2 Florida cities among 50 most rat-infested in America

Author: Caitlin O'Kane / CBS
Photo by DSD

What is the most rat-infested city in the United States? Believe it or not, there’s an annual survey for that.

The pest company Orkin counts the number of new residential and commercial rodent treatments it performs in a 12-month period. From there, it ranks the 50 “rattiest” U.S. cities.

The latest data, collected from September 15, 2020, to September 15, 2021, reflects a time when some restaurants were closed due to COVID-19 pandemic restrictions. Orkin says those closures forced rats to find new food sources — and new homes. All this drove up the overall number of rodent sightings.

Read on for the complete ranking of America’s most rat-infested cities.

50. Tampa, Florida

With more Tampa residents staying home during the pandemic, local pest control companies saw an increase in rat-related calls.

“Now that they’re home, and they’re hearing it … it’s making them feel uneasy,” Blake Forester, owner and operator of Premium Pest and Animal Control, told the Tampa Bay Times in 2020.

49. Albuquerque, New Mexico

The rats in Albuquerque don’t just appear in homes and restaurants — they seem to be big fans of mailrooms, too.

In 2019, a local post office was slapped with a $9,475 citation from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration due to a severe rat and rodent problem.

48. Dayton, Ohio

Dayton is one of four Ohio cities to appear on this list. It’s no stranger to rat-related headlines.

In 2014, the Humane Society of Greater Dayton found 300 pet rats at a vacated studio apartment in an inner suburb.

47. Charleston, West Virginia

Charleston jumped up four spots to break into the top 50 in Orkin’s latest rankings.

Rats aren’t even the city’s biggest critter problem. According to Orkin, cockroaches are the most prevalent pests in Charleston.

46. Syracuse, New York

Syracuse’s harsh winters are said to be a big contributor to the city’s rat problem.

Rats and mice don’t typically hibernate. So, when temperatures drop, rodents move into human homes.

45. Green Bay, Wisconsin

Green Bay’s rodent problem is so severe that the city set aside $5,000 in 2018 to purchase rat traps. Brown County, where the city is located, did the same.

The joint initiative worked almost too well. The Green Bay area ended up with a surplus of more than 600 traps. As of 2020, the extras sat unused in the storage room of a downtown Green Bay museum.

44. Greenville, South Carolina

The brown rat, also known as the Norway rat or sewer rat, is the most common species of rat found in buildings in South Carolina.

The rodent is typically brown or gray in color, has scaly tails and weighs up to 1 pound.

43. Phoenix, Arizona

In 2016, government officials in Phoenix set up bait stations on every telephone pole and tree on public land in the city’s Arcadia neighborhood.

But the efforts did little to eradicate the rodents that, in Phoenix, at least, are frequently found in attics.

42. Charlotte, North Carolina

Charlotte is another city with a ratty history, as it were.

In 2016, a discount store in Charlotte made local headlines after an employee reported that rats and rat droppings were rampant there.

41. Buffalo, New York

Climate change may be contributing to Buffalo’s rat problem.

In 2018, a health department official for New York’s Erie County, where Buffalo is located, told WKBW-TV that warmer winter temps were helping rat populations thrive.

40. Louisville, Kentucky

While the entire city landed on the list, Louisville’s Okolona neighborhood was the focus of a recent rat-related headline.

In 2021, Okolona residents complained about a rat infestation in an abandoned house, saying that dozens of rodents that took up residence there were chewing through car wires and digging through yards.

39. Burlington, Vermont

Rats are a fairly common problem in Vermont. In 2018, the University of Vermont in Burlington produced a report on the challenges rodents present to the state’s farmers, and how some growers have dealt with them.

“We have a great barn cat and a Jack Russell terrier for our farm,” one farmer replied.

38. Portland, Maine

After the start of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, exterminators in Portland, Maine, saw a 30% increase in rat-related calls.

In one neighborhood, city officials posted fliers that encouraged residents to pick up their dog’s waste and to put their trash in bins — all tips meant to discourage rats.

37. Champaign, Illinois

Not all of the rats in this Illinois city may be unwelcome.

In 2013, researchers with the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign used older lab rats to show that vocal training could be used to improve the muscles in their larynxes — a finding that could reap benefits for older humans.

36. Nashville, Tennessee

In January 2022, staffing and fleet issues led to delays in garbage pickup in the Nashville area — and complaints about rats.

“We got trash all over here so there’s rats [and] bugs,” one East Nashville resident told WKRN-TV.

35. Raleigh, North Carolina

Raleigh may be one of America’s, well, rattiest cities, but it’s got other issues — and they’re called snakes.

Warm weather in the Raleigh area prompted a rise in snake sightings, North Carolina’s Sampson Independent reported in May 2022.

34. Flint, Michigan

In April 2022, when Flint approved a plan to demolish some 2,400 abandoned homes and businesses, the city’s mayor warned about the project leading to displaced rat colonies.

“Groundhogs, possums, rats, mice — they have to be abated before we start knocking those homes down,” Flint Mayor Sheldon Neeley said at a city council meeting.

33. New Orleans, Louisiana

When Bourbon Street’s bars and restaurants closed at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, videos emerged showing dozens of rats scurrying through the empty streets.

“I turn the corner, there’s about 30 rats at the corner, feasting on something in the middle of the street,” a tour guide told CBS News in 2020.

32. Grand Rapids, Michigan

Grand Rapids apparently has made progress on the rat front: It dropped three spots, from No. 29, in the latest Orkin rankings.

Fun fact: One of Michigan’s longest-established ratteries (a place where rats are raised and sold as pets) is in Kalkaska, located about two hours north of Grand Rapids.

31. Albany, New York

If Orkin’s annual lists are any indication, the rat problem in New York’s state capital is not abating.

In 2019, Albany ranked No. 48 on the company’s “Rattiest Cities” list. It jumped to No. 38 in 2020, before moving to No. 31 in the latest list.

30. St. Louis, Missouri

When St. Louis began using metal and plastic containers for garbage collection (instead of just bags) in the 1970s, rodent infestations decreased drastically in the city.

Still, as a river town — and one with lots of restaurants — rats continue to make their presence felt there.

29. Sacramento, California

Sacramento-based pest-control companies received a flood of new calls during the COVID-19 pandemic. But were lockdown measures the cause?

As KOVR-TV reported in March 2021, a new California state law that banned super-toxic rodenticides “could be to blame.” The measure was designed to protect wildlife from secondhand poisoning. But a pest-control company said it removed a key rat-righting tool from its arsenal.

28. Richmond, Virginia

In the first nine months of 2021, residents of a 783-unit public-housing complex in Richmond called in 323 work-order requests for pests. The mice and rat problem was so bad, the Richmond News reported, that one resident called a crisis hotline.

“At this point, I’m physically and mentally drained,” the Gilpin Court resident told the media outlet. “I’m tired of crying.”

27. Norfolk, Virginia

In Norfolk’s Colonial Place neighborhood, residents have complained about rats invading homes during cooler months.

“It’s nightly,” Joe Cartoski told a local news station in 2019. “I would say we have at least two to four visitors a night.”

26. Columbus, Ohio

The number of rat complaints in Columbus has risen steadily over the past few years. New developments have been blamed.

“We definitely see an increase in rat activity when there is construction,” a Columbus Health Department official told WSYX-TV in 2019. “Rats live underground so when you dig the ground up, they scurry and look for additional food sources and harborage to live at.”

25. Kansas City, Missouri

The rats in this Missouri metropolis aren’t just numerous — they’re also huge.

“The window from my kitchen looks down onto my yard, and you can see them,” a Kansas City resident told WDAF-TV in 2017. “I thought they were rabbits at first because they’re so big, but you can see them just walking around in your yard.”

24. Portland, Oregon

In Portland, Oregon, a single pile of garbage became a focal point for rat complaints.

The trash heap accumulated from 2020 to 2021 in a northeast neighborhood and eventually took up half a block, KGW-TV reported. It became a haven for rats and even caught fire at least once.

23. Miami, Florida

Given the fact that Miami is the second most populated city in Florida, it follows that it’s one of the state’s rattiest cities, too — rats go where the people are, after all.

Miami ranked No. 20 in Orkin’s 2020-released list, so this showing is actually an improvement.

22. Milwaukee, Wisconsin

Unfortunately, for residents of the Westlawn Gardens housing community in Milwaukee, rat sightings are a nightly occurrence.

“When I say it’s a lot, it’s not an exaggeration,” one resident told WISN-TV in 2021.

21. Hartford, Connecticut

Connecticut’s capital is testing out a humane approach to reducing its rat population.

Every week, the Hartford Courant reported in 2021, pest-control workers fill 30 bait stations around the city’s Bushnell Park with liquid birth control that temporarily makes male and female rats less fertile.

20. Dallas, Texas

According to a study released in 2021, 4.3% of Dallas-area homeowners reported seeing a rodent in their house within the last year.

It could be worse: 18.7% of homeowners said they saw at least one cockroach during that same time frame.

19. Cincinnati, Ohio

Cincinnati residents who spot rats have a special hotline at their disposal.

When someone reports a pest problem to the city’s Healthy Homes Line, the complaint is assigned to a sanitarian who goes to inspect the problem, and, where applicable, contacts the landlord to remedy the situation.

18. Houston, Texas

When 71-year-old Georgia Evans had an infestation situation in her Houston home, she literally took matters into her own hands.

As KRIV-TV reported in January 2022, Evans walked around her house with a machete, killing rats and snakes. Later, a Houston city councilmember stepped in and arranged for a pest-control company to help out Evans.

17. San Diego, California

In San Diego’s Ocean Beach neighborhood back in 2019, residents reported rats, mice, possums and other critters were setting up residence in a single, ivy-covered tree.

San Diego ranked 19th in Orkin’s 2020-released survey.

16. Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

Because of mild winters, rodents have been more plentiful in western Pennsylvania in recent years.

The COVID-19 pandemic further disrupted the local rat population. Per Pittsburgh’s TribLive, pest-control managers reported an “increase in rat activity and [rat] cannibalism” as closures took hold in 2020.

15. Atlanta, Georgia

Atlanta moves down a spot in Orkin’s latest rakings, after taking 14th place in the company’s 2020-released survey.

Fun fact: Orkin is based in Atlanta.

14. Indianapolis, Indiana

Indianapolis has been inching up Orkin’s rankings.

In 2019, it ranked 16th, and in 2020, it ranked 15th.

13. Boston, Massachusetts

According to the apartment-listing site RentHop, rodent-related complaints in Boston fell 10% in the first 11 months of 2021. Boston, however, earned its spot on this list due to its rat activity dating back to September 2020.

According to the U.S. Census’s 2019 American Housing Survey, mice or rats were spotted in more than 18% of homes in the Boston metropolitan area.

12. Minneapolis, Minnesota

Minneapolis’ rat issues seem to be receding a bit.

The city ranked eighth in Orkin’s 2019-issued survey. It fell two more spots, to No. 10, in the 2020-released rankings. And it checks in here, at No. 12, in the latest survey.

11. Seattle, Washington

In the 1970s, the Seattle Weekly reported, Seattle’s most frequently reported pests were carpenter ants; rat sightings were only frequent near the coastline.

But as more people moved to the Puget Sound region (and more construction followed), rats became more prevalent throughout the city.

10. Cleveland, Ohio

In 2020, residents in a Cleveland Heights apartment building — located near one of the city’s busiest commercial areas — began seeing rats everywhere.

“At night, when it gets a little cold, the rats will [go] under your car and chew your wires out,” one resident told a local news station.

9. Denver, Colorado

In January 2020, citing health concerns over rat infestations, the Denver Department of Public Health and Environment closed Lincoln Memorial Park, located across from the Colorado State Capitol building.

In 2018, the department similarly closed and then cleaned up Civic Center Park, another public space adjacent to the state capitol.

8. Detroit, Michigan

Detroit spends up to $300,000 a year on rat-elimination efforts, including handing out free poison traps to residents.

Still, rat sightings are rampant in Detroit, especially in waterfront communities throughout the metro area.

7. Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

In May 2022, Philadelphia’s rat issues led residents of the Mayfair neighborhood to call on their city to take action.

As reported by CBS Philly, people there reported seeing dozens of rodents a day, with one resident claiming he saw a rat that was “the size of a cat.”

6. Baltimore, Maryland

Baltimore, which ranked No. 8 in Orkin’s 2020-released survey, moves up to the sixth spot in the latest rankings — and that’s not a great trend.

In 2021, city exterminators handled more than 153,000 requests for rodent control, an increase over each of the previous two years, the Baltimore Sun reported.

5. San Francisco, California

San Francisco retains the No. 5 spot it had in Orkin’s 2020-issued rankings.

In November 2021, a drug store in San Francisco was temporarily ordered to close due to what a health inspector described as a “severe rat infestation.”

4. Washington, D.C.

The nation’s capital has a lot of rats, per the Orkin survey, though not enough to be No. 1.

In 2021, WUSA-TV reported, Washington, D.C.’s 311 hotline service received more than 11,300 calls about rats — a more than 50% increase over 2020 levels.

3. New York City

It’s little surprise that the land of subways, busy streets and a gone-viral rodent known as “Pizza Rat” ranked so high in Orkin’s latest list.

It’s estimated that some 2 million rats call New York City home.

2. Los Angeles, California

The rat problem in sunny Los Angeles is widespread and rampant, especially in trash-congested areas near the city’s downtown.

In 2018, Los Angeles County was even the site of a typhus outbreak. Typhus is typically spread by fleas who’ve been infected by diseased rats and other critters.

Los Angeles also ranked No. 2 on Orkin’s 2020-released survey.

1. Chicago, Illinois

As it did in the 2020-published survey, Chicago takes the top spot in Orkin’s latest “Rattiest Cities” list.

For about a decade now, a local humane society has attempted to tame Chicago’s rat problem by placing 10 to 15 feral cats in neighborhoods every month.

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