Welcome to Ratlanta: What to know about the rodents next door

The rats are everywhere, so you might as well learn about them

Illustration by Kristian Hammerstad

Have you met your neighbors? Their names are Rattus norvegicus and Rattus rattus, and metro Atlanta is teeming with them. The region regularly ranks among the top spots in the country for its number of rodent prevention treatments. (We snagged the no. 14 slot last year but placed second in 2009 thanks to foreclosures.) Say hello to your furry friends:

They’re everywhere
Tom Waterbor of Peachtree Pest Control says Atlanta rats don’t care much about Zillow estimates: “We see them in $100,000 houses and in $2 million houses.” (Anecdotally, his own company has noticed a lot of recent calls from Decatur, Dunwoody, and Sandy Springs.)

They’re displaced by redevelopment
Matt Breda of Loganville-based Breda Pest Management says that when old buildings are renovated or torn down, their rodent residents are pushed into other areas on top of existing rat populations. “If you’re taking away their home, they’re gonna find another home,” he says.

But they’re also gentrifiers
Just like humans, rats love a live-work-play community or a new food hall. “Rats prosper when they’re around humans,” Waterbor says—and more people in an area means more trash to feed on and hidey-holes to cozy up in.

Fulton County reports decreasing rat activity
The Board of Health says it received 279 rat complaints in 2017, compared to 432 in 2016. Its rodent program distributes bait, traps, and glue boards gratis to single-family homeowners.

They can be cat-sized—and smart
Waterbor says the biggest rat they’ve seen was probably 20 inches long, nose to tail. “Every now and then, you’ll see one the size of your forearm.” Earlier this year, Breda was trying to catch a large adult that had learned to evade traps and poisons after watching its siblings get caught.

Speaking of cats
LifeLine Animal Project places free-roaming feral cats that the nonprofit has spayed, neutered, and vaccinated to help control rodent populations at equestrian stables, warehouses, and farms. A man recently requested a working cat to deal with a rodent situation in his car, says Gin Taylor, LifeLine’s Community Cat Program director. The group declined to help, she says.

This article appears in our May 2018 issue.