Picture the following scene: an unsuspecting Jon Doe walks in the restroom to tend to his business, but when he lifts up the toilet lid a horror awaits him. There's a rat swimming in the bowl! Petrified, he runs for the hills never to be seen again.
Sadly, this can actually happen in cities with older sewer systems. Read on to find out how to deal with a case like this, and how to prevent it from happening to you.
How Do Rats Manage to Swim Up the Toilet?
Not to speak in praise of rats, but these rodents have quite an impressive physique. Know thy enemy: rats can swim for three days, holding their breath up to 3 minutes at a time. They can go about half a mile in one stretch (which is quite insane, considering their size). They have a compressible ribcage which allows them to squeeze through holes as small as the size of a quarter.
Human cities are their natural habitat. The common city rat, also named Norway rat, isn't found in the wild at all. They've been in contact with humans for centuries, depending on us for food. So one easy measure you can take today is keeping your trash tightly closed and as far away as possible from the sewer drain.
But the rats' anatomy and dependency on us for food isn't the only thing that makes them crawl up the toilet. There's also the quite inviting anatomy of the toilet itself. This video demonstrates:
There's a curvy pipe that goes from your toilet to the sewer, leading waste away. It is called a trap or the S-bend and its bendy design blocks the sewer smells from stinking your home. But the same bend creates an air pocket for rats to access in their relentless search for food.
Should I Be Worried?
Not every sewer system is susceptible to a rat infestation. In fact, most people won't have to worry about a rat in their toilet as it is quite a rare occasion.
Odds of a rat climbing up your toilet increase in the following cases:
- The sewer system in your city is old and built with bricks. These allow the rats to easily climb up the walls.
- Your sewer lines are broken.
- There have been heavy rains that caused the sewers to overflow.
What Can I Do?
Your immediate reaction should be to close the lid and call a plumber to come and remove the rodent safely and harmlessly. In the rare case a plumber is not an option for you, there is another thing you can do. This is an absolute last measure, so do it only if you maxed out all your options: empty a bottle of bleach in your toilet bowl. The rat will die of asphyxiation in 10-15 minutes.
As a preventative measure, install a rat guard in your toilet, also called a one-way toilet flap. It is a valve that opens towards the sewer allowing water and waste through, while blocking anything else from coming up. You can also call up a rodent control company to inspect your plumbing system. Fix any broken pipes and install newer ones made of PVC, that are as wide as 24 inches.