Rats Take Chicago: Dangers and Solutions

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Rats are one of the world’s most common urban pests, and are found in every city on the planet. However, some cities have more rats than others, and Chicago has topped Orkin’s list of ‘rattiest cities’ in the USA for the sixth consecutive year.

But are these normal rats, or some sort of super rat bred from the circumstances of the pandemic? And what is the city of Chicago doing to deal with the problem?

Does Chicago have a rat problem?

Rats feast on our food waste, thrive in our trash, and take shelter in our sewers. There’s no doubt that rodents benefit from human presence, so it stands to reason that the largest numbers of rats are found alongside the largest numbers of people – in cities.

However, some cities are ‘rattier’ than others, and Chicago has topped Orkin’s list for six years in a row. Chicago’s rat problem is thought to be mainly due to inefficient disposal of trash in high-density neighborhoods, and can be managed using integrated control measures.

What are the Chicago super rats, and do they exist?

Rats may be everywhere, but you won’t often see one in the daytime. This is because rats are typically shy, nocturnal creatures, and will only emerge at night to seek out food. In the wake of the recent pandemic, however, the behavior of urban rats is changing.

As restaurants shut down, large numbers of city rats are having to look further afield for leftovers to eat and, as a result, more and people are reporting seeing rats out and about in the day.

A rat spotted in daylight is usually a hungry rat, and hungry rats may be unusually aggressive towards humans if approached. This has prompted rumors of vicious ‘super rats’ roaming the city, but residents have nothing to fear. The current rat problem in Chicago can be managed with integrated pest control measures, and one such method is the Cats at Work program.

What is the Cats at Work program, and how does it work?

Rats and mice can be effectively controlled using a variety of traps, poisons, and natural control methods. In answer to Chicago’s spiraling rat problem, one local animal shelter has come up with an ingenious plan to get the rodents under control.

The Tree House Human Society in Chicago has launched the Cats at Work program, which puts the city’s feral felines to work in the war on rats. They capture local feral cats and, after a quick health check and a spay or neutering treatment, release them back onto the streets of Chicago.

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These streetwise moggies prowl the alleyways to hunt down rats, providing a free, effective, and natural pest control service. The mere presence of the cats can also help to keep rats in hiding, which means fewer rodents on the sidewalks.

The Rodent Baiting program

Chicago’s Bureau of Rodent Control hopes to get the city’s rats in hand with their Rodent Baiting Program. Their specialists respond to all reports of rat sightings and bait the rodent’s burrows with rodenticide, which quickly kills them when eaten. Residents of Chicago can help out with the effort by ensuing all household trash is securely stored in sealed containers, as this encourages rats to eat the rodenticide bait.

What can residents of Chicago do to reduce rat numbers?

The Cats at Work program is likely to make a decent dent in Chicago’s rat problem, but residents can also help out by implementing prevention methods at home.

Get a cat

Cats are not only great companions; they can also help out with household pest control. Even if your cat isn’t inclined to chase after rats and mice, their presence can be enough to scare off any would-be home invaders.

Manage household trash

One of the most common reasons for rodent infestation is poor trash management. People throw away all sorts of goodies in their household garbage, and food waste and leftovers are sure to attract rats. The easiest way to keep rats (and other pests) away from your home is to be vigilant about emptying your kitchen trash, and by storing outdoor garbage in sealed containers.

Keep kitchens and backyards clean and tidy

Rats usually come indoors in search of food so, if you’re the type to leave dirty dishes in the sink overnight, you could be unwittingly attracting pests into your kitchen.


If your local area has a large population of rats, it’s essential to store your food properly, clean plates and utensils after eating, and clear up crumbs and spills promptly.

A messy backyard can also attract rats into your area. This is because rodents seek out harborage sites (such as overgrown shrubs, firewood piles, and recycling boxes) to shelter in during the daytime. If your garden is looking a little on the wild side, tidy up and trim back overgrown plants to keep rats away.

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Chicago has topped Orkin’s ‘rattiest city’ list for the third year in a row, but one local animal shelter may have found a solution to the Windy Cities rodent troubles. By capturing, treating, and re-releasing feral cats onto the streets of Chicago, the Tree House Humane Society is providing a natural and effective pest control service.

Residents of Chicago can also help out with the war on rats by getting cats of their own, keeping backyards and kitchens clean and tidy and, most importantly, practicing good trash management.

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