Special Report

This Is the American City With the Biggest Rat Problem

There are two million rats in New York City, about one for every four people. Many carry pathogens that can cause serious disease in humans. The problem goes back well over a century, and perhaps much longer. Most scientists believe that, while the situation can be controlled, it cannot be eliminated.

However, according to the pest control company Orkin’s “Top 50 Rattiest Cities List” for 2021, it isn’t New York that has the most serious rodents to worry about. According to the list, Chicago is the American city with the biggest rat problem – for the seventh year in a row.

According to the study’s authors, “Orkin ranked metro regions by the number of new rodent treatments performed from September 15, 2020 to September 15, 2021. This ranking includes both residential and commercial treatments.” 

It is hard to imagine that the number of treatments reveals the true number of rats. This is a major weakness with the study – but that does not mean it is entirely inaccurate. In terms of rat infestation, the Orkin study is the only yardstick that can offer data about the problem. 

One of the observations of its researchers is almost certainly true. As people return to restaurants and do more food shopping as COVID-19 infections decrease, the rat population will rise. Ben Hottel, an Orkin entomologist, said: “As people resume normal activities, food availability [for the rats] will rise”. (These are 20 ways the pandemic has changed restaurants for good.)

Perhaps not surprisingly, the three cities with the biggest rat problems according to Orkin are the nation’s three largest. No. 1 Chicago is America’s third most populous city. The second, Los Angeles, ranks No. 2 on the list, with the country’s largest city, New York, placing No. 3. (These are America’s dirtiest cities.)

The relationship between population and rat infestation fades after the three largest cities. The huge cities in Texas are not in the top 10. Neither is Phoenix – though several old industrial cities are: Detroit, Cleveland, and Baltimore.

Click here to see the American cities with the biggest rat problems

Geography does not seem to matter, based on the Orkin data. Among the 50 most rat-infested cities, Tampa ranks at the bottom, followed by Albuquerque, then Dayton. The city that moved up the list the most in 2021 compared to the year-earlier is Portland, Oregon, which rose 26 places.

Sponsored: Find a Qualified Financial Advisor:

Finding a qualified financial advisor doesn’t have to be hard. SmartAsset’s free tool matches you with up to 3 fiduciary financial advisors in your area in 5 minutes. Each advisor has been vetted by SmartAsset and is held to a fiduciary standard to act in your best interests. If you’re ready to be matched with local advisors that can help you achieve your financial goals, get started now.