It may sound like some sort of urban legend, but rats actually do wiggle their way up from the sewers and into toilets. To almost anyone, the mere thought of an unexpected yet potential home invasion by rodents climbing their way into our toilets is horrific and quite sickening. Nevertheless, it’s possible, and in fact, it is happening — especially in cities around the world.
According to a pest control company in Portland, Oregon, it gets ten to 15 calls a year for rats in toilets. In cities like New York, it’s easy to assume that the numbers are even higher.
Rats are very efficient swimmers. They have been boarding floating vessels for as long as ship builders have been constructing them.
When you consider how rats are able to board ships, travel thousands of miles, and survive for so many years, clawing their way up toilets doesn’t seem that impossible. Especially for mammals that can hold their breath underwater for three minutes and tread water for as long as three days.
Narrow pipes don’t stop rats, because a rat’s rib cage is hinged at the spine, making the small creatures more capable of collapsing themselves to fit through a narrow passage. Experts say if a rat’s head can fit through a hole, then the whole rat is able to fit through it, as well.
Around the world, tens of thousands of communities, especially in cities and towns where municipal sewer system were built 30, 50, or even 100 years ago, plumbers get calls to remove rats from toilet bowls.
Rats are able to find their way where sewer lines are either in disrepair or broken. However, rats can invade residential or municipal buildings during storms that cause torrential downpours, as well as heavy seasonal rains, which can overwhelm a sewer system.
Rats are capable of treading water for as long as three or four days. They can also swim close to a half a mile or more to reach dry ground. By the time a rat reaches the toilet bowl, more than likely it will be exhausted and reasonably non-aggressive. But telling that to a person with musophobia — people living with the fear of mice or rats — won’t lessen the fear.
People who are unfortunate to find rats in their toilet have been known to overreact. A number of homeowners have tried to kill sewer rats they found in their toilets by using flamethrowers, electrocution, poisons, and shot guns.
They’ve gone so far as to bludgeon, choke, and stab the nasty critters, and in some cases resulting in injury to themselves rather than to the rats.
Flushing the toilet is a much simpler approach to the problem. Although flushing is not likely to propel even the weariest rats back into the sewer system, it will at least buy some time to escape the area and prepare other measures.
[Featured image via Sion Touhig/Getty Images]