Yes, Rats Can Swim Up Through Your Toilet—Here’s What to Do Next

Jess Lynk
Written by Jess Lynk
Updated October 12, 2021
Toilet in modern bathroom
New Africa -

If you’re unlucky enough to find a rat in your toilet, you’ll want to act quickly

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It’s an absolute nightmare of a situation: You walk into the bathroom and find a rat swimming around inside your toilet bowl. 

Although it’s unlikely you’ll find yourself dealing with this problem, it still is possible. Rats can travel far in sewers and pipes in search of food and shelter, and sometimes this journey leads them to a toilet bowl.

Discover why this is and what you should do if you ever find yourself face to face with a rat in your toilet bowl.

Can Rats Swim Through Toilet Pipes?

The short answer, yes. Rats can wiggle through tight spaces, and when they’re determined, that can include your pipes and toilet. 

According to the University of Missouri, rats are amazing swimmers and are attracted to areas with food. They also have a keen sense of smell, so they can sniff out where they should go to find a meal, even from the sewer. They smell the yummy scraps that you dump down your sink and can eventually end up near your toilet pipes. Once there, the U-bend of a toilet creates a tiny pocket of air, giving the rat a chance to catch its breath and make its way through that last foot or so of piping. Since they are such strong swimmers, toilet pipes are usually not a huge obstacle for them. 

This may feel like a big city issue, but sewer rats live anywhere there are sewer pipes. City centers do tend to have bigger rat populations, though, making it more likely you would see a rat in your toilet in these areas.

What Do I Do if a Rat Comes Up Through My Toilet?

Brandon Bradshaw, owner of Eco Elite Pest Control in Kent, WA, says he gets one or two calls a year for rats in toilets.

If you see a rat coming up through the toilet, try to stay calm and move quickly. Bradshaw says to put something heavy on the toilet lid fast, encouraging the rat to go back towards the sewer pipes. From there, call a local pest or rodent control pro to help you, and in the meantime, try to avoid the rat escaping from your bathroom.

While you shouldn’t panic, you shouldn’t ignore the problem either. Rats carry diseases, according to the CDC, which is just another reason why you’ll want to get this situation taken care of ASAP. 

How Likely Is It to Find a Rat in Your Toilet?

Thankfully, it’s pretty rare to find a rat in your toilet. It’s more likely in larger cities with big sewer systems that can be feeding grounds for rats, but even then, you still shouldn’t fret. 

“I wouldn’t worry too much about rats coming up through the sewers,” Bradshaw says. “I’d say only one out of a thousand rodent customers we get actually have this problem. And of the 20 or some customers that have had this happen, they’ve all only had just one rat come up this way.”

How Can You Prevent This From Happening?

Once you tackle your own rodent problem, call the city or the company that handles your sewer system. According to Bradshaw, they should be able to bait the sewers in your area to control the rat populations. You can also have a plumber near you install a one-way flap to prevent a rat from coming up through your toilet again. 

The good news is this is a super rare occurrence. You’d be much better off taking steps to prevent rats or mice from wanting to visit your home through other means.

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