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Chicago beats out New York, Boston and Washington as America’s ‘rat capital’

Jill Cox, a member of the animal care staff at the Hogle Zoo, shows off their giant Gambian rat Monday, June 9, 2003, in Salt Lake City.

A new study has named Chicago the "rat capital" of America, with a total of 50,963 rat complaints in 2017. | AP file photo

If you live in or travel to a big city in America, chances are you have seen them — rats, that is.

And, with such famous residents as “Pizza Rat,” a rascally rodent that was seen dragging a slice of pizza into the subway in 2015, New York City has long been considered rat central in the United States.

Make that was.

A new study has named Chicago the “rat capital” of America, with a total of 50,963 rat complaints in 2017 compared to 32,855 in 2014, an increase of 55 percent. The study, by apartment search service RentHop.com, compared complaints in the Windy City, Boston, New York City and Washington, D.C., and found that Chicago topped the list with 1,876.09 complaints per 100,000 residents, a figure more than twice the number of the nation’s capital, which came in second place.

Chicago also led in total number of complaints, beating New York’s 19,152 gripes by more than 31,000.

“The abundance of garbage and buildings in The Windy City makes it a great location for these rats to seek shelter and food for survival,” according to RentHop, which has a large presence in the four cities. “The presence of these furry critters poses a threat to city dwellers due to the fact that they are capable of spreading diseases and cause allergic reactions to humans and animals.”

However, the Chicago Department of Streets and Sanitation told The Chicago Tribune that the high level of complaints was not necessarily an indication of a greater rat infestation.

“Rodent complaints are not an accurate indicator of the rat population in an area,” spokeswoman Marjani Williams said. “However, they do show that Chicagoans care about the health and safety of their communities,” saying the department is vigilant in encouraging to report rodent activity “so that our crews can quickly investigate and address every sighting.”

In addition, Williams said, the actual number of complaints was 42,670 when duplicate reports are taken into account.

City No. of complaints Complaints/100,000
Chicago 50,963 1,876
Washington 5,036 726
Boston 2,488 363
New York 19,152 222

Rat complaints in 2017 by cities sorted in descending order according to complaints per 100,000 residents.