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Added Jan 24 2012

We've noticed more rat activity in the last few months in our alley, which is between Magnolia & Clark, near Grace. The rats burrow to/from their den in the rear of our yard right next to the alley. The City came out promptly to bait the burrow holes, but will the City come back for follow-up extermination without further calls from us? Does anyone know if these rats stay outside (like squirrels) or if they try to come inside homes & garages?

  • Do not call 311. It takes 3x as long.

    Call your local Ward Office and speak with the Streets and Sanitation boss. I have an ongoing relationship w/ the 44th ward one.

  • Budlong Woods neighbor Trying to be happy

    Thankfully we don't have much of a rat problem by us....the numerous feral cats in the neighborhood keep them under control.

  • Budlong Woods neighbor Trying to be happy

    Thankfully we don't have much of a rat problem by us....the numerous feral cats in the neighborhood keep them under control.

  • Rats have an underground highway system in the city, with most of the roadways apparently running under garages. I discovered an exit to one in the garage of our building. The city comes and bait, but it doesn't seem to help. So, I went to Menard's and got packages of poison - they have some flavored like peanut butter - they're blue cakes. I put the entire contents into the whole and cover it up with rocks so that no other animals can get to it, and pretty soon there are no more least for awhile. Eventually, others will find the roadyway, but I just repeat the baiting. It lasts for a good long while; sometimes a whole year.

  • L, if you are going the DIY route, steel wool in the holes or quarter cut stone as backfill are good concepts. It makes the area undesirable. I'd also work on the neigbor angle with your alderman and anyone else you can. Thankfully ours very graciously fixed their issue (that was one piece of our puzzle) but APS had a Plan B if we needed to, ahem, encourage them to do the right thing. Ugh! And now I am totally freaked out about them coming into the house, although we no longer have the holes so I am hoping that means all is well.

  • NinaB 23-year Roscoe Village/North Center resident

    re: calling 311 -- you will most likely get misinformation, as I did. Even when I called my alderman's office, I was given misinformation. You need to know that if the city is to have access to your back yard, you need to make an appointment and be present at the time. 311 will not tell you that. You need to call 312.744.4611 for Streets & Sanitation (I think that is the correct number; I can't find the hang tags the city left on my door that has the precise number to call for an appointment).

    Trust me -- if you just use 311 or the city's website to request service, you will wait weeks for the city to come out, assuming they will be able to access your yard, but be frustrated when you come home only to discover a hang tag on your front door telling you to schedule an appointment.

  • I filed online early Dec, and no response so far, and no hang tag, but I haven't seen any rats lately. I know its just wishful thinking. Thanks for the extra info NinaB

  • John Skelly Journalist looking to help out my neighbors

    Hi Graham,

    My name is John Skelly. I'm a broadcast journalism grad student at Northwestern's Medill School of Journalism. I stumbled upon your rat problem here on EveryBlock and I was wondering if you'd be interested in calling some local attention to it. I'd be interested in setting up an on-camera interview with you to get the word out. I'd like to film the problem area as well and get some opinions from the streets and sanitation department. The piece would air on Evanston public television and be available online on the Medill Reports website. If you're interested, feel free to message me back or email me at You could also call my cell: 949-698-3421.

    I'd be on deadline for 5pm tomorrow evening so we'd need to schedule this for tomorrow morning or early afternoon if you are available. Thanks!

  • John Skelly Journalist looking to help out my neighbors

    Additionally, if anyone else would like to speak on-camera about the rat problem in the neighborhood, feel free to reach me.

  • Now I'm freaked out by envisioning the rat super highways under the garages of Chicago.

  • I have a small rat terrier, killing rats is his life's work. If anyone is considering getting a dog and you think you have a rat problem, consider gettin a rat terrier.

  • NinaB 23-year Roscoe Village/North Center resident

    Funny -- I was talking with someone a few weeks ago about my rat problem, and I brought up "renting" a ratter dog or a feral cat to get rid of my problem! Anyone know if there's a ratter I can rent? :)

  • Graham Resident since 1998

    I'm just checking in here again for the first time today. I called APS and they sent two technicians out this afternoon. Based upon the burrow holes, they think the problem is confined to an area of our backyard near the alley. Thankfully, they did not see any evidence of the rats in/near the garage or our home. They put bait in all of the various burrow holes and then smoked the den. They will also come back with a bait box next week. I can continue to post under this thread to let others know how effective it is.

  • Good luck, Graham. Let me know how it goes, I feel responsible since I recommended them!

  • Colin Spence Student at DePaul

    My roommate and I had rats earlier this month in our apartment near George and Lincoln. Thankfully I have a girlfriend who let me stay at we place often. My landlord came about two days later and did nothing, just telling us to tell him if we see another one. After keeping on him, an exterminator came in, set traps, and figured out where they were coming in. A carpenter came in the next day to plug up all their entry points, and by that time we had already killed two rats. Since the carpenter came about 2 1/2 weeks ago, no rats have been seen or caught and the traps are still out. I'm somewhat confident that the problem is fixed, but I'm still positive that the building has rats in the basement and walls. Our landlord freely admitted that there were rats in he basement. I called 311 to send a building inspector out, but I think the next step is to call the alderman's office to get the basement and back alley checked out. Hopefully we don't have to deal with this again!

  • Rat sighted in the alley between Artesian and Campbell, Sunnyside and Lawrence.

    This problem is increasing - call your Alderman's office. The more the Alderman hears of the issue being a major concern to his/her constituents, the better chance we get it fixed.

  • Graham Resident since 1998

    Yes, the rat problem does seem to be increasing. Coincidentally, I saw a rat yesterday near a school in Lakeview about a mile from our house.

    I hadn't noticed any new holes in our yard until this morning (3 days post rat-smokeout) when I saw one small hole. We are going to set up traps outside, in addition to the bait box, to try to eradicate our problem. We will also try to add more protective measures to our wooden fence in a few weeks, to help keep them off our property in the future.

  • bea Avondale-Logan Square

    We're seeing more rats around here - coincides with the lack of people picking up pet waste, which is what the rats eat most of the time.

  • Our current overpopulation of rats is caused by an excess of food available for them (leftovers in our dumpsters, and pet waste which is undigested protein) and secondly, a lack of predators. In the old days, the City had packs of stray dogs who ate the rats. An old timer in our neighborhood (in his 90s) told us that years ago the City used to maintain packs of rat terriers to eat rats whenever buildings or highways were demolished, thus destroying their habitats there. The rats would come scurrying out and immediately get eaten. Poisoning rats does not work because rats reproduce every 21 days and become resistant to the poison. The rat poison can kill our pets.

  • Debbie Lincoln Park resident

    I've noticed that people don't seem to think they need to pick up pet waste after a snowfall. When the snow melts, it's a mess. This makes all pet owners look bad, in addition to increasing the rat population, dirtying our sideways and parkways, and ruining some of our shoes! I see rats scurrying around our building quite frequently, and through the Alcott schoolyard off of Wrightwood.

  • jk Frustrated Landlord

    due to the exceptionally warm winter 2011/2012 and the city getting rid of the coyotes, the rats have overrun everywhere. if u google chicago rats there are articles out there about the infestation!! this is terrible!! in 20 years we have NEVER had this type of problem. as the landlord of a building i've already spent close to $1000 on an exterminator (which promised a guarantee and renigged) and poisons and traps!! this is an outrage. the city should have anticipated this and heavily baits before winter got here. now the temps are going to drop AGAIN being winter, and we start all over again??!!!! some plz help out there. i've contacted the city, that comes out and baits, & my alderman, who's using feral cats to try to curb the problem.. but if they drop off cats that they mandate you feed twice a day then isn't that defeating the purpose?? not to mention the rats eating catfood?? i mean HUH??? or is it just me????

  • Rat population is booming because of 1) plenty of food (dog solid waste/human solid waste in the sewers) and almost no predators. Here's what actually would work: using feral cats as predators. The feral cats would have to be neutered first, however, otherwise we would replace the overpopulation of rats with an overpopulation of feral cats. Then release these feral cats in the neighborhoods. Rat terriers are also predators of rats. Coyotes, wolves, raccoons, skunks and other natural predators of rats are following the riverbanks into the city because they are following the food, which is rats. Watch for more reporting of these predators, especially around cemeteries. People with domesticated pets must stay completely away from these wild aniimals. A coyote may look harmless but they are wild aniimals and they can instantly kill your dog with their sharp teeth and powerful jaws.

  • #1 - the city isn't getting rid of the coyotes. There are plenty of them around, and unless they cause a problem, the city leaves them be. #2 - after hearing that Ald. Pawar and Tree House were working together to put feral cats into areas affected by rats, I went to Tree House to inquire about that, since I know that cats might kill rodents, but don't dine on them as a rule. Tree House said that the cats used in that fashion are assigned to a caretaker who has space in, say a garage, and they are required provide warm shelter form the cold, and to feed the cats, since they'd starve, otherwise. Supposedly, Tree House checks up on the cats to make sure they're being cared for properly. I sure hope so, anyway.

  • Feral cats have surely been dining on rodents for thousands of years. They are natural predators, as are coyotes, wolves, racoons, skunks and other wildlife. People are the intruders in this ecosystem. In the old days, when the city was slummier, the stray dogs running all over the alleys were eating rats. The city started picking up the stray dogs, then there were no predators left. At the same time, more and more restaurants have opened, the dumpsters are rat buffets. The pet dog population has exploded and some of our dog owners/dog walkers have not been picking up, providing dog poop, rats favorite food which is undigested protein. Until the city introduces predators into our ocean of rats, we are never going to make any progress. Sooner or later an entrepreneur will come up with this strategy, market it as "organic rodent control" or something catchy. Then it will be heralded as a revolutionary new idea. Until then, the problem of rat abatement will continue to be batted around as a political hot potato.

  • Sorry - I got information from Tree House. Perhaps it's true that a starving cat will eat just about anything, but Tree House says that ferals used for rat control are to be fed by the caretakers. After all cats, like to kill things like rodents and birds, just for fun. I've seen the results of their bird kills time and time again.

  • Feral cats are natural predators of rats, and they will eat rodents for food. They cannot be pets. They are wild animals and they need to be free to roam around and live as nature intended. Us humans cannot intervene.

  • Jo 18 years here

    Nolan, I appreciate your thoughtful comments about this phenomenon. I am fascinated by how these natural predators come into the city via the riverbanks (and even railroad tracks in some cases) and the resulting effects on the whole urban ecological chain. Every time I see an article about these animal-human interactions, I'm on it; however, it isn't such a rare occurrence anymore. Indeed, humans did invade their original environment, and now we all have to figure out how to coexist. Things keep changing. . .

  • Ugh. Wish this topic was not still so relevant to everyone. Feel the need to post an update-- we switched from APS to McCloud for pest control. They have some additional ideas so we shall see....

  • Tree House does not intend for feral cats that it places with caregivers to eat rodents. They'll kill them if they can catch them without having to eat them. If someone things they'll survive on rodents alone, then they're starving the cat. I'm going to refer this thread to someone at Tree House, because it would be better to have their input directly.

  • Tree house probably deals with domesticated cats, totally different situation. Feral cats should be fed only milk, they will catch the rats, mice, and other prey and eat them. They will not starve. There are vast expanses of the U.S. which are rural. Feral cats live outside, they are wild animals, not pets. They get fed (usually raw milk) powdered reconstituted milk or some other food from various farms/ranches, but they are out and about catching rodents every day. Their mothers train them. This is what feral cats were born to do, what they are trained to do. Do not attempt to domesticate a feral cat, its like jail for them.

  • Actually, Tree House has a feral colony behind it house. After seeing another EB thread about Ald. Pawar's office and Tree House working together to provide feral cats to people who wanted to use them as a rat deterent, I was concerned enough to ask them about it when I went to make a donation not long ago. They assured me that the feral cats that they give to people are to be fed and given proper shelter and that they would check on them from time to time.

    I also just recently read that Tree House has bought property in Rogers Park and intends to build a new facility there. That might be why they're giving feral cats to people via the Alderman's office - they most likely won't be able to keep the outside feral colony at the new location.

    Also - you don't feed cats milk - it's bad for their digestive system and will give them diarrhea. They will kill rats and mice but shouldn't eat them here in the city - if the rodents have been poisioned it will kill the cat.

    No one is talking about trying to domesticate a feral - just provide shelter and food, but let them live outside, since they cannot be domesticated to be indoor cats. They are also TNR'd (trap, neuter, released). They will kill the rodents, or in any event, scare them away.

    I haven't asked Tree House to read this thread and provide additional input, but will try to do so tomorrow.

  • RainboRabbit Animal Advocate, Nature Lover

    Kewpie you are correct. I TNR and have been for many years feral cats and have been able to domesticate several and they live in my home and they all get along. Mile will literally kill a cat just as feeding them no protein or just raw fish or meat. They only live a few years in the wild so we have to educate our neighbors. The ferals that I feed and protect from the elements live in my back yard in little shelters like dog houses with mylar sheets lining the insides for warmth..this is for anyone who would like to know more. Treehouse and PAWS and Alleycat Allies all have wonderful web sites for education if anyone is interested. I guess we have to try and stamp ou t urban myths about ferals... and people who take in ferals just to kill mice...its ridiculous and some of these people i have spoken with...actually think these cats diets only subsist on the mice they wonder these cats are diseased and often die painful deaths...anyways kudos to you!! Nolan, it is true that many ferals prefer to live outside but what we can do for them and to prevent spread of disease and overpopulation of cats is to trap them humanely and take them to anti cruelty or paws or any other animal welfare clinic that will neuter/spay vaccinate and care for their wounds if any. It is a neighborly thing to do and a wonderful act of kindness for nature. :)

  • RainboRabbit Animal Advocate, Nature Lover

    I just read the entire thread...Ok Nolan you get was just the milk things and a few other details abt ferals I wanted to people baiting rats...we are barbaric aren't we? so intelligent but still refraining from using our brains to research humane and ethical ways to deter rats and send them off some where else....poison will get back into our water via the birds and the other creatures who eat the dead are killing the ecosystem as i type this. Roll up our sleeves and dig out the rat nests they will scurry and block it what you have to need to kill anything- this is not 1960 ......we are smarter than this and we want to preserve what we can for the next generation. Traps and bait are cruel inhumane and senseless and its selfish of us to think we are so smart and that poisoning them or trapping them in glue or worse is the way to go...neighbors we are better than that. Please please check out this website it explains how to rid yourself and your home of rats and mice without cruelty and poisoning the environment. Tried and true

  • RainboRabbit Animal Advocate, Nature Lover

    I am only trying to help not get people upset - :)

  • Thanks for you input, Veronica. You make some good points.

    When it comes to stray cats and feral cats, I trapped several cats that I thought were feral because they ran from me, so I had to resort to humane trapping to get them to the vet. The vet told me that those cats weren't feral because they could be handled, but they were very scared strays.

    That's how I learned the difference between a frightened stray cat and a true feral. A true feral cat cannot be handled or domesticated, no matter how hard you try. Of course, I adopted a couple of the frightened strays which I had trapped (and found homes for others), and they are loving, domesticated cats, although still afraid of other humans. But, they aren't feral, according to my vet.

    When it comes to eradicating rats, the steps set out in the MSPCA article are great, but in the city, you have businesses overloading dumpsters with food waste, homeless littering alleys with human waste, residents of homes and apartment buildings who could care less about taking the steps outlined in the MSPCA article.

    Chicago also has the sewer super highway, which rats use. Unfortunately, the only way to keep rats at bay in the City is to bait and kill them. Then, they'll be gone for awhile until new ones find their way through the super highway. Even I have had to bait for rats. I hate to kill anything, but it's the only thing that works here in the city, and the diseases carried by rats are very dangerous.

  • RainboRabbit Animal Advocate, Nature Lover

    I hear ya I do...thanks Kewpie

  • Graham Resident since 1998

    It's fitting that this post is getting more comments again at the same time we've experienced a return of the rats. Just today, some landscapers attached steel mesh to the bottom of our wooden fence to attempt to keep the rats from burrowing on to our property. We also placed some sharp rocks/gravel along the ground on our neighbor's side of the fence. Because rats might mark their territory (I'm assuming with urine) and use their sense of smell to return to "their" territory, the landscaper recommended that we use a diluted bleach solution to dump along the gravel to remove the smell.

    In the ten months since I first posted, we have not seen much success with bait. (The bait, by the way, was always placed in our fenced-in yard which is not accessible to any pets.) We never knew if the rats succumbed to the effects of the bait. Often, it looked like the bait was ignored. So we ended up using traps when we saw burrow holes, and the traps provided the obvious feedback of whether a rat was caught or not. We kept placing traps until the burrowing stopped. Sometimes the burrowing stopped for a few months before resuming. We are now on our third round of attempts to eradicate the den. Except for the one visit by APS (very poor follow through), the visit today from the landscapers, and a couple visits from the City, we've fought the problem on our own without too much expense.

  • NinaB 23-year Roscoe Village/North Center resident

    Veronica, I have to take issue with your claim that traps and bait are senseless. When your back yard is overrun with rats, would you still call it senseless? And if they are driven out by feral cats, only to go to one of your neighbors, it is no longer your immediate problem, but it is still your problem. Rats breed very quickly, so shooing them elsewhere so they are someone else's problem is not the answer; if they are on your block, they are everyone's problem.

  • RainboRabbit Animal Advocate, Nature Lover

    Its ok for you to take issue with my opinion and my way of dealing with nature. We cannot all think alike and I am extremely sensitive to the pain and suffering of all living things I was born that way. I try to help in my own way- I pick up after my neighbors and the "bums" people who trash my area...its just how i roll..and I sleep well knowing that nothing suffered under my hands. I teach my kids not be afraid of nature and so far my kids are experts and teach others about humane intervention 8 and 10 years old...brighter than most adults including me..they are evolving into what we should be by now..compassionate and learning to live with nature- so far no one has gotten ill or worse from rats, opposums, bees...wasps..what most people consider "pests".

    It would be such a boring mechanical world if we all believed that nature is not ours to take care of. People in general are messy slobs so we brought the problem of rats on ourselves so its up to us to clean up- prevent more from coming in and force our representatives to work with us. It can be done not overnight but we can solve our own problems without waging war with poison and death my neighbor. I mean you no disrespect just my opinion and of course no one has to read it.:)

  • RainboRabbit Animal Advocate, Nature Lover really good article....

  • Steamboat33 Cranky old man who loves Chicago.

    " far no one has gotten ill or worse from rats..." That's good news, otherwise I'd be worried about a few infectious diseases that can spread from rats to humans, like Hepatitis E, the plague, salmonella, and hantavirus.

  • RainboRabbit Animal Advocate, Nature Lover

    Cranky old truth not hype------Diseases: All animals, all creatures, spread diseases. If you have an outdoor cat or outdoor dog, you've already sampled the wild rat diseases in your area (and everything else in your immediate area as well). Our concern as humans is that these diseases are different than what our bodies are accustomed to and, as humans, we are always fearful of the unknown. Of course the unknown is present in our everyday lives - knowing that there is an unknown and dwelling on it is what becomes horrifying. If there is a disease to be spread in your area, chances are, it's not just the rats that are carrying it, which means panicking about the resourceful rodents in your neighborhood is pretty silly all things considered (driving is still considerably more deadly).
    But what if the rats in your home are carrying something? Well, it's important to remember that in order to catch a disease there must be contact* (this means, very close proximity, and, generally, transmission via open wound) and there must be quantity* (this means, 40-some rats sitting around you in a circle all breathing on you at once (hint: this is never going to happen)). You can read this great info here about what diseases and parasites selected studied populations were carrying at a given point in time and then take that info and do the math:

    One rat (and probably even 10 rats) isn't going to sneeze strongly enough to get you sick*. A rat isn't going to bite you unless he feels threatened (don't make a rat or any wild animal feel threatened!) particularly if other safe, non-confrontative food is available. So if you maintain distance (i.e. if you don't have 200 wild rats living in your bedroom which I'd find hard to believe), even if they are carrying something, probability alone says you won't be catching it.

    So, again, DON'T PANIC!

    Bleach: It's a great thing. It kills 99.99% of all household (and other) bacteria. And it's cheap.

  • Steamboat33 Cranky old man who loves Chicago.

    It is hard to argue with your facts. One thing is for certain: there is no stopping them; the rodents are here. And I for one welcome our new Rodentia overlords. I’d like to remind them that as a guy with a big car, I can be helpful in rounding up others to toil in their burrows and walls.

  • RainboRabbit Animal Advocate, Nature Lover


  • Most dairy farmers feed their feral cats raw milk, which is loaded with nutrition. This does not give the cats diarrhea, they are very healthy and they love it. The cats know when feeding time is, they arrive at the appointed time and wait for their bowls of milk. Their tails are straight up while they are drinking their milk as fast as they can. Then they smack/lick their lips afterwards. Its like Happy Hour for them.

  • Colin Spence Student at DePaul

    I love nature, but hate rats. Deer, rabbits, squirrels, coyotes, and other animals found in the Chicagoland area don't crawl into your apartment on New Year's Day as you're swinging back a few beers. Contact or not, I don't want rats in my apartment. Traps are the most effective way to get rid of them and that's mainly what should be used.

  • Colin Spence Student at DePaul

    And, frankly, I don't think any of the aforementioned animals have helped spread a disease on the scale of The Black Plague. I shouldn't have to live among rats and I should also be able to do whatever I want to get rid of them. They're here because we're here and they have no redeeming qualities.

  • RainboRabbit Animal Advocate, Nature Lover this is what I found Nolan on raw milk for cats..i think if the cows are not fed crap or given antibiotics raw milk plus raw meat and cod liver oil is the best diet for the outside cats..

    Colin, its just your opinion and its shared by the majority so don't sweat it - there are not enough people like me to stop the killing-- If they are in your apt I would definitely get a rat terrier or a nuclear weapon- What you think you know is often based on fear its not always the truth... and sometimes the truth is not what you want to know so wage on my friend and be careful not to ingest any poisons you may put out.or get your toes broken stepping on a trap. Rats are smarter and cleaner than many humans....:) If humans weren't so filthy rats wouldn't be so dreaded ...

  • Farmers/ranchers understand feral cats, provide raw milk for them and the cats can stay in their barns. They can also be out and about hunting, trained by their mothers. If they meet a new romantic partner at the neighbors, they move over there and start a family next door. They love being outside. They do not want to be house pets. Ordinarily, if a person brings a feral cat inside, they try to dash out the next time someone opens the door. They just want some food and a place to stay, but they want to be free to roam around. Remember that farm fields are acres and acres of crops/food. Cats are so efficient keeping the rodent population under control, there is no problem with rodents eating crops in the field or eating vegetables in the gardens. Its a very efficient system.

  • RainboRabbit Animal Advocate, Nature Lover

    thanks Nolan good info

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