Philadelphia Has a Big Rat Problem

Suggestion: Avoid flip-flops after dark.

In the past few weeks, I’ve heard a number of anecdotal reports concerning rats in Philadelphia, and there have been some rat sightings surfacing on social media as well.

This is peculiar, because the last time I heard anything about rats in Philadelphia was in 2011, when Inside Edition came to town to expose rats in Philadelphia restaurants. (In case you’re keeping score, two of the five restaurants targeted in that segment have since closed.). And so I wondered if the rats are taking over the streets of Philadelphia, or is this just business as usual?

[Update: Rats invade popular Center City restaurant Green Eggs Cafe]

It turns out that calls to Philadelphia’s Rat Complaint Line (yes, the city does have an office dedicated to this, and the phone number is 215-685-9000) are on the rise.

In March of this year–the last month for which data is available–the Rat Complaint Line received 584 reports compared to 439 in March 2012. February 2013 saw a similarly disturbing jump, with 438 complaints compared to the 339 that were recorded for the same period last year.

The spin on this bad news from the Philadelphia Department of Public Health is that while, yes, the monthly complaints are on the rise, if you look at the numbers based on the fiscal calendar (only a city agency would point you in this direction), the statistics are actually down.

But this fiscal year explanation is of little comfort to Philadelphia resident Angela Davis, who sums up the situation like so on Twitter:

Davis tells me that she sees rats all the time, especially in South and Southwest Philadelphia. But it’s not just those neighborhoods that are contributing to Philadelphia’s growing rat problem.

“I just saw a rat the other day in Rittenhouse Square,” reports one of my colleagues at Philadelphia magazine. “He was just running across the park.” Another colleague witnessed a rat shaking a Rittenhouse trash can so violently that “I thought he was going to throw the thing at me,” she remembers.

Philadelphia public relations executive Paige Wolf echoes the disgust. “I’ve been in the city for a dozen years, and I’ve never seen a single rat until this year,” says Wolf, who lives at 12th and Lombard streets. “Then we started seeing rats on the back patio. All of our neighbors are seeing them. I was walking down the street at 11th and Fitzwater the other day, and a rat just ran in front of a bus. They’re everywhere! We already have to deal with hookers and crime and filth, but this is the last straw. If a rat gets into my house, I swear, I am packing up my shit and moving. Enough is enough.”

Around The Web

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  • I thought this article was going to be about Mayor Nutter.

  • Ann Marie

    I thought that the garbage disposable company Sinkerator was working with the city in these neighbourhoods that were having problems?

  • More rodents are a side effect of mild winters:

    • Mild winters be damned! Also those f’en slobs who drop shit like they got a personal clean-up crew.

  • Claudia

    I live in a 300 year old house in Society Hill and rats have ALWAYS been a problem in our area…it’s absolutely disgusting but unfortunately the city isn’t doing anything to help stop the increase!

  • mike

    suburban station is always crawling with them right down stairs from the clothespin statue. I love how the visitors of this city get to experience the filthiest station across from city hall. Bravo Philly.

  • vin

    Most major cities and I’ve lived in Chicago, Dallas, Boston and Honolulu perform weekly or bi-weekly street cleaning city wide. Philly does not! Most cities bait and trap their alley’s for rats. Philly does not. Most people in most cities throw their garbage in trash cans. Philadelphians for the most part do not. Lastly garbage men get in trouble in most cities for leaving spilled trash in the street instead of scooping it into the truck. This also doesn’t happen in Philly.

  • Uh, have you been to Central Park?!

  • “especially in South and Southwest Philadelphia. But it’s not just those
    neighborhoods that are contributing to Philadelphia’s growing rat
    problem.” Are you serious? The rats are born in South Philadelphia and commute to Center City? Nice try. Center City is full of restaurants that have full dumpsters and standing water outside of their back doors. Those are great draws for vermin. Other areas of the city are packed with derelict properties and vacant lots where slovenly people and unethical business owners dump garbage. The subway stations are full of rats. Rats and filth are citywide issues. The city cleans some neighborhoods. Others (those not visited by tourists) are ignored. People who litter and people who do not place their garbage on the curb in secure receptacles piss me off, but those unsanitary practices are not limited to South and Southwest Philadelphia.

  • PlaidArmour

    Shouldn’t a public relations executive be fired for making such comments?

    • paige

      No, I don’t think I will fire myself for cursing about rats. But thank you for the sentiment.

  • PlaidArmour

    A bunch of whiny negledelphians! I saw one rat the entire time I lived in Philly for 8 years. I saw more in VISITS to NYC, Boston, and Toronto.

    • M_J_S

      They all serve on City Council.

  • BEM

    Rats are attracted to dog feces. The uptick in urban dog-ownership has led to a surplus of uncollected droppings. It’s really that simple.

    • M_J_S

      Not to mention sloppy dog owners who don’t clean up after their K-9s

  • Annette Rf

    Why do they always show a pic of a cute, domesticated pet rat for these articles? FYI I have 20 rats in my home that are domesticated pets. They live in several cages, and make better pets than dogs! Also, be sure to check out

  • Annette Rf

    I read all the comments and have to shake my head. You are blaming rats for “filth”. I have pet rats. Did you know rats groom and wash themselves constantly? If I took a shower as often as they wash themselves, my skin would be completely dried out. Humans stole the habitats of the wild animals, which includes rats, mice, cockroaches, etc, and then we turn around and blame THEM for trying to survive in OUR filth? Humans are the filthiest animals on the planet and the most destructive. I can think of a lot of HUMANS in this city that are a much bigger problem than rats!