Higher rat abundance in greener urban areas

Marieke P. de Cock*, Helen J. Esser, Wim H.M. van der Poel, Hein Sprong, Miriam Maas

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Urban greening has become an increasingly popular strategy to improve urban life and human health. However, there are indications that the presence and extent of urban greenness may increase the abundance of wild rats. Therefore, we investigated which environmental and socio-economic factors are associated with rat abundance, with a focus on factors related to urban greenness. We systematically trapped rats (222 Rattus norvegicus and 5 Rattus rattus) in parks and residential areas in three cities in the Netherlands. We modelled the relative abundance of rats against various environmental and socio-economic variables. In addition, we compared municipality rat complaint data with our trapping data and analysed trap success over time. We observed positive relationships between the relative abundance of rats and both greenness (NDVI) and different proxies for food resources (restaurants and petting zoos). In addition, there were more municipality rat complaints in residential areas compared to parks, while there was a higher relative abundance of rats in parks. Our findings corroborate that greenness is associated with a higher abundance of wild rats, and that municipality rat complaints may underestimate the abundance of rats in greener urban areas. This study provides new insights on factors affecting relative rat abundance in cities and can guide policy makers and city planners how to minimize rat nuisance in the greener parts of cities. By taking these potential effects of urban greenness on rat abundance into account, measures can be taken that on the one hand maintain the beneficial effects of urban greening, but at the same time reduce the carrying capacity for rats.

Original languageEnglish
JournalUrban Ecosystems
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 1 Mar 2024


  • Cities
  • Nuisance
  • Rat complaints
  • Rodents
  • Traps
  • Wild rats


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