Toilet Rat
May 22, 2006 5:21 PM   Subscribe

A rat just swam up into my toilet. Can I flush it back down?
posted by Felicity Rilke to Pets & Animals (43 answers total) 63 users marked this as a favorite
Absolutely! Flush several times!
posted by A189Nut at 5:22 PM on May 22, 2006

That is completely impossible you unorigional troll.
posted by phrontist at 5:22 PM on May 22, 2006

Response by poster: Will it get stuck? (We have a big plastic containter and some tongs to try to get it out first).
posted by Felicity Rilke at 5:23 PM on May 22, 2006

Are you sure it swam up? I had a rat-in-toilet incident once, many years ago, and it was the result of the landlord having put out a lot of rat poison. I think the poison makes them thirsty. Anyhow, the roommate tried drowning it (not the most ethical thing, I know) and it put up an unholy fight. It was really awful. Do you have a super you can call? Otherwise, I guess try the bucket and tongs route. I don't recommend the drowning method. And no, do NOT flush it.
posted by veronica sawyer at 5:31 PM on May 22, 2006

That is completely impossible you unorigional troll.
posted by phrontist

Wrong. Or were you trolling, phrontist?
posted by agropyron at 5:32 PM on May 22, 2006 [1 favorite]

Rats can be wiggly critters, so I'd use something more substantial than tongs and I'd grab it by the tail if possible. Actually, I'd try to kill it in the toilet by smashing it with a pick handle or any other large wooden implement that is handy.
posted by buggzzee23 at 5:34 PM on May 22, 2006

Response by poster: It's okay, the rat was removed by the tongs, weak and nearly drowned (thanks boy roommates!) and we released it in the alley behind some restaurants down the street. And yeah, I know it swam up since I had literally left the bathroom 30 seconds before hearing the splish-splashing of the rather large rodent (which definitely wouldn't have been easily flushed). I always thought rats climbing up through toilets was a myth, now I know otherwise.

And now I'll never be able to use my bathroom again.
posted by Felicity Rilke at 5:37 PM on May 22, 2006 [4 favorites]

The whole episode resolved in 16 minutes. Remarkable.
posted by fire&wings at 5:46 PM on May 22, 2006 [1 favorite]

A rat would only have to "swim" a few inches through the toilet's P-trap, the sewer line itself only has a but of water along the bottom of it. Here's a cross section of a modern low-flow toilet to give you an idea of what the rat encountered.

Do your neighbors a favor next time and either killl the rat yourself or call the vector control people to come and puck it up from you. Nobody (especially restaurant owners) wants a feces covered rat fresh from the sewer wandering around their property.
posted by buggzzee23 at 5:47 PM on May 22, 2006 [3 favorites]

... so a rat swims up your toilet, and the first thing you do is run to your keyboard to query the hive mind.

that's beautiful, though not a little strange.
posted by ab3 at 6:12 PM on May 22, 2006 [1 favorite]

You are a brave woman. This happened to my mom at 3 am a few years ago except with a squirrel rather than a rat. She called animal control, who responded with the verbal equivalent of a shrug, so she put the lid down and went back to sleep.
posted by needs more cowbell at 6:14 PM on May 22, 2006 [2 favorites]

Wow. I had, in the last couple of years, managed to convince myself that this, which was one of my most recurring childhood nightmares, was not actually possible. Now I'm pretty much screwed.
posted by jacquilynne at 6:29 PM on May 22, 2006

Advice from Seattle & King County Public Health:
Rats live in sewers and can follow the food in pipes up to your toilet.
  • Keep your kitchen sink rinsed clean and use garbage disposals as little as possible.
    • Rinse out your kitchen sink once or twice a month.
    • Use 1 cup of bleach (an alternative to using bleach, 1 cup of baking soda followed by 1 cup of vinegar) and rinse with boiling water.
    • Never throw grease down the drain.
    • Keep your toilet lid down when not in use.
    • If you find a rat in your toilet, flush it! (hint: squirt a little dishwashing liquid under the lid into the bowl, wait a couple of minutes then flush.
    Some tall rat tales from Austin, Texas:
    Sometimes they crawl in through ventilation pipes on the roof, other times they swim in from the sewers and sneak in from cracks in the line. Most toilets trap enough water in the connecting pipe to discourage the rats from coming on in. However, in unused guest bathrooms and abandoned houses, for example, that water can evaporate. "You take any house in the city of Austin and let the water in the toilet dry up and you will have rats in the house," Grand said.

    Rats took over a Lakeway house while the owners were gone for six months, he said. About a half dozen rats climbed in through the plumbing system and enjoyed a brief dream vacation of their own. They sampled all the food in the house, chewed on the Persian rugs, and destroyed thousands of dollars of furniture. "When I walked in, the house had a strong rat urine smell," Grand said. "Six or seven rats in your house is mayhem."

    Hill was once called out to a newly built hospital with a rat problem. "They were going straight up through four stories of piping and getting in."
    If you don't have the time or inclination to call pest control, you can always DIY.
    posted by cenoxo at 6:36 PM on May 22, 2006

    we released it in the alley behind some restaurants down the street.

    I'm not sure why you specifically had to mention the restaurants, but do remember not to eat at any of those establishments soon. ;-)
    posted by wackybrit at 6:37 PM on May 22, 2006

    Thirty seconds more on the john could have resulted in the most horrifying experience ever. This is another good reason to stand when you pee.
    posted by horsewithnoname at 6:41 PM on May 22, 2006

    I would probably flush some bleach down the toilet. Maybe Liquid Plumr. I'm neither a plumber nor a chemist, so this should not be construed as advice because there may be consequences I don't know about — but that's probably what I would do.
    posted by cribcage at 6:46 PM on May 22, 2006

    oh. my. GOD!!! this is simultaneously terrifying and awesome. great jolly jumping jeebus on a pogostick, I'm sorry you had to go thru this!

    boy roommates are definitely the shiz. mine takes his boy-roommate duties very seriously: evicting a few house centipedes from the garage every fall.

    warning: link NOT for the squicky-about-bugs!!!

    I'm betting your furry friend got into the bathroom somehow and was looking for water. rats can crawl thru some small-assed holes, as we found to our chagrin when we had an infestation at my parent's farm when I was a kid.

    ditto the folks saying you guys prolly should have dealt it the coup de grace. either it was poisoned / diseased already and suffering (which would be my guess, rats are generally fairly leery of people in close quarters) and/or you've released a nuisance behind the restaurants. next time consider asking the boyz to give it a swift dispach with a heavy shoe. gross yes but way better than the alternatives.

    ugh. ugh ugh ugh. ick. ewwwww!

    here's where I vow never EVER EVER will I move back East. between the roaches-in-the-laptop story and the rat in the toilet and my friends in DC telling me horror stories about bedbugs, I'm ever-so-glad to only have to deal with the occasional centipede. bleargh!!!!!
    posted by lonefrontranger at 6:58 PM on May 22, 2006

    I stand totally corrected.
    posted by phrontist at 7:05 PM on May 22, 2006

    Probably not the route most would go, but this happened to my 70-year-old grandmother a couple of years ago, and she bashed the thing to death with a garbage can and desposed of it herself. Times like that make me wonder if we are even related, as I would have run screaming out of the house and never returned!
    posted by saucy at 7:05 PM on May 22, 2006

    If you find a rat in your toilet, flush it! (hint: squirt a little dishwashing liquid under the lid into the bowl...)

    Why dishwashing liquid? Makes the rat's feet slippery?
    posted by Zozo at 7:06 PM on May 22, 2006

    And fur too—making it easier to go back down the pipes.
    posted by cenoxo at 7:22 PM on May 22, 2006

    I say we get Jamie and Adam to weigh in on this. Of course, if the rat appears to have a human face, you should get out of your building as quickly as possible, while not pausing to speak to any old ladies.
    posted by Smart Dalek at 7:31 PM on May 22, 2006

    Why dishwashing liquid? Makes the rat's feet slippery?
    posted by Zozo

    Dishwashing liquid breaks the water's surface tension and makes it difficult to stay afloat. I live in the desert where swamp coolers are the norm instead of AC and everyone here uses a bit of dishwashing liquid in the cooler's water reservoir to prevent skeeters from breeding in the cooler. I don't know how a rat would react to that, but it definitely sinks mosquitoes.
    posted by buggzzee23 at 7:32 PM on May 22, 2006 [1 favorite]

    In future, you could install one of these.

    Seriously, I believe such things do exist. Ask a plumber and free yourself from a life resigned to a pot de chambre
    posted by IndigoJones at 7:40 PM on May 22, 2006

    And Whitey's on the moon.

    This is my favorite comment in the entire thread.

    And the great thing is that I feel like I've learned something, for the next time a rat turns up in my toilet.
    posted by veronica sawyer at 7:47 PM on May 22, 2006

    Dude, I spent my childhood terrified of giant toilet snakes and it turns out that it's rats that I've gotta worry about?

    Just effing great.
    posted by wildeepdotorg at 7:59 PM on May 22, 2006

    I'm betting your furry friend got into the bathroom somehow and was looking for water.

    Exactly. I'm thinking there are other rats in the house, not the sewer pipes.

    posted by frogan at 8:04 PM on May 22, 2006

    Response by poster: So a little follow-up.

    Yes, the rat definitely swam or climbed up into the toilet through the pipes. It's a basement apartment in a house, and we've never seen rodents before.

    I'd just gone to the bathroom and fixed my hair, I came out and sat down for a moment to check my email before leaving the house. I heard a splashing, and thought it was my sister's demon cat playing in the toilet. I thought "Awww, how cute," went to look, and saw a GAWDDAMN RAT swimming in the toilet. I screamed, ran upstairs and alerted the roommates with testosterone.

    It's a rented house, but it was also the last day of the long weekend, and I doubt the cottaging landlord would do anything (or be able to do anything) about a swimming rat. The roommates and I stood around for a bit wondering what to do, I said "Hey, you think of something practical, and I'll ask the internet!" So while they looked for pots and lids and tongs and tupperware, I asked metafilter what we could do (like flush. That was my favourite choice.)

    In the ten minutes or so that it took us to decide what to do (at this point, the toilet lid had been shut on the rat, though he'd made a few attempts of raising the roof), the rat grew pretty tired of his swim, and was pretty well half-drowned. The boy roommates went in with their huge plastic bin and lid, and their long barbeque tongs, and plucked the rat out of the toilet, dropped him in the bin, and shut the lid. He didn't struggle; he was half dead. If you want to remove a rat from your toilet, make him swim awhile and tucker him out.

    We decided to release him near the restaurant since they probably already have rats there, and it was a nicer place than our mostly vegan household. Little Big Rat seemed to be in death throes when we let him out, but I don't trust that. Rats are good actors.

    And as I mentioned, he definitely climbed up through the pipes. After the rat was gone, I looked in the toilet and there was weird silt and dirt which could only have come from something climbing up through the pipes. The toilet was sparkling before Mr. Rat made his entrance.

    I pray to everything that is holy and good that there are no more rats in my house and that I never have to deal with this again. But thank you Metafilter for all your advice. Now if only you could tell me how to forget about the swimming rat . . .
    posted by Felicity Rilke at 10:11 PM on May 22, 2006 [5 favorites]

    Ok, you're gonna love this. I've had this happen with both a rat AND a squirrel. Both dead, fortunately. Which means, well, gotta get 'em out of there.

    Most of these come through the roof, btw.

    Oh, and don't do like me and find the squirrel, uh, a long time later... in a bathroom that is shaded and very cool and, well, never used, and so, uh, the squirrel never stank, and I found him a LOT later. Covered in mold. He kind of... uh... fell apart when I picked him up to trash him. *shudder*
    posted by smallerdemon at 11:02 PM on May 22, 2006

    gives new meaing to always putting the seat a lid down.

    Why else is there a lid?
    posted by MonkeySaltedNuts at 11:35 PM on May 22, 2006

    Now that the people with phobic tendencies stopped reading this thread, it's safe to point out that it does happen with pythons as well.
    posted by dhoe at 11:47 PM on May 22, 2006

    Sorry, correct link.
    posted by dhoe at 11:49 PM on May 22, 2006 [1 favorite]

    David Attenborough once recounted an anecdote in which he suffered from a rare bout of traveller's diarrhea whilst in India. Having thoroughly and noisily voided his bowels into the Western-style flush toilet in his hotel room, he was understandably shocked when a very wet and smelly rat suddenly darted up and out of the bowl via the gap between his thighs and ran across the floor of the bathroom. Even rats can have a bad day, it seems.
    posted by Ritchie at 12:05 AM on May 23, 2006 [8 favorites]

    This once happened to me with a frog. Or perhaps it was a toad. It just kind of sat there, and I grabbed a paper plate and ushered him outside, and told him not to return.

    Oh and before I did that I woke up my boyfriend so he could see it. It was like 6am. Some stuff is just so wild you just gotta share.
    posted by beth at 12:37 AM on May 23, 2006

    David Attenborough once recounted an anecdote in which he suffered from a rare bout of traveller's diarrhea whilst in India.

    "...and now, we see the elusive poo rat. It is a nocturnal creature, and finds its habitat in mankinds toilet bowls. After being covered in defication, it makes its way home with the bounty..."
    posted by katiecat at 3:32 AM on May 23, 2006 [4 favorites]

    This happened to me with a rat. Only it hit me in the butt as I was sitting on the toilet. I peed in the sink for a week, till my mom pointed out I could just flush before I sat down. Moms are awesome.
    posted by dame at 6:04 AM on May 23, 2006 [4 favorites]

    I once woke up in the middle of the night to find a field mouse in the small dust bin in my room. He was desperately trying to jump out but couldn't make it. The icky thing though is that because the bin is in a gap between my desk and bed there's a good chance he was running all over me while I was sleeping.

    I just put a book over the top of the bin and took it outside into the park next door and let him go while humming the chorus to "Born Free"
    posted by PenDevil at 6:24 AM on May 23, 2006

    i wish i had not read this. oh jesus.
    posted by glenwood at 7:22 AM on May 23, 2006 [3 favorites]

    My goodness. I live 1.62 km from the toilet rat...
    posted by gavia at 8:06 AM on May 23, 2006

    Dude, I spent my childhood terrified of giant toilet snakes and it turns out that it's rats that I've gotta worry about?

    No, you can worry about snakes too. A water moccasin swam up my granddad's toilet in Mississippi.
    posted by kimdog at 8:26 AM on May 23, 2006

    Why else is there a lid?

    Because the process of flushing can produce spray which can disperse bacteria around the room — the same room where you keep your toothbrush.

    Re: dishwashing soap: Also for killing yellowjackets.
    posted by cribcage at 12:06 PM on May 23, 2006

    A friend living in Brazil told me that this happened to him frequently. He claimed that one time, when his Aunt was visiting, she had gone to the bathroom and, some moments later, come out, ashen-faced and screamed to her husband: "Harry! I passed a rat!"

    No idea if it was true, but it was a hell of a story.
    posted by The Bellman at 10:55 AM on May 26, 2006

    When I lived in FL, our neighbors informed us shortly after we moved in that our apartment was a problem with the landlord, and that everyone's rent had gone up after a rat incident. Apparently, a fat Florida rat had crawled up the pipes and gotten stuck. The landlord had to pay some guy to send a tiny camera down the pipes to see what the blockage was, and they were all pleased to learn it was a (dead, I assume) rat.

    I thanked my neighbors for telling me this horrific story after I had signed my lease. We didn't have any rat problems for the time we lived there, but the first time I saw a rat the size of a small dog running across the power lines at night, I made sure to keep the toilet lids down at all times.
    posted by SassHat at 12:20 PM on June 21, 2006

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