The chances of lifting the lid of your toilet only to be greeted by a rodent treading water are slim but it does occasionally happen, especially in big cities with large sewer systems that encourage the spread of rat infestations. City sewers are often cracked and damaged allowing rats to enter easily, eventually turning up in your home as unwanted toilet pests.
Fortunately, by acting quickly and calmly you can deal with the rat in your toilet by shutting the lid and flushing immediately. Flushing is unlikely to return the rat to the sewer system but it will give you time to grab some Clorox bleach and pour it into the bowl.
If you have been one of the unlucky few that have suffered from rats and other pests such as snakes coming up your toilet pipe then you're not alone. Every year pest control companies receive a number of calls from shocked homeowners who find a rat in their toilet bowl and are unsure of what to do and how to get rid of it.
It's every homeowner's worst nightmare and can be scary especially if you panic and let the rat escape into your home!
Using bleach in the toilet will kill the rat from asphyxiation within 15 minutes and is usually the most effective way to quickly kill a rat in your toilet.
If you would prefer a humane way of removing the rat then you could catch it and release it some distance from your property. Do not attempt to pick up a live rat from the toilet with your bare hands. Rats are vermin and carry diseases that will make you ill. A bite or scratch from a rat could result in a trip to the doctors especially if the wound becomes infected. Sewer rats are likely to have been feeding on human excrement that's floated by which should be enough to put you off handling one!
Call a pest control company for advice. They usually have snares which they can trap the rat in and safely remove it from the toilet bowl. You may be waiting for a few hours for the pest company to arrive. Put something heavy on the lid of the toilet to stop the rat from escaping and wait.
A professional pest control company will also be able to give you advice on rodent-proofing your home and are used to dealing with a range of animals in toilets such as snakes and frogs.
How to stop rats from returning to your toilet
The best way to prevent rats from returning to your toilet is to install a non-return valve on your waste pipe. Known as rat flaps or rat blockers these devices prevent rats and other pests from entering but do not stop the flow of waste. They work by fitting snuggly into the waste pipe and blocking external access to the pipe. Waste can flow out but rodents can't get in. These flaps can also help reduce water usage by up to 50%.
Did you know? Rats can collapse their ribs so they can squeeze through holes the size of a quarter.
Stop rats climbing your drain pipes
Rats can also climb down vent stack pipes and into your toilet. I would recommend covering your pipes with rodent-proof wire mesh to stop this from happening.
Also, look for holes around your property that could be the sign of a rat infestation. Install rat traps around your property using bait or poison to catch and kill them. If you decide to use poison always make sure you place the poison in a rat trap so it's safely away from pets, children, and other animals.
You may be interested in How to stop rats getting in your drains.
How do rats come up your toilet from the sewer?
Rats can easily sneak into grates and manhole covers on the street and residential sewer pipes feed into the main tunnels below your home. A rat may find this an irresistible path for exploration. Its sharp claws allow the rat to scale any verticle surface. Once in the pipes rats can find their way through the toilet system and up into the bowl of your toilet.
Can rats swim through toilet pipes?
Rats are expert swimmers and can easily make their way through water-filled pipes. They paddle with their back legs and use their front feet to steer, also using their long tail as a rudder. Rats have incredible stamina and can tread water for 3 days and can hold their breath underwater for up to 3 minutes.
The u-bend of your toilet is also filled with air (not water) making it easy for the rat to squeeze and twist through the narrow space. Rats are incredibly flexible and can collapse their ribs to squeeze through tight spaces big enough to get their heads through and into your pipes.
Are you likely to find a rat in your toilet?
As the population in towns and cities grows so does the rat population. Increased human waste puts pressure on sewers and encourages rats and rodents to spread. Finding a rat in your home doesn't necessarily mean you have a problem with cleanliness, it's more likely that the rat has come up from sewers looking for food and shelter.
Rats may have found a way onto your roof or have scaled the wall via your drainage pipes. Check for signs of rats around your home, small holes in the ground which keep reappearing after you have closed them up are a sign.
You will notice droppings, grease marks left by their fur, or chewed edgings around your home. This is a sure sign that you could have an infestation and you should be taking steps to get rid of the rats.
Read more about how to stop a rat infestation.