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Chicago rat alley sign
Photograph: Zach Long

Chicago is America’s rattiest city for the 7th year in a row

To all the rodents in the city's alleyways, we say: Rats off to ya!

Zach Long
Written by
Zach Long

Yesterday, pest control company Orkin released its annual ranking of the "Top 50 Rattiest Cities," and the top five cities on the list haven't changed. That also means that—for the seventh year in a row—Chicago has been ranked the rattiest city in America. We're not quite sure if we should be honored or revolted.

It should be noted that Orkin creates the list by ranking "metro regions by the number of new rodent treatments performed" over a one-year period of time. So, it's really no surprise that the top three cities on the list (Chicago, Los Angeles and New York City) also happen to be the three cities with the largest populations in the United States. More people equates to more waste for rats to feed on, and more people who are likely to give Orkin a call if they notice a rodent in or around their residence.

Still, it's worth considering why Chicago (the third largest city in the U.S. with just over 2.7 million residents) consistently gets more rat complaints than larger cities like New York (8.39 million residents) and Los Angeles (3.99 million residents). Our best guess is the prevalence of alleys in Chicago, which provide out-of-the-way locations for rats to live and feed—our city boasts 1,900 miles of alleys, compared to just 900 miles of alleys in Los Angeles. The notoriously-cramped layout of New York doesn't have any room for alleys, which is why residents throw their trash on the sidewalks, where regular foot traffic probably provides something of a deterrent for rats.

Orkin's report notes that the onset of the pandemic kept more people inside their homes, replenishing food and water sources for rodents and making encounters with rats more likely. Orkin cites a Bloomberg report that rodent complaints in New York City surged 80 percent in March 2021.

Of course, rats have always been a fact of life in Chicago, where alleys are usually littered with telephone pole signs that warn residents not to feed rats and to secure garbage containers. You can report rat infestations in Chicago by calling 311, but you can also follow the guidance of Orkin to prevent rats from joining you in your home: keep food sealed, clear out the clutter (and garbage) in your residence regularly and seal any entry points that a rat might be able to squeeze through.

And you shouldn't let the fact that Chicago is the rattiest city in the U.S. detract from everything else the Midwest metropolis has to offer. After all, our rodent problem didn't stop Chicago from being ranked the second most beautiful city in the world.

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