Toronto has a rat problem, and it’s not going away anytime soon

Social media posts over the last couple of months have shown what seems to be an increase in the city's rat population, although numbers aren't tracked. Mark McAllister looks at why Toronto was recently named Canada's "rattiest" city.

By Mark McAllister and Lucas Casaletto

Look around the city’s public spaces among an abundance of trash bins and gardens, and you’ll likely notice that rats are everywhere, to the point where traps are starting to show up outside Toronto’s many buildings and small businesses.

Carleton Grant, Executive Director of Municipal Licensing and Standards, tells CityNews that Toronto’s rat population isn’t slowing down.

“Rats multiply very quickly,” Grant said. “A female rat can have up to six litters a year. Eight to 18 pups per litter, so the multiplication factor is significant.”

Orkin, the pest control company, recently released its annual list of Canadian cities with rodent issues and deduced that Toronto has a higher population of rodents than any other place in the country.

Mississauga was the only other Ontario city that cracked Orkin’s top 10 list, but the GTA is well-represented in the top 25, with Brampton, Etobicoke, North York, Oshawa, and Scarborough all making a list. Ottawa and Sudbury were the other Ontario representatives.

Not helping matters is a recent surge in citizens documenting the presence of rats running around the city on social media, including sightings near a construction zone on Yonge and Eglinton and in Nathan Phillips Square.

“It is an issue. We do see it in the construction season. I know that’s year-round in Toronto, but in the fall, in particular, we do see spikes in the number of rats [in Toronto],” Grant added.

Toronto deals with rat control in different ways

Toronto’s property standards deal with some rat complaints, while Toronto Public Health investigates food premises.

Shortly after being re-elected as mayor, John Tory acknowledged that Toronto must do better to keep city streets clean.

Last week, Tory made it clear that he’s heard the complaints and vowed to take immediate action, announcing a slew of new clean-up initiatives, including graffiti blitzes of public and private property and public litter bin blitzes, among others.


Orkin, the pest control company, released its annual list of Canadian cities with rodent issues and deduced Ontario’s capital has a higher population of pests than any other place in the country. Photo: Unsplash.

“I have asked city staff to undertake immediate actions to clean up city streets in public spaces,” Tory said.

While rat sightings on the street and in public spaces are becoming more common, the vermin have been around TTC subway station platforms for years. New York City recently announced that it’s changing the time of day garbage bins are set out on the street to detract from the presence of rats.

The City of Toronto, meanwhile, says it’s not responsible for issues on private property, noting that riders should call pest control companies if it becomes a bigger problem.

“We’re trying to identify and educate residents and businesses on what they can do to identify and prevent rat infestation,” Grant said. “Everyone plays a part in controlling the rat population.”

City officials say they will continue to address complaints for garbage or debris issues that attract rats at rental apartment buildings or if a landlord does not address rodent issues. They suggest storing garbage in rodent-proof containers with tight-fitting lids and eliminating food sources.

“Residents and business owners are responsible for maintaining their properties to prevent issues with rodents,” the city’s website reads.

“If you are having issues with rodents on your property, implement preventative measures to deter them.”

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