How Many Rats Live in New York City?

Written by Cindy Rasmussen
Updated: October 31, 2022
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New York City is the largest city in the United States. It is known for its hustle and bustle, Broadway shows, and Wall Street legends. The Big Apple as it is called is also known for a bit of a rat problem. There are actually claims that “you are never more than six feet from a rat in New York”.

Rats are a huge problem in the city – an issue which is getting worse. Is New York the city with the most rats? How many rats live in New York City? What city is free of rats? And which cities have more rats than people?

Discover the answers right here.

What City Has the Most Rats?

Rat Teeth - Wood Block
The three “Rattiest Cities” in the US are Chicago, Los Angeles and New York City.

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The pest control group Orkin puts together a list of the “Rattiest Cities” – by no means an enviable selection. They noted the number of rat control calls received by pest control companies. According to Orkin Chicago is the Rattiest City in 2020 and has held that title for the past 7 years in a row. Not far behind is Los Angeles. There were so many rats in one school in LA that officials had to close the premises to clean the institution before permitting students and teachers to return. The third place “winner” was New York! Here are the top ten cities in the US with the most rats:

1. Chicago
2. Los Angeles
3. New York City
4. Washington, D.C.
5. San Francisco
6. Baltimore
7. Philadelphia
8. Detroit
9. Denver
10. Cleveland

How Many Rats Live in New York City?

Group of Rats
Rats live in colonies of about 40-50 members across New York City.

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How many rats are there in New York City? There are an estimated 2 million rats living in New York City! Two million rats running around in subways, alleys, restaurants, and your $3,000/month studio apartment.

Where does this estimate come from? In 2014 a study was published in the scientific journal Significance that analyzed New York’s rat problem through reported rat sightings in different New York neighborhoods. They found that 20% of neighborhoods account for 50% of rat sightings, with areas such as Manhattan’s Upper West Side and Brooklyn’s Bushwick having particularly high figures.

After crunching the numbers on sightings and applying some assumptions, the study found that the number of rats in New York City was 2 million (+/- 150,000).

How Many People Live in New York City?

Dog Park Series - New York
The population of New York City is 8,177,025.

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The population of New York City is 8,177,025. The largest borough in the city is Brooklyn with a population of 2.736 million while the smallest borrough is Staten Island with a population of just under a half million.

Are There More Rats or People in New York City?

There are more people than rats in New York City – for now. But the number of rats in the city is on the rise. The closure of bars and restaurants during the Covid lockdown and the resulting scarcity of food, drove rats into more residential areas. With 2 million rats and 8 million people that is one rat for every family of four.

What Kind of Rat Lives in New York City?

Brown Rat portrait
Norway rats are 7-9 inches not including the tail. They weigh around 1 pound, about the size of a football!

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It’s one thing to know the answer to the question “How many rats are in New York City?” and quite another to know what kind of rats haunt the city’s sewers, sheds, and basements. The rat that lives in New York City is the Norway rat or brown rat. If you live where rats are not an issue you may be surprised to learn that Norway rats are huge! They are not like house mice which are typically 3-4 inches not including the tail. Rats like the Norway rat are 7-9 inches long with an additional 7-9 inches of tail. The average Norway rat has a total average length of 16 inches. They can also weigh from ½ to 1 pound. For reference, an adult guinea pig weighs 1-3 pounds so these rats are big!

Previously there were both black rats and Norway rats in New York, but in recent decades Norway rats have both out-competed and killed the smaller black rats. Today, black rats are relatively rare in the city.

What Is the Biggest Rat in the World?

Largest rats - bamboo rat
Sumatran bamboo rats are the largest rats in the world. They weigh around 8 pounds which is closer to the weight of a bowling ball!

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Maybe the Norway rat isn’t that bad. Can you imagine finding an 8-pound rat nibbling on some fallen breakfast cereal in your kitchen? The Sumatran bamboo rat is the largest rat in the world and weighs 8.8 pounds. Its body is 20 inches long – tail excluded! Tack on another 8 inches of tail and you have a 28-inch rat. Lucky for New York, they are only found in Sumatra and parts of China.

Have Rats Always Been a Problem in New York?

No. Rats have not always been a problem in New York. Norway rats are an invasive species, they have not always lived here in the United States. Invasive species are species that are not from a habitat and once introduced are harmful to current animals and/or plants. Other invasive species in New York are the zebra mussel, snakehead fish, and Eurasian boar. Norway rats were introduced to North America around 1776 coming over on boats when the Germans arrived to help with the war efforts of the British. They quickly spread across the country.

Wild boars are an example of another invasive species. Rats are an invasive species in the US and many countries in the world.

©vlod007 / Flickr

How Do You get Rid of Rats?

The quest for the perfect mouse trap is not just a saying. There really is still an enormous problem with mice and rats and we, as humans, are yet to figure out a way to deal with them. Here are a few methods currently being implemented or being planned:

1) The new mayor of New York City, Eric Adams, is implementing a program that uses rat buckets to catch rats. These devices are used by luring rats in with food but instead of reaching the food, they slide down a ramp into a bucket of water where they drown.

2) One group in New York hunts rats with dogs. They take calls from residents and business owners and respond with a group of leashed dogs that hunt and kill the rats.

3) You can get a certificate from “Rat Control Academy”, a program created to educate city employees about how to prevent rats from infesting their businesses.

3) A pilot program is in place to flood rats’ burrows with dry ice. The melted ice will release copious quantities of carbon dioxide suffocating the rodents.

4) Another pilot program involves enforcing sterility in the scavengers. Feeding them ContraPest is meant to cause infertility in rats.

Are There Any Cities That Don’t Have Rats?

The entire province of Alberta, Canada is essentially rat-free. In 1950 it had nearly 500 rat infestations. By 1970 the number was reduced to 100, thanks to the valiant efforts of its Rat Task Force. By the 1990s there were fewer than 15 infestations and by 2003 the number was down to zero. Currently, Alberta maintains a “Rat Control Zone” along the southeastern border of the province where offficials carry out daily checks and instantly respond to any calls. The presence of the Rocky mountains as a natural border to the west and south, also serves as a barrier to the rodents. Public awareness and diligent farm inspections also played a key role in elevating Alberta to its rat-free status, and these efforts continue today.

Are There Any Cities That Have More Rats Than People?

What are the most rat-infested cities in the world? London, the capital of the United Kingdom has an enormous rat problem; some pest control groups believe as many as 20 million rats call the city home! With a human population of 9.5 million that means rats outnumber the populace 2-to-1.

Paris, the famed City of Lights is also home to a huge rat population. Experts estimate that the French capital currently hosts 6 million of these rodents. These critters have settled down in colonies all over the city: by the Seine, in houses, along railways, and beneath the city. With a human populace of 2.175 inhabitants, that means there are approximately three rats per resident.


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New York City Skyline - Statue of Liberty
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About the Author

I'm a Wildlife Conservation Author and Journalist, raising awareness about conservation by teaching others about the amazing animals we share the planet with. I graduated from the University of Minnesota-Morris with a degree in Elementary Education and I am a former teacher. When I am not writing I love going to my kids' soccer games, watching movies, taking on DIY projects and running with our giant Labradoodle "Tango".

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