Chicago, IL

Chicago and its rat problem: Here's how to keep rodents out of your home this winter

Jennifer Geer

For the last seven years, Chicago has topped Orkin's Top 50 Rattiest Cities List, and now a recent study from RentHop found Chicagoans have already made 60,054 rodent complaints this year

The pest control company Orkin released its annual Rattiest Cities list last month, announcing in a press release that the top five cities haven't budged since last year.

The number two spot fell to Los Angeles, followed by New York, Washington D.C., and San Francisco. Orkin bases its ratty list on the number of new rodent treatments performed in a metro area over the past year. It includes both residential and commercial.

But that's not all, RentHop has analyzed the number of 311 calls made in cities regarding rat sightings. Chicago tops that list as well. And it's getting worse, the amount has risen 11% this year over last.

Winter is coming, and rats will try to get indoors

As temperatures cool, unwanted pests try to move inside. But there are ways of keeping rodents and other pests from infiltrating your home this season.

After a mild and unseasonably warm fall, Chicago has started to feel a bit more like winter, which means rodents and other pests are already looking for a cozy space to spend the cold months ahead.

The time is now to protect your home from unwelcome visitors.

Pandemic rats

If you think Chicago's rat problem couldn't get any worse, think again. According to Orkin, "The pandemic-driven closure of restaurants forced rodents to find new food sources."

This resulted in rats exhibiting "unusual" and "aggressive" behavior.

Why are rats so dangerous to human health?

The Norway rat, also known as the brown rat, or sometimes sewer rat, is the type of rat commonly found in Chicago neighborhoods and business districts.

These rats are dangerous because they cause damage to buildings by their burrowing and gnawing and they spread disease by contaminating food.

Although rats are fairly large, weighing about 11 ounces with a length of 13 to 18 inches long, they can fit into openings just bigger than half an inch across.

Mice can fit into even smaller openings. According to the Illinois Department of Health (IDPH), mice can "slip through a crack that a pencil will fit into (slightly larger than 1/4 inch in diameter)."

What can you do to protect your house or apartment from rodent infestations?

According to the IDPH, there are steps residents and businesses can take to prevent rodents from getting inside:

  • Watch for signs of rodents by looking for droppings or evidence of gnawing.
  • Keep trash in bins with tightly closed lids. Garbage will attract rats and help them survive in residential areas.
  • Keep the area around your home clutter-free. Rats will use objects, like cardboard boxes, to make their nests.
  • Keep pet food and bird food out of your yard. If you store food outside, keep it in tightly closed metal cans.
  • Don't let your house have any openings to the outside that are larger than 1/4". This will prevent both mice and rats from getting in.
  • Make sure your doors, windows, and screens close tightly.
  • Use traps when rodents do get inside. The IDPH says, "It is the preferred method in homes, garages, and other structures where only a few rats are present."

For more information on keeping rodents out of your home, check out the IDPH website or contact a pest control company if you need professional help.

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Jennifer covers lifestyle content and local news for the Chicago area.

Chicago, IL
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