Boston ranked 13th ‘rattiest’ city in America, and officials predict it’s only getting worse

A booming rat population landed the city near the top of the list in a new report.

In this file photo, adult and juvenile rats emerge from under a Fenway dumpster. George Rizer/Globe staff

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Rats seem to be slowly taking over the streets of Boston, according to a new report

A Top 50 Rattiest Cities ranking, released Tuesday from the pest control company Orkin, placed Boston as 13th in the nation on its “rattiness” scale, which records the number of rodent treatments both residential and commercial that its specialists were called to perform from September to August. And Boston’s numbers are apparently on the rise, as the city’s ranking moved up a peg from the 14th placement it claimed in 2019.

Chicago topped the list, as it has for six consecutive years, followed by Los Angeles and New York. The only other New England city to make the list was Hartford, Connecticut, which ranked as number 27.


In its report, Orkin noted that this unprecedented uptick in rodents has become a national phenomenon, and the coronavirus pandemic may be to blame. 

“The pandemic-driven closure of restaurants forced rodents to find new food sources,” the company said. “Without food waste to consume, these pests were seen scavenging new areas and exhibiting unusual or aggressive behavior. The presence of rodents became so relevant that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued Rodent Control guidance on ways to keep rats and mice out of homes and businesses.”

With strong jaws, burrowing skills, and oversized front teeth fit for gnawing, rats are known to cause structural damage, Orkin reported, whether it’s to electrical wires, water pipes, or gas lines. 

“Unfortunately, rodents can cause great damage in and around homes,” Orkin entomologist Ben Hottel said in a statement.

And with a heightened awareness for hygiene and virus transmission due to the ongoing pandemic, the company said it’s critical to prevent rodents and the pathogens they carry from contaminating residents’ food. 

For many, it may not come as a surprise that Boston is teeming with rodents the little beasts have long called corners of the city home. 

When residents hunkered down amid COVID-19, there was a bump in rat sightings reported across the city, and local officials have continually warned of their growing public health concerns regarding the creatures, even calling the last few months a “perfect storm” that led to the current increase in rodent activity. 


Residents have flooded Boston’s 311 reporting system with pleas for help curbing the uptick, and the City Council held a hearing in light of the onslaught of complaints. 

With winter nearing, Orkin noted that rodent activity is bound to continue increasing and urged people in each of the rattiest cities to pay extra attention to the things that entice rats and mice. 

“Rodents are experts at sniffing out food and shelter, and they’re resilient in their ways to obtain both,” Hottel said. “Residential properties offer the ideal habitat for rodents, and once they’ve settled in, they’re capable of reproducing rapidly and in large quantities.”

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