Community Post

Rats in the Neighborhood

It’s summer in Seattle and the rats are looking for food! This seems to be a bad year for rats in the Central District and its good to be aware of what we can do to keep them out of our yards and homes. It seems gross but we shouldn’t ignore this “not so fun fact” about the neighborhood. Just because you don’t see them doesn’t mean they aren’t eating or living in your yard. Welcome to City living!

1. Make sure your garbage is secure and tightly closed, try to limit putting rotting food in the bin until trash day

2. Keep your yard clean, rats love to nest under wood piles and in tall grass

3. Rats will feed on almost anything (even pet waste) and they seem to love fresh summer fruits and vegetables growing in your yard. I know we all love to grow our own veggies but know that you will most likely be sharing them with the rats

4. Don’t feed birds – you’ll be feeding more rats and attracting them to your yard

Reminder – Rats can fit through any space the size of a silver dollar so make sure your fence and house don’t have open areas.

18 thoughts on “Rats in the Neighborhood

  1. Sara – Thank you for this post. The rat population in the CD is very troubling. There are several people in my block that actually feed the rats multiple times per day and several others that feed the gulls and pigions. These people are putting out leftover rice, noodles, vegetable dishes often in large tins, foam trays that look like they come from a restaraunt. The rats can be seen mid day right on the sidewalk. Some of the people dump piles of food right on the intersection wheel chair ramps. Last year I killed 3 rats within minutes – broad daylight with traps.

    First I set one trap down, started to walk away and SNAP! I only got 15 feet. Rat was dead. So I reset the trap and went 20 feet, waited a minute or two and SNAP! Had to stomp on that one, then rest. At the same time a crow came and took the body of the first rat. 20 feet. A few minutes later SNAP! Reset, nothing for about 10 minutes, so I went home. Came back all the dead rats were gone, many more munching away. Over the course of days I snapped 9 rats. I also got some rat poison and put that down some of the tunnels. Didn’t see any more day rats for a while but the food kept piling up along with the trays.

    This year – more rats in daylight. I’m tired of killing them and feel lucky that no dogs got into the poison, though I was pretty carefull about placement.

    We did have to quit feeding the birds as we were part of the problem. Now even the humming bird feeder is attracting the sugar ants – the little red ones. I think I have some rotten spots around one of the window that the ands may be into. Got to get on that.

    What can we do about the rat/bird feeders. They are all elderly, mostly foreign born, little english. It’s tough to yell at old women that have no idea what you are going on about. It really seems idiotic.

  2. They take this very seriously. These people are probably Buddhist. We have some neighbors who did the same thing and the rats problem was serious. Once they stopped putting food out it got better. But King County Public Health had to talk to them several times.

    Report rat problems to Public Health.
    Call 206-205-4394 or online at

  3. The rat was the first to approach Buddha, apparently. In Hinduism there is a rat goddess, Karni Mata. So, different cultures, different views. I’d imagine though that a translation of health concerns in the target language from the health department might help.

    There’s a house on MLK off Union occupied by legally by its inheritor that literally is crawling with rats, some with mange. the health department can do nothing if he chooses to have them or until he falls behind on taxes. Even in NYC I have never seen as many rats out in broad daylight, all over the porch and porch steps as I have coming from that house. That poor man (who clearly needs help) must have them crawling all over him while he sleeps. As long as he has the house, and refuses help there’s little (again, according to the Health Dept) anyone can do to intervene.

  4. Thanks Bob and Imsee. Good information regarding a very frustrating problem. I’ll try health dept, but, while I see the people and know generally where they live, I don’t know them or their specific apartment #s. We’ll see. I do know the apt. manager, he might help, but not directly. It is a Seattle Housing Authority building so he has to be careful. He has helped get some petty criminals thrown out. One had a fetish for going out and flattening tires, especially the managers. Mine once. Dozens of cars over a few years. I suppose that’s probably not a Buddhist thing – or is that the many pathways concept religion? It could be the Zen of tire flattening that takes him to Nirvanna.

  5. I dunno but that sounds like the pathway of vengeance, especially since he was going for particular cars. Anger is a powerful thing generally not very enlightening but powerful and sometimes satisfying. Hope he was one of the ones who was forced to move on and pursue his path elsewhere

  6. Ya, he was caught on video doing the manager’s tires for the 4th time. He’s gone. His anger was about being told he had to pay the rent, minimal as it was.

  7. So I’m about a 6 or 7 on the manly man scale. Into art, music, beer and sports. Can hold my own when I get fucked with… but, I’m terrified of mice and rats. I take the majority of the precautions listed above and keep my yard tidy-ish. I also have a cat although I’m reading mixed reviews on whether they keep pests away. Any thoughts on this?

    A few days ago I was driving down Union (where it intersects with 25th) when I saw a rat cross right in front of my car. Was pretty surprised to see one during the day in the middle of the road. Gross. If close to my house was feeding them I would be pissed as hell. Gross.

  8. Well Barney, you underestimate yourself. Being angry and admitting to it raises your score on the man or woman scale by a point or two, moving you to the 7-8 range. Rats are one of the most frightening things there is. If you saw one in broad daylight crossing traffic, I would imagine there are 10-20,000 within blocks of you. It means they are crawling all over themselves in all the dark corners and the only way to survive for some is to go out mid day. Like a worm crossing the street at noon today – a pretty desperate worm.

    I lived in a house where the woman I rented from had a dog and a cat. She kept the food in open bins that hinged out from the kitchen cabines. I lived in the basement and could see huge rats running on the sink drain pipes and climbing up into the kitchen. I discussed the problem and she was highle offended and denied it. A few nights later on ran across my face while I was sleeping. I moved out that night and stayed im my truck for about a week until I found a new place. As I was packing up a young rat dove into one of my boxes. I couldn’t find it. But again, one night in my truck, it came out and was running all over the place. I tore everything out of the truck but couldn’t find it. It showed up again the next night. Finally I took everything out and left the truck open all day in the sun. It went away. This was a really nice house in a great neighborhood, with a basement apartment.

    Food and garbage control are critical. Leave composting to the folks at Emerald Services. Food compost always has rats. Rats spread disease. They crawl around in all your stuff. They even lick your tooth brush at night.

  9. We have a large dog and initially I thought this would help keep pests from our yard. But no – these rats are not intimidated by the smell of dogs or cats and they will eat pet waste if you leave it in your yard.(gross!) The rats in our neighborhood have been unchallenged for so long that there is no fear of dogs, cats or humans. Make sure to keep your pet food in a place that rats can’t smell or access. Rats carry fleas and disease that can be transferred to your pet.

    As Bob said above, please report any rat sightings to King County!

    Report rat problems to Public Health.
    Call 206-205-4394 or online at

  10. Wow. I haven’t been this grossed out in quite some time. I, too, saw a rat run through my yard not so long ago. The day I can deal with rats crawling over my face better be when I am dead and buried.

  11. if it has anything to do with the new mandatory composting rules? From the beginning, I thought it was a questionable program to implement in “Rat City.”

  12. Sooo… I have a small dish with about a cup of cat food in it for my cat. She never seems to destroy all the food right when I feed her, but rather just nibbles all day long. Frequently, there will be food in the dish in the morning when i go to re-feed the little shit. That is my only dead give away rat attraction. The food is kept in a dish on the kitchen floor in a wire frame that’s a few inches off the ground. Definitely rat accessible though. I don’t see a way around this short of keeping cat chow in my pocket and make her beg for it. Rats make my dizzy and makes me want to puke when I see one. Super gross and nasty.

  13. I think the little green compost bins are better than the garbage cans. They go to Emerald Services/Cedar Grove for comercial composting. Composting yard waste at home is fine, but, putting food waste in home compost gauranties rats.

    A small tin of cat food is fine so long as they don’t discover it. You would know if they were in the house because of the little rat shits in the cabinets – it’s not black rice so don’t scoop it up and cook it. And watch out for the little black rice peices in the white rice. Again, not rice.

  14. so it sounds like pretty much rats are running in/around the neighborhood. Pet food can be a bonus for said rats. But, i thought having a cat would assist in pet control? i know, all those saturday morn cartoons may have damaged my brain, however, i really thought that if you had a cat your chances of rats/mice would be GREATLY decreased (or deceased LOL) any thoughts on this? i would think the risk of leaving out cat food would be small potatoes to the cat on the prowl…

  15. Get yourself a Dachshund. No rat will come within a foot of your place. If they do, they won’t live to tell about it. Those little guys know just how to clamp those long snouts of theirs on a rat.

  16. Absolutely agree! My cat was great at dragging the occasional live rat in through the cat door and then getting bored with them. But as soon as my dachshund would realize there was rat – he would zero in and dispatch the critter in no time.

  17. Today I saw rats on the sidwalk at Lane and 23rd. At least three of them. One was huge!

  18. Does anyone else think its a bad idea for the autoshop on 22nd and Olive to keep a bird feeder out everyday…it feeds A LOT of pigeons, and then I’m sure the rats/mice feed on the scraps on the ground…

    i dont get it! why do they have it there? drives me crazy.

    otherwise they seem like a good neighbor, and always busy, so good for them. but with all of the alleys, weedy lots, and the couple of abandoned buildings across the street from them, it seems like a bad idea to have that feeder there all the time.