Big Rats In New York (How Big, How Many And How To Get Rid Of Rats)

For many reasons, New York City is called the City of Dreams. It has been a dream for many people to come to the city to pursue their studies, work for prestigious companies, or experience the adventure this city has to offer.

However, coming to New York City comes with many drawbacks.

With a population of approximately 8.5 million, it is the most populated city in the United States. It is crowded, busy, polluted, and worse – infested with the most rats.

In fact, New York City ranks third on Orkin’s list of the “rattiest” cities in the United States and is also called the “Worst Rat City in the World” by Animal Planet.


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Before coming to the city, you have to brace yourself with the thought that rat infestation is a serious problem and a major health concern for people living here.

How come rats in NYC grew rampant and what are New Yorkers doing about it? Let’s find out by continuing to read this article.

What Kind of Rat Is NYC Dealing With?

New York City is facing a huge battle against the “brown” rat, otherwise known as the Norway rat. It is called the Norway rat since it was believed to have originated from Norway and hopped on ships to travel to other parts of the world.



How Big Can Rats Get In NYC

On average, adult brown rats weigh about 350 grams for males and 250 grams for females. NYC rats size varies between 16 inches to 20 inches. In fact, the biggest rat in New York that was caught weighed 675 grams.  

They are commonly found underground or at ground level and about a hundred feet away from the closest food supply.

Thus, it is common to see some of the most giant sewer rats New York has ever encountered since they are well fed with the abundance of food lying around. Living in a colony of about 50 rats is a typical trait for these brown rats.

Generally, their abilities vary from being able to fit in the tiniest holes to chewing on pipes and wires. For them to survive, they only need about 30 grams of food and water. These rats usually avoid people and only come out at night since they are nocturnal animals.  

Why Are There So Many Rats in New York?

Not one single reason has caused this problem. There are several contributing factors why rats continue to swarm the busy streets of New York. As commonly known, rats are always attracted to food sources.

Because of improper garbage disposal and leaving it overnight, rats come to the houses, stores, and restaurants to feed at night.

Rats most often come back to the same food source and don’t really go far away. Moreover, garbage and litter also create a home for them.

Rats in NYC


Another contributing factor is improper food waste disposal, which becomes an added food source for the rats. New York is one of the cities with the largest food waste, reaching up to about half a million tons of waste every year.

So if you are wondering – Why are New York rats so big?

It is because of the infinite food source available on every street and corner. As long as they have a roof under their head and food to survive, these rats continue to thrive.

On top of that, rats multiply rapidly and are highly intelligent that can quickly learn how to avoid danger.

What Borough Has the Most Rats

Of the five New York City boroughs, Manhattan is the most infested. There were more than 7,200 complaints filed against rats which is equivalent to about 4.26 rat sightings for every 1,000 people.

The neighborhood with the most complaints in Manhattan is Harlem (South), with 1,586.8 complaints per sq mi.

Harlem (South) is followed by the Upper West Side-Manhattan Valley with 929.2 complaints per sq mi and Prospect Heights in Brooklyn with 821.7 complaints per sq mi.


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In Brooklyn overall, it is estimated that there are 3.56 sightings for every 1,000 people. Brooklyn’s rat sightings were about 38% higher than the 2020 data.

One of the most well-known reports in New York City was about a Brooklyn building overrun by rats. It is a three-story apartment building that has more rats than its residents. They complained about the noise at night and the headache they get from the smell.

Central Park rats are also one of the most commonly reported sightings, totaling at least 12,632. It is said that these rats are as big as rabbits and can be seen hiding in trees and in the Central Park Pond.

How Many Rats Are There in New York City?

Are there more rats than humans in NYC? Thankfully, no. The rat population is only 25% of the human population, which is about two million rats. However, no one really knows the exact number of rats since most of them live in the sewers.

Some reports say there are 12 rats for every person, while some estimate six for every person. If you do the math, that totals from 48 million up to 96 million.

The high rat population can be caused by its fast reproduction process since rats produce litter as early as two months old and can reproduce every two months.

Effects of Rats in NYC

Not only are rats destructive and disruptive, but they are also major carriers of pathogens causing diseases. People can catch illnesses through the rat’s urine, droppings, and saliva.

The bacteria these rats usually carry are E. coli, Leptospira, Salmonella, and Clostridium difficile.

Moreover, rats carry viruses that cause diseases such as cardioviruses, hepaciviruses, rotaviruses, and sapoviruses. Its fleas and mites can also cause spotted fever and typhus. Here are some health problems that you can catch:

  • Diarrhea
  • Food poisoning
  • Fever
  • Vomiting
  • Asthma
  • Allergy
  • Leptospirosis
  • Rat-bite fever
  • Salmonellosis
  • Hantavirus Pulmonary Syndrome

How to Get Rid of Rats Outside

It takes more than just hiring an exterminator to eliminate them. Although the incident of NYC subway flooding rats eliminated a lot of them, it is still not enough.

Since rats survive with food, water, and a place for cover, the ultimate way to eliminate them is by removing their sources of survival.


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First, identify places where rats could possibly hide, usually underground where it is dark and wet. Generally, they live close to any garbage where there is food.

In terms of garbage, you need to clean and assure proper garbage disposal outside your home or building.

Remove anything outside that can serve as a place for them to hide and shelter. Moreover, use a sealed garbage container so that rats can’t have access to the trash inside.

If you have a garden, remove shrubs or weeds that can be a source of shelter, and if there are holes in the house or building, repair them right away to prevent them from entering again.

How to Safely Use Pesticides

When using pesticides, follow the label and instructions. Most importantly, keep these items away from pets and children who have the potential of swallowing and consuming them. Moreover, use only the recommended amount and always wear gloves.

Rodenticide bait is one of the best options to attract mice and catch them. To trap them, you can use snap traps or glue traps. Remember to place these traps away from children and pets as these cause injury and are toxic.

When to Hire a Pest Control Professional

If you have a severe rat infestation problem, you may need to hire a pest control professional who can do the job safely.

Before hiring them, make sure that they are permitted by the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (NYS DEC). These professionals should have a certification given to them to indicate that they are licensed to operate.

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To check if they are certified, visit the Department of Environmental Conservation and go to the Bureau of Pesticides Management – Information Portal.

This portal allows you to search for certified professionals who can operate on pest control procedures. Take note that it may take days or weeks to completely eliminate the rats.

Could Cookies Solve New Yorks Rat?

Well, not exactly. According to reports, cookies – especially Oreo cookies, help attract rats to come into a trap for easy and fast extermination.

Interestingly, the rats mostly enjoy the peanut butter flavor of Oreo cookies. These findings were explained by Jim Webster, a director of operations at Rat Trap Distribution which is a pest control service provider in New York City.

The company uses an Italian-made battery-powered rat trap called Ekomille rat trap. It is a two-part trap where rats go into the hole in the upper level and eat.

After a while, the rats are then brought to the lower trap where a harmful liquid is poured, eventually exterminating them.

How to Report a Rat Sighting in NYC

If you are in New York and you see a rat, you need to submit a Rat or Mouse Complaint online via 311. On the website, the complaints are categorized according to these locations:

  • Restaurants
  • Food markets, warehouses, or processors
  • Bus, subway, and train stations
  • Parks
  • Schools
  • Vacant lots
  • NYCHA public housing
  • Other places

Choose the right category and click on the blue link to “Report rats or mice in a…” The link leads you to the complaint form where you need to fill out additional details, including location with street, description, date and time, and a file to attach.

After submitting a complaint, the New York City (NYC) Department of Health and Mental Hygiene (Health Department) will have an inspector check the property.

The Health Department inspector checks for signs of rats including fresh droppings, burrows, tracks, gnaw marks, and a body of a rat.

If there are rats identified on the property, a Commissioner’s Order to Abate (COTA) is given to the property owner and has five days to address the issue.

If the property owner fails the inspection, they are asked to come to a hearing at the Office of Administrative Trials and Hearings (OATH).

Where to View Rat Inspection Results

If you want to know about rat inspection results, NYC Health made a Rat Information Portal for residents to use.

The portal allows you to see the results and actions taken via an interactive map. In the search bar of the map, input the address, place, or ZIP of the location you want to inspect.

You can also select a community district on the lower left corner of the map. The map is color-coded to show the results, which include the shades of green, pink, violet, gray, and white. Here are the meanings of each color:

  • Green – Passed at Last Inspection
  • Pink – Rat Activity at Last Inspection
  • Violet – Failed for Other Reason at Last Inspection
  • Gray – Not Inspected in the Past 6 Months
  • White – NYC Health Department Action

Do You Have a Rat Problem?

If you do have a rat problem in NYC, contact 311 or hire a professional to help you. You can also refer to NYC Health for more information on rodent management.

On this website, you can find several resources about home and community rat prevention, pest management tips, and other useful information on rodents.

In your own ways, proper garbage disposal and removing sources of food and water are the simplest ways to manage the problem. Help your neighbors and the community to fight against the growing rat population.

Hopefully with your help, New York City can soon be called one of the cleanest and least infested cities in the world.

Did you find this article informative? If you have other recommendations or insights on the rat problem, share them below in the comments section.

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