Why Cities Can’t Get Rid Of Rats

- Sep 30, 2018-

Meet your average city rats: Rattus rattus and Rattus norvegicus. These rats live pretty much wherever we do. Especially in cities. Take New York City, for example. We don’t know exactly how many rats call the Big Apple home. But a 2014 study gave a ballpark estimate of 2 million rats.


That means for heavily-infested areas you could have several rats per person! And in some ways, rats are better suited for living in cities than people. They can climb brick walls, “tightrope walk” over telephone cables, and their incisors grow 14 inches a year. Which lets them gnaw into anything — including everywhere you don’t want them.

But their most powerful ability? Rats are clever. Too clever. Scientists have shown that rats can learn to use tools. And when offered the choice between a chocolate and freeing a trapped friend. Rats chose to free their friend over chocolate!

Translate those smarts to the real world and rats easily avoid traps. Trying to poison them wont help much either. Rats are extremely patient when it comes to new foods. They’ll taste just a tiny portion at first, wait to see if that food makes them sick and only then, consume the rest if it’s safe.

This is called “delayed learning” and it’s why rats are notoriously difficult to poison. Plus, they can develop resistance to many poisons over time so even outwitting them might not work in the long run.Another major issue is that rats reproduce quickly. A single doe usually has 8-12 pups every 8 weeks! And those babies can have pups of their own after only 5 weeks!

Will NYC succeed by the end of 2018, as proposed?

Judging from the thousands of years where rats came out on top it sounds a tad optimistic.

While wild rats are problematic pests, pet fancy rats are another story. They don’t spread disease and are social, smart, and easily trainable.

And get this, one amazing study found that rats giggle when you tickle them!

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