Can Rats Really Come Up Through Toilets?

By Chris Williams on November 18, 2014.

rats can come through sewers to end up in the toiletI know you’re expecting to read that this is an urban myth, that it doesn’t happen. Rats don’t swim through sewer lines and end up in toilets. Unfortunately, it can happen, and it does happen…but fortunately it’s a rare occurrence.

When people do find a rat in their toilet bowl, they assume that it fell into the bowl. Fact is, when a rat ends up in a toilet bowl, it’s usually because it swam there through sewer pipes, not because it fell in while tiptoeing on the rim.

A rat entering a toilet is an uncommon event and usually only occurs if the rat population in the sewers is very large…and if the sewer system and lines are in bad shape. In most areas, it’s the Norway or brown rat that occupies the sewer system. In cities, rats use the older sewer systems as highways (see Rats in Sewers!). They can easily move in and out of the sewers through breaks in drain pipes or where tree roots have invaded the lines, burrowing up into yards.

Rats can travel a sewer system’s lateral lines following the scent of food washed down drains, and can enter the stand pipe to a home. Unable to reach the kitchen, they can swim through the trap and end up in the toilet instead. Rats can also get into toilets by entering the system through a roof vent.

Even so, why don’t the rats drown? Norway rats are semi-aquatic by nature, often nesting in marshy areas and along streams. They can swim as far as half a mile in open water, and can dive and swim under water for 30 seconds at a time. And sewer pipes are rarely completely full of water.

How Do You Get a Rat Out of a Toilet?

Needless to say, closing the lid and flushing does not usually get rid of the toilet rat. Neither does pouring rat poison into the bowl. A glue board on a stick might work, but the best way to remove a rat in a toilet is with an animal loop snare. Professional trappers and companies that do nuisance wildlife management (like Colonial Pest) will have loop snares on hand.

Photo credit: EraPhernalia / Foter / CC BY-SA


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