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How to Deal With a Rat Swimming up the Toilet Bowl

An engineer at heart who knows how to get rid of unwanted furry animals.

A rat in the toilet is likely to be tired from its long swim.

A rat in the toilet is likely to be tired from its long swim.

Is There a Rat in Your Toilet Bowl?

Just about everyone who has ever dealt with a home invasion of rats finds out that rats are capable at running, climbing, and gnawing. Not as many of us have personal experience with rats as swimmers.

Can Rats Swim?

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 OutKeeping 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 an 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 over 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.

Please feel free to add a comment or ask a question

n. on August 25, 2020:

just flush a cat in the toilet and that would solve the problem

Philip on August 24, 2020:

Hopefully 4 litres of bleach will be enough. If not, then it's time to move I guess.

Adida on June 25, 2020:

What type of toilets do they get up

A. on April 29, 2020:

Using bleach on a living animal is sick. What is wrong with you people?

adada on March 12, 2019:

I like rats but not in the toilet

Jesse Jackie Lated on December 23, 2018:

are rats afraid of vacuum cleaners?

g on August 06, 2018:

this can happen.... ew

A B on July 04, 2018:

I think rats have gnawed the pipe that goes from the toilet through the wall down.. now I have the whole pipe opened and needs replacement..

I wrapped the pipe with plastic bags and used a lot of tape around it.. not sure if that's enough but I'm hoping it is until I fix it..

Now I'm not sure if this could happen again or how to prevent that from happening

James McIntyre on May 14, 2018:

How can I prevent rats from swimming up my sewer line when I am away ? Can I pour 16 ounces of bleach in the toilet bowl before I leave and leave it sitting in the bowl ?

Damia on April 01, 2018:

Looked this up today. What my dad did was to take plastic bags and a fishing net that could fit into the toilet bowl. He kind of coaxed the little guy into the plastic bag and then we tied it up. He thought about sending it to the neighbourhood cats to be taken care of. We kind of brainstormed about how to get rid of it. Simply throw it in the trash? The little guy could gnaw its way out and multiply with other rats in the neghbourhood if he manages to find others. Well, we decided that I would kind of grip the rat from the outside of the plastic bag, use the bag as a glove and throw it in a lake near our house. We watched its nose poking out of the water for a while. Then it was gone following a spot of 'boiling' water. (A group of baby fish swimming near the top of the water, usually the mother would be somewhere below them to keep an eye on them) Circle of life, I hope. One less rat (in a toilet bowl), less chances for them to infest the human community.

Jessica on February 26, 2018:

I used long kitchen tongs to grab the little guy and disposed of him across the street and way out in a grassy lot... I couldn't kill it....

Peter on September 19, 2017:

This is for all you deluded folks who have bought into the idea that killing a rat is inhumane. Live and let live, or so it goes. according to that thinking, one should let disease-causing germs live, after all, they are living creatures too. Vaccinations are evil because they kill germs.But what about unborn human babies, that are aborted by the hundreds of thousands each year? Or do you think that they are all products of incest, or that the mother's life was endangered? I bet that you animal rights hypocrites happen to also be pro-choice advocates, and for the same lack of reasoning ability.

Kat on July 21, 2017:

I only looked this up out of curiousity, and all I can say for the people who try to flush it or suffocate it to death with bleach are horrible, take the rat wholeness it's tired and let it out somewhere away from your house, super easy! You don't have to kill the thing in one of the worst possible deaths ever! How about we shove you in a dirty bowl, pour bleach all over you, close the lid and let you suffocate, ON BLEACH! Quite ashamed with people these days, before you harm an animal think about what it feels like. I really do wish that humans get a REAL taste of their medicine from all of the wild life they destroy, and I also hope the rats nip you in the bum for killing their cousin! (Not the time to joke but seriously) CALL AN ANIMAL EXPERT OR TAKE THE RODENT SOMEWHERE AWAY FROM YOUR HOUSE!!!

Geri on May 28, 2017:

I keep finding rat droppings at bottom of toilet bowl I keep lid closed but so confused how their getting in

Bibi on April 23, 2017:

Today a rat came up my toilet . 5th fl0or He never made it out because my cat alerted me. I flushed him down. Flushed 10 times. Then I poured he hottest water from my hand shower down the bowl. Then I put bleach in the toilet , closed the lid and put something heavy on it. This rat was big. He could lift the lid. I put a can of Clorox next to the toilet. That water will have bleach in it now at all times.

Steve on January 09, 2017:

Home owner 101, or how to get rid of the rat. I picked up the lid of my toilet today, for there usual reasons and there staring back at me was a rat. Since I don't think he opened the lid and jumped in, I assume he or she came up through the drain pipe. Probably flooding due to the rain trapped it and this was the only way out. Calling the 24 hour service pest control I found it would be $375 and they would be out tomorrow. I didn't realize the 24 meant that is how long it to to get them. Then my engineering skills kicked in. Closing myself in the bathroom with a large plastic trash bag and a tennis racquet, I went to work. I slipped the bag between the toilet and seat then lifted the seat. The critter soon figured out he could crawl out and fell into the bag. As I anticipated, it fell out of the bag when I lifted the bag away from the toilet. Now I had a cornered rat. I was able to convince the rat that getting back into the bag was the best move using the tennis racquet. I then quickly exited the house and released the rat back into the wild.

Ratbella on August 11, 2016:

Just used your recomendation. Clorox, dead rat. Flushed down the toilet. How else do u get rid of it? Success! (So far) on March 02, 2016:

The best solution is not to just keep the lid down. What happens Kenny when you open the toilet at night or if the rat jumps out!. The best solution is to prevent rats coming in from the inlet at source. This can be done with the sewerdefender fitted in the manhole which works like a non return value. Check them out here

Tisha on September 30, 2015:

My landlord is trying to say Im responsible for this rat getting in to the basement!!! His home underneath the wooden basement steps and is NOT sealed!!! The basement is unfinished!!!

kenny on August 30, 2015:

This exact thing just happened to me 3 days ago. I keep the lid closed at all times. Went to pee before showering for work and saw it just sitting in the water. Freaked out called my land lord he claimed in 25 years hed never heard of that and came to handle it. Said when he went to open the lid that the mouse was wedged inbetween the bowl and the bottom plastic u sit on and was crying because it was being squashed. The city should do itself a favor and upgrade the sewage pipea. Freaking retarded rodants can come up through toliet pipes

missJuM on August 10, 2015:

This is NOT as rear as every article that I've read has stated. This happened to me a month ago today and it happened to me this morning. A rat came out of my toilet and I am very upset. Reporting my landlord ASAP because that has to be breaking some health code law. The first time that I called them reporting it, they said that the never heard that happening before. What a big fat lie.

Manas Kumar Rout from Bhubaneswar, India on April 04, 2013:

Thanks to the author for a great information. But, I didn't know that rats are great swimmers. That's because when I was a little kid, my dad used to place some rat traps in our house and after getting them caught, we used to leave them in a bucket of water for some minutes and after that we always find them dead and this is from real experience of a rat-assassin.