How to Deal With a Rat Swimming up the Toilet Bowl
Just about everyone who has ever dealt with a home invasion of rats finds out that rats are very capable at running, climbing, and gnawing. Not as many of us have personal experience with rats as swimmers.
In communities around the world, especially where the municipal sewer systems are older, it is common for plumbers to get requests to remove rats from toilet bowls. Generally, this happens where sewer lines are broken or have fallen into disrepair. It can also become a problem after heavy seasonal rains when water overwhelms the sewer system.
Rats can tread water for as long as three or four days. They can swim a kilometer (about half a mile) or more to reach dry ground—or a dry water closet or bathroom, as the case may be. A rat emerging in the toilet bowl is likely to be exhausted by its trip and relatively non-aggressive, but that doesn't make a lot of difference to the undressed and vulnerable bathroom user.
While this story may tickle the funny bone of readers who were not there, nothing engenders rodentophobia like beginning to sit down, with a naked behind, on a tired and hungry rat.
Rats In the Toilet?
Getting Them Out
Keeping Them Out
Pour bleach into the bowl and close lid. The rat will die of asphyxiation within 15 minutes.
Install sewer pipes made of PVC or clay at least 24 inches/60 cm wide.
Call a plumber, who will use a snare to remove rat.
Place a one-way rat baffle in the sewer line.
Make sure any garbage cans next to curb drains are tightly sealed. This keeps rats from congregating at that sewer entrance to get food.
Ways to Kill the Rat
People who encounter rats in the toilet tend to overreact. According to pest control specialist Robert M. Corrigan, author of Rodent Control: A Practical Guide for Pest Management Professionals, homeowners have attempted to kill sewer rats by electrocution, flame throwers, poisons, and shot guns. Rats have been stabbed, choked, and bludgeoned. According to Corrigan, these desperate attempts at rodent control are more likely to result in injury to the homeowner than to the rat.
There's a much simpler approach to the problem that sometimes will work: Flush.
Although flushing is unlikely to send even the most fatigued rat back into the sewer system, it will at least buy time to escape the toilet, attend to personal hygiene, get dressed, and prepare other measures.
Homeowners determined to kill the rat on the spot have an equally simple solution. Pour bleach into the bowl, close the lid, and the rat will be asphyxiated in 10 to 15 minutes. Pouring D-Con and other rat poisons into the bowl will not be effective; these poisons take 3 or 4 days to a week to work. Besides, the Environmental Protection Agency is in the process of removing it from the consumer market, according to their website.
What Plumbers Do
Pest control professionals remove rodents from toilet bowls with a snare. A wire loop is placed around the rat's neck, and the rat is lifted, alive, from the toilet. A rat trap dangled on a string is not a substitute for a snare. If the trap snaps on the rat's paw, tail, or nose, the result is a very angry rat that may be inclined to take revenge on the trapper's fingers, or on other delicate appendages within biting distance.
Frequently Asked Questions
Q. Is every sewer system infested with rats?
A. No, just as most sewer systems aren't infested with alligators, sewer rats don't occur all that commonly in sewers. It is primarily the older sewer systems that were built with bricks, giving rats a toe-hold for travel, that harbor sewer rats. Bricks also enable easy migration of cockroaches, the sewer rat's preferred food.
Q. Does road construction send rats up out of the sewer?
A. No, construction noise does not disturb sewer rats. They are likely to remain in their underground lairs happily eating cockroaches until a manhole cover is removed or direct excavation opens the sewer.
Q. Do rats prefer some sewers more than others?
A. Yes. Any sewer line attached to a garbage disposal provides rats with a food supply.
Q. Is a rat baffle the only way to stop rats from swimming up the toilet bowl?
A. Rats can't get a grip on clay or PVC pipe, and have to swim the entire way up PVC or clay. The larger the pipe, the less the problem of rat infestation. Rats prefer tight, enclosed spaces for travel. When sewer pipes are wider than about 24 inches/60 cm, rats avoid them.
Q. Is there anything else I can do to prevent invasions by sewer rats.
A. Yes. If you put out your garbage next to a drain on the side of the street, make sure the container's lid is kept tightly closed. This keeps rats from congregating at that sewer entrance to get food.
This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.