Ahhhh! Oooh! Wooow! New York City! The Mecca everyone dreams of! Flawless skyscraper condos as astronomically high-reaching as their prices, and sleek tin carriages carrying rivers of people far below. It doesn’t get any more subterranean than the subway, right?
Wrong. It gets deeper, darker, and more delicious. Welcome to the underground kingdom of the real rulers of NYC: The Rat Kingdom. Here are some fun and delightful facts about these furry creatures who outnumber their human counterparts in the Big Apple.
Source: usatoday.com, lrb.com, guardian.com, huffingtonpost.com, nypost.com
There’s a Few of Them
The New York Post, the pillar of all things accurate and scholarly, said it all on June 16th: “There are Twice as Many Rats as People in NYC.” Imagine how many beyond the accounted for 8.4 million aren’t around to answer their door when the census taker comes…
They’re Squeaky Clean
Columbia University researchers just finished their year-long collect-and-study of 133 rats in the Big App. Besides finding a bevy of fever-inducing illnesses and delicious stuff like salmonella in them, some “novel” pathogens were discovered as well. That means the rats were debuting some new bacterial dishes on the market.
They Exercise on Camera
Don’t get in the way of their FloJo. This rat’s evening jog along the river is inexorable, so why get in the way with your camera? The former film maker behind this intense masterpiece on the New York Daily News has now career-shifted to Orkin man.
They Came Through Ellis Island
Rats originated in China, and have been in New York City since the colonial days. Arriving in droves searching for a better life, they found only fierce competition. In Joseph Mitchell’s famous 1944 expose “Rats on the Waterfront,” he cataloged three different species: the brown rat, the black rat, and the Alexandrian rat. The brown rat is the most vicious of all, having driven out or killed off the other two types. Their teeth are stronger than iron or copper, and their incisors grow five inches every year.
They Left Looking for Stardom
The remaining defeated black and Alexandrian rats took off for Los Angeles. Many of them are aging Hollywood producers now.
Disclaimer: Fievel was a mouse, not a rat.
They’re Emotionally Fiery
Over a quarter of unknown fires are said to be caused by rats. This is on account of their knawing through electrical wires and gas pipes, or when they get too drunk during a Paella neighborhood cookoff in Brooklyn.
They Love Love
It’s been said that in most major cities, you’re never more than 15 feet away from a rat. In Robert Sullivan’s on-the-ground research book on the NYC rodents, Rats, he covers their penchant for gettin’ down anywhere, anytime. “If you are in New York while you are reading this sentence…then you are in proximity to two or more rats having sex.” (Guardian). A dominant male rat may fornicate with over 20 female rats in a matter of six hours; often it doesn’t matter if the female rat has been dead for awhile.
They Tip the Terrorist Alert Scale
The United States Department of Homeland Security has personnel ready in New York at all times with bomb-detection materials. They also have to catch rats in order to snag the fleas off of them, to inspect if a bio-terrorist has fed them the Black Death. True stories.
There is a Rodent Control Academy
Finally, the “Police Academy” series is nearing its completion. The New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene offers courses on “rat management,” which means that when the PhD is completed, you’re basically a psychotherapist for all of the aimless, wandering whiskery friends in the Five Boroughs.
They Prefer Chicago Hot Dogs
The heart of the Midwest is often roundly beating out New York City in magazines lauding it for its livability, culture, and cheap rent. At this year’s Ratcademy Awards ceremony, heavy always-favorite NYC could barely feign a supportive smile when it was placed FOURTH PLACE behind D.C., L.A., and the winner: Chicago! Based upon Orkin’s reportage of number of rat treatments they had to perform in a year, which could also mean that New Yorkers have given in, setting extra plates at the table.