pest professional for assistance managing rodents, as these pests can be dangerous and difficult to control.
Chicago has also been named the top city for bedbug infestations for two years in a row and general pest infestations by Orkins, according to Crain's Chicago Business. According to Crain's, 2nd Ward Ald. Bob Fioretti in March suggested the city use a bait that sterilizes female rats as a way to control the animals.
Chicagoans can call 311 or go online to report a rat infestation.
See which other cities near Chicago are also infested with rats at Reboot Illinois.