Think that sewer rats coming up toilets is an urban legend? Think again.

rat in toilet

Walking into your bathroom to see a rat emerging from your toilet bowl may seem like the plot of a low-budget horror film. However, this scenario wasn’t cooked up by a screenwriter looking for ideas on how to frighten audiences. It actually is possible to find a rat in the toilet bowl.

Before you panic, fight the urge to seal your toilet permanently and take a look at how rats can make it up your pipes, as well as what you should do in this situation.

How Do Sewer Rats End Up in the Toilet Bowl?

Sewer rats — which are generally Norway rats — are actually excellent swimmers. They can paddle using their legs, and their long tails can act as rudders that steer them in the right direction. In addition, they’re endurance swimmers. Certain species can tread water for up to three days and hold their breath for three minutes. When it comes to distance, some sewer rats can swim over a mile, though there’s plenty of pipe for them to run through, too. In fact, the rats often only encounter water in the base of your toilet bowl.

However, rats don’t deal well with being hungry, so when food gets scarce, they set out looking for new places to dine. Naturally, the sewer offers easy access to your drain pipes and the food in your home. In addition, rats will eat fecal matter if other food sources aren’t readily available. Combine these factors with the fact that rats have hinged ribcages — making it easy for them to access your home through narrow pipelines — and you see how they can end up in the toilet bowl.

But Sewer Rats Only Exist in New York City, Right?

You may think that the only people who need to worry about coming across a rat in the toilet are residents of metropolitan areas like New York City or Washington, D.C. Sorry, but that’s just not true. Sewer rats can be found anywhere with indoor plumbing, as long as the diameter of the drain system is large enough for the rats to fit through. However, the higher populations of urban areas does mean you may be more likely to find a rat in the toilet bowl if you live in a city.

What Should You Do if You Find a Rat in the Toilet Bowl?

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), rats can directly transmit many diseases to humans, including leptospirosis, rat-bite fever and salmonellosis. Even if they didn’t spread diseases, you probably still wouldn’t be thrilled to find a rat in the toilet. But if you do, there are two steps you should take:

  1. First, back up and close the door so that the rat is confined to the bathroom.
  2. Next, call a rodent control professional so that a trained technician can assess your situation and customize a rat control solution to fit your needs.

Can You Prevent Sewer Rats from Climbing up Your Toilet?

Unfortunately, there’s not much that can be done in terms of prevention. On the bright side, finding a rat in your toilet is a rare occurrence. If you do happen to be one of the lucky few to experience this phenomenon, follow the steps above. You may also want to call the city to notify them, depending on where you live.

If you’ve never encountered a rat in your toilet, chances are you’d like to keep it that way. Learn the best ways to help get rid of rats so that you lessen your chances of lifting your lid to a squeaking surprise.