By Zachary Ciras on August 17, 2020.

Many of us have had to deal with mice in our home or garage on occasion, but rats! Thanks to COVID and resulting business shutdowns, rats are running amok in some cities.

Why is that? you wonder. Think garbage – a rat’s number one food source. No restaurants or other food establishments open, no spilled rat food either. Because rats can’t find food in the usual places – alleys and dumpsters behind restaurants – they have been forced to forage in new, less hidden, locations and often during daytime hours. That’s when their paths cross with pedestrians or diners at restaurants with outdoor seating.


Rats don’t have a huge territory. They’re born and live out their lives in an area only equivalent to one city block. They nest as close to a good food source as they can, often near a restaurant’s dumpster. There’s always food available – until coronavirus closures changed all that.

Rats in New York and other urban areas are starving and reportedly even killing and eating each other, according to one renowned rat expert. Because rats now have to forage beyond their normal territories, they are entering the territory of other rat colonies and battles ensue.

Since rodent populations are food dependent – less food, less reproduction – there is some hope that the business shutdown that has eliminated food sources will actually decrease rodent populations. There is some indication in New York City that many alley rats have moved underground into the sewer system instead. But, experts say, expect them to move back and return to business as usual as soon as restaurants are fully open.


Even if you don’t live in a city, you could still see foraging rats displaced from any nearby business that used to provide food, not just restaurants. For instance, a mom and pop grocery may have had to permanently close its business, your local gas station’s Stop-n-Shop Mart may have cut back hours, or the food trucks that used to serve customers by the city park are no longer there. Some rats will still find some food, but there won’t be enough for every rat and some will be searching new areas, maybe ending up near residences (see Rats in My Neighborhood? Come On!). 


Rats don’t end up inside homes very often, but they can do a lot of damage burrowing in your yard or around foundations, raiding garbage cans, bird feeders, and pet food bowls. You don’t want your pet, or your children, tangling with a rat. And, rats can spread disease.

There are steps you can take to deter rats from your property, keeping in mind that food is what draws them in the first place (see Manage Food and Garbage to Manage Rats). 

While homeowners may feel capable of trapping and killing mice in their homes, rats are another story. They’re big, maybe unpredictable, and can be aggressive. And really hungry rats, even more so.

Fortunately, pest control companies have been designated as essential businesses and remain open. At Colonial Pest Control, we’re ready to tackle your rats, mice, yellowjackets, ants, and other pest problems. We offer zero contact services, use protective equipment, and practice social distancing (see Colonial Pest Control’s COVID-19 Response). Give us a call if you suspect rats on your property, or even if you saw a mouse in the garage. We do pests so you don’t have to!



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