Rat Academy graduates collecting their free rat-proof garbage bins. Photo: Shannon Barbour

In a city with as many rats as there are children, New York has taken on several methods of eliminating the pests from city streets, homes and sewers. Birth control, dry ice, and bait have all been employed to curb the ever-growing population. Just last month Mayor de Blasio declared a $32 million war on rats, which has already proven to be successful in the East Village. But rats aren’t going anywhere anytime soon and they’ve even been linked to a Bronx resident who was killed by leptospirosis this year. So last night, a few dozen New Yorkers scurried over to Midtown to attend the third annual Rat Academy and get schooled on all things vermin by a health department rat expert, Caroline Bragdon. Graduates of the talk, hosted by Council Member Corey Johnson, walked away with brand-new rat-proof garbage bins and two hours worth of rat facts. Here are 10 lessons we learned at Rat Academy.

  1. The rat map should be your new best resource when apartment hunting or deciding if you should eat at that C-rated restaurant. And yes, there are “uptown” rats and “downtown” rats.
  2. Rat droppings apparently look like multivitamins. Gross. 
  3. Those stray, gnawed chicken bones you see on the street aren’t from a toddler who dropped their snack. Nope, they’re from hungry rats. 
  4. One of last night’s attendees said he found a rat in his toilet and gets nervous when using it now. Which is why you should always close your toilet lid and install one of these pipe flaps
  5. Rats are climbers, so keep the windows closed and the fresh air and rats out. Oh, and mind your strollers
  6. If you were thinking you could hop in your car and drive away from a rat infested apartment, you’d be wrong. Rats love to bring snacks and kick it inside warm vehicles.
  7. Making their homes uninhabitable, a.k.a. burrow harassment, is one of the best ways to evict rats from an area. Try packing their burrows with landscaping pebbles to trap them inside for a less gory solution
  8. If there’s a hole the size of a quarter, a rat can shimmy through without a problem. Mice only need a dime-sized hole.
  9. According to Bragdon, pets don’t scare away rodents and they surely can’t keep up with their rapid breeding. (These rat-hunting dog owners might disagree.) Even predators don’t do much to eradicate them– the city is hesitant to bait in areas where there are large populations of hawks that could be secondarily poisoned.
  10. There’s no known magic-bullet rat repellant, so put the pepper away. Bragdon didn’t mention the mint-scented trash bags that the city spent $5.6 million on last year, but experts have questioned their efficacy as well. Plus, putting a baited trap near a food source will only do so much, since rats will just go to the better food. But hey, you could always adopt them and be this guy.