Watch Out! Rats in NYC Subways Are Getting Bigger

New York is famous for its pizza, Broadway shows, magic nightlife and a great deal of history. It is also a wonderful city where a large number of giant rats call home.

a rat on NYC subway rail

Rats in NYC Subway (Source: Wikipedia)


For a long time, the exact number of rats in New York was unknown; a common urban legend was that there were up to four times as many rats as people living in the city limits. Because of an overwhelming population, knowing your go-to rat exterminator in NYC is always good.

The History of Rats in New York

The Norwegian Rat, or brown rat, is the most common rat that is prominent in New York. This rat ranges from sixteen to twenty inches long weighing up to two pounds. According to Popular Science, the brown rats were originated in Asia, and then they spread through the Middle East to Europe and Africa. In the mid-18th century, the rats made their way on merchants’ vessels to New York from Great Britain and France.

It seems that no one will disagree that there’s no better place to study rats other than in New York City. A student at Fordham University, Matthew Combs told The Atlantic that he and his colleagues have been catching and classifying the DNA of brown rats in Manhattan.

The undergraduate students found out that there are two genetically distinct groups of rats in Manhattan: the Uptown rats and the Downtown rats. They also discovered that different neighborhoods have their own distinct rats by analyzing their DNA.

Combs says Midtown areas have fewer rats because of their function as the commercial district (not residential like Uptown and Downtown), there’s not so much household waste and yards that rats like.

rat is scurrying over someone's body in NYC subway train

A rat crawling over a sleeping subway rider in New York City. (CBS News)

New York Subway Rats Have the Ideal Environment

New York creates a thriving environment for rats. With sewer pipes, subways and food on almost every corner, rats have all they need to survive and grow in population.

Not only are these rats enormous in number, and continuing to grow in size, but they are also extremely destructive. New York rats can chew through pipes and cinder block, allowing them access into homes and at the same time causing a great deal in repair expenses. Finding vulnerable entryways and sealing your home from rodents is important to keep them out.

Rats birth about a dozen pups at a time and newborn rats can begin to mate at the age of two or three months old. The lifespan of these rats is usually about a year. However, some rats are smarter than others and outlive this amount of time while continuing to grow to disturbing sizes.


“New York rats can chew through pipes and cinder block, allowing them access into homes and at the same time causing a great deal in repair expenses.”

-Rest Easy Pest Control


And not only are these rats scurrying around houses, buildings, and city parks, but they also make subway platforms and trains as their living and hiding place. You might have watched a YouTube video that went viral, depicting a rat crawling up a man’s leg, climbing over his chest and dashing nearly into his hoody.

The massive amount of rats in the city has made Mayor Bill de Blasio declaring war to defeat the rat armies. In summer 2017, a New York Times article covered a story that the mayor promised to reduce the number of rats in parts of Lower Manhattan and Brooklyn’s Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhood and along the Grand Concourse in the Bronx areas by 70 percent by the end of 2018.

The mayor’s plan includes setting up a thousand solar-powered rat-proof trash cans around the city and passing legislation requiring medium and large buildings to put out their garbage bins to be picked up early in the morning. The overnight waste mounds are considered to attract the pest and bring along diseases.

Rat Disease in NYC

Worse than the damage they create and the chills the sight of one may send up your neck is the real danger that they bring with them. New York rats carry pathogens that can be the cause of serious illness like diarrhea, vomiting, and fever.

These symptoms can range from mild to extremely severe. The pathogens that New York rats carry contain the bacteria that causes food poisoning, Salmonella and E. Coli virus. Rat-bite fever is another serious illness that can befall humans that come into contact with a New York City rat.

Common Signs of Rats

Keeping rats out of your New York home can be difficult with the presence they are known for throughout the city. Common signs that rats may be in your home is a scurrying noise of rats crawling around in attics or other crawl spaces, rat feces left on the floor, chew marks on baseboards or walls and a foul smell.

You certainly can’t do anything when you see rats scurrying around on the subway platform (besides trying to avoid it). But if you suspect rats are invading your home, contact Rest Easy Pest Control immediately to protect you and your family from the dangers that rats carry.***


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