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facts about rats in london

Urban Myths Vs True Facts About Rats

Humans and rats have been living together so long in cities, that various urban myths about them have sprung up. But are these myths true? We will explore five popular myths about rats and debunk then or confirm them as genuine facts about rats.

You are never more than six feet from a rat

This is one of the most common myths about rats and applies to urban areas. It tends to creep people out. A conservative estimate says that you are never more than 164 feet away from a rat, which is more than 27 times the urban myth figure. If you are close to refuse tips, urban waterways, warehouses and places where human food waste is available, then you may well be within six feet of a rat, because these places have the most rats.

pest control in the london area

There has been much speculation when it comes to this aspect of pest control in the London area, but the fact is – no one knows for sure. It depends how many rats there are. This leads us on to our next point.

The ratio of rats to people is about 1:1 in London

This theory leads to the question of how many rats are there in the UK, in particular London. Estimates as to how many rats there are in London vary wildly from around 1 million to 20 million (that goes from a ratio of 1 rat for every 9 residents, up to more than 2 rats for every person). We can be certain of one thing…rats are very hard to count! We know sightings of rats increased during the lockdowns of 2020. It seemed like rat numbers increased during that period. They definitely got bolder as they got more desperate, and the streets went quiet.

Facts about rats: they live in sewers

Yes, this one is true! Below London, rats are thriving in the network of sewers. One of the alternative names for the brown rat is the ‘sewer rat’.

rat numbers in sewer

Sewers can provide ideal places for rats to build nests and raise young, and to stay safe from predators. They also make it easy to get around the city without encountering humans and traffic. Having rats enter homes from the drains is one of the worst pest nightmares you can imagine.

Facts about rats: they spread diseases

Rats can contaminate food and other products, and so we have to say that this one is true. It’s the reason pest prevention and pest control are needed to take care of rats, whether you need to protect your home from rats or safeguard a business – especially where food is concerned. Rats did not, however, actually carry the plague. They were hosts for the fleas that spread the disease to humans.

Giant rats are now being seen in London

It is possible that rats are evolving to be bigger than their predecessors. It is claimed that the largest rat found was 21 inches long. However, some photos (which showed up on social media) have been misleading. By holding a rat close to the camera at arm’s length, the rat can appear bigger than it really is. This has led to unnecessary alarm and has caused an urban myth that we can debunk!


Sally has been writing on the subject of pest control for 4 years. She always carries out extensive and in depth research and always tries to bring you the most up to date, interesting topics.

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