How Do They Not Get It? Rats Don't Like Dog Poop


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Rats don’t like dog feces. That’s the truth. I am tired of public officials and others who blame dogs owners not picking up for the rat problem. We were at a city festival over the weekend, and they were giving out signs which blamed dogs for the city’s rat problem. That simply is untrue!

Of course, dog owners should absolutely pick up! There are potential health issues to other dogs and it’s just plain rude not to pick up. However, rats are not dining on the dog poo.

According to our friends (not the rats’ friends) at Orkin, Chicago continues to be the ‘Rattiest city.” This is a bit part of the problem, trash everywhere:

A open buffet

What happens at the open buffet

Given the opportunity of eating tossed human food items in the trash, rats always choose that easy meal, as they’ve done for eons around the world. And they never choose dog feces, sometimes even if they’re starving – they just don’t link dog feces to being food. In fact, when rats overpopulate, they may even dine on their own young before eating dog poo.

A part of the increased rat problem in Chicago is due to all the construction going on, infrastructure construction and also building new buildings. All this stirs up rat homes and they come out of hiding seeking new real estate to live. 

Experts suggest these means to combat rats and educate people about what they can do. The rat problem in major cities will never completely go away, but these steps will make a difference:

  1. Make the rats’ most common food source more difficult to come by. In Chicago, there are thousands of overflowing trash cans without covers (such as the one pictured above VERY near to where signage was being given out blaming dog feces for the rat problems), not to mention people who just toss trash into the street or alley. Rats currently have no problem enjoying leftover Chicago deep dish pizza, day-old fruits, or leftover tacos. Food is incredibly easy to find. The large garbage bins with plastic covers are helpful (because hard plastic covers are better than none at all), but rats are able to chew through plastic. Metal trash bins with heavy metal covers are best, but don’t help much when trash is overflowing and lids are not closed.
  2. While I don’t endorse the city cut down trees with berries, rats do relish these berries. Homeowners can wash the berries from the sidewalk into a storm drain. Drowned berries don’t taste good.
  3. Bird seed in feeders attract more than feathered friends; rats enjoy bird seed. There are “rat-proof” bird feeders available.
  4. Rats eat pet food left outdoors for pets, so don’t leave pet food outside. If you toss bread outside for the birds in the winter, be sure if that bread is eaten by birds not rats.

Make home living tough:

  1. Trash their homes: Pouring dirt into a rat hole won’t do much. Often, they’ll only dig out. Dry ice, commonly used by stagehands to create an artificial fog effect and by merchants trying to keep perishables from spoiling, also can be deadly to small animals at high concentrations. Some cities were using it, but stopped when animal rights advocates protested. I’m unsure how rodenticides are a better choice, because death is more prolonged when rats are poisoned. And, rodenticides have the potential to be eaten by dogs, cats, and even children. Also, rodenticides aren’t 100 percent effective. Get this: Buddies sniff a killed rat comrade. If they can ascertain the cause of death, they actually learn not to ingest the same food that proved terminal to their pal. Another means to fill a rat hole is to use concrete mix (using water), and then cover with dirt (remember all exits and entrances must be sealed). If the dry ice or concrete methods are administered in the morning or early afternoon when rats are sleeping, they’ll either never awaken (dry ice method) or they’ll be buried alive (concrete method).
  2. Rats (and mice) can make their homes inside piled up firewood, and may also snack on it. Firewood should be in an enclosed metal shed.
  3. Cats and rats aren’t the best of pals—that’s not news. Some cities have programs to relocate outdoor feral cats already spay/neutered and vaccinated against rabies to where there’s a persistent rat problem. The cats move in, the rats move out (or may be killed). This system was successfully in place in Chicago; however, the organization that was known worldwide for their “working cat program” had many internal changes causing staff and volunteers to depart, and left them with programs like this one barely hanging on or not existing at all. My hope is that another group in the city will fulfill the need.

In the end, there is no one solution for controlling rats. Success lies in a multimodal approach. However, dog feces has nothing to do with the rat problem. Even if every spot of dog poo were removed (I like that idea), the problem would still be the same.

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Steve Dale is a certified animal behavior specialist who has been a trusted voice in the world of pet health for over 20 years. You have likely heard him on the radio, read him in print and online, and seen him speaking at events all over the world. His contributions to advancing pet wellness have earned him many an award and recognition around the globe.

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