You live in New York, you’ve seen a rat. If you haven’t seen one, you’re not looking close enough.
New York rats are the stuff of (urban) legend. Local celebrity Pizza Rat has over 9.2 million YouTube views which beats out most politicians and actors in popularity.
People have a love/hate relationship with rats. It's hard to love something that lives on garbage.
However, our rats are more badass and smarter than other rats, also more beautiful.
A friend of mine once accidentally shared a sandwich with a rat in full daylight at the entrance to Central Park near the Apple Store. He thought it was cat until it turned around and he saw the long pink tail. He also said it was very well behaved.
Maybe it was the quality of the neighborhood.
New York City is indeed the place millions of rats call home. A recent study by a Ph.D candidate in the statistics department at Columbia University concluded there are no more than two million rats to 8.2 million humans. Compare that to Paris which has the reverse statistic of 8 million rats to 2 million humans - which can really destroy its romantic appeal.
Rats don’t live long, but they live large.
They sleep all day, party all night. When the lights go down rats get busy.
Urban rats like donuts and Mac & Cheese and generally prefer fresh and wholesome food to eating garbage. Regardless of their ill repute they are clean animals and spend a third of their lives grooming themselves. Rats get into boxing matches. They can get stressed. They can squeeze through a gap the size of a quarter. Tread water for 3 days. Leap about 4 feet and survive a five-story fall.
The rats we see in the City are brown Norway rats “Rattus Norvegicus”. Proud 18 inches long head to tail, weighting in at a solid pound and excellent problem solvers, Norvegicus travelled from Northern China to the Americas via Europe in the 18th Century. Rats are commensal - wherever human went, rats came with us.
New York used to have black, or Asian rats “Rattus Rattus”, but in a rodent version of classic Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome (“Two men enter; one man leaves”), the brown rats trapped and killed them. Which gives us pause for thought that rats have been better at rat extermination than humans are.
Named one of the “Top 10 Worst Rat Cities in the World” by the folks over at Animal Planet, New York is in good company along with Boston, Chicago, Atlanta, Baltimore, New Orleans, London and Paris. What all the cities have in common are older infrastructures and buildings and population density. Sanitation also plays a big role in attracting or controlling rats.
Regardless of the difficulty of eradicating rats from the city, numerous mayors have made the noble and, to date, futile attempt to do so. We say futile because rats have been here since Colonial times and have shown no signs of leaving in the ensuing 400 years.
Last year, Mayor de Blasio targeted the rodents with $2.9 million in rat control money in the city budget.. “There have been 109 mayors of New York and, it seems, nearly as many mayoral plans to snuff out the scourge. Their collective record is approximately 0-108,” said an article in The New York Times when Mayor de Blasio announced his rat attack plan.
*A bunch of rats is called a mischief