Did You Know Rats Can Wriggle Up Your Toilet?
If you thought rats coming out of the toilet was just a myth, we're here to tell you that it can and does happen. If you live in an urban area with a public sewer system, you could be a prime target for rats. Chicago and other metropolitan areas often combine waste water and storm water in the same sewer system, making it more likely for rats to access the plumbing and swim up your toilet.
Why do rats come up the toilet?
Rats come up the toilet to seek a food source or to find shelter. They are often attracted by food particles from your kitchen sink or garbage disposals, but aren't above eating undigested fecal matter if food is in short supply. Typically, they come up your toilet because you are providing them with a source of yummy food and a place to hunker down for the night. They might also come up your toilet because it is offers them a convenient escape from overfilled sewer systems.
How do rats swim up the pipes?
Rats have the ability to hold their breath under water for up to three minutes, and they even can tread water for three days and swim up to half a mile to seek a dry area. That means sewer rats trapped in the water world of overflowing sewer systems might seek out the drain pipes to your toilet in an attempt to find dry ground. Once they arrive, they may decide to set up residence because you are providing them with everything they need to survive.
According to National Geographic, rats have the ability to collapse their ribs, which are attached to the spine on “hinges.” If the rat can fit its head through an opening, the rest of the body can squeeze through. Rats also have sharp claws that allow them to climb nearly any surface and can even climb vertically. When rats enter the drain pipe of your toilet, they follow the pipe up and even stop to take a quick breath in the air pockets at the top of the turns in the trap.
How do you prevent rats from swimming up the pipes?
Although it isn't possible to prevent rats from swimming up the pipes without having a plumber install a rat guard in your sewer pipes, there some things you can do to make your home uninviting to rats, including:
Not flushing food down the toilet
Using the garbage disposal sparingly, and always flushing it with clear water after you use it
Keeping your kitchen sink and drain clean. Do this by rinsing the drain with bleach and water daily to remove food odors and deter rats seeking food
Keeping the toilet lid closed. If rats do gain access to your toilet, they will be trapped in the bowl and unable to escape.
What should you do when rats come up your toilet?
When the unthinkable happens and you discover a rat in your toilet bowl, resist the urge to panic. Here's what you need to do:
Close the lid to the toilet.
Squirt dish detergent into the toilet through the crack under the lid. This breaks the surface tension of the water making it easier to flush the rat back to the sewer.
Flush the toilet several times. If you are lucky the rat will be flushed out of the drain with the gush of water in your plumbing.
Check that the rat is no longer in the toilet bowl.
Who can help me keep the rats out?
Your local emergency plumber has the experience and expertise to remove the rat from your toilet bowl safely and to install rat guards in your drains to keep future rats from finding their way to your toilet. This probably isn't the time to try to save a few bucks by calling in your local handyman or DIY-er. Look for a certified plumber to get the job done.