Rats really can swim up sewer pipes!

23 November 2015

Lifting the toilet lid only to find a rat staring back at you is an urban dweller’s worst nightmare, and it  really does happen!

How on earth does a rat make it into your toilet bowl and survive? Rats are cunning. Rats can easily sneak through a grate or manhole open to the street. Residential sewer pipes feed into the main tunnel, giving rats the perfect opportunity to do a bit of exploring.

Their sharp claws mean they can scale almost any vertical surface, so your average home’s internal pipes are no problem.

It’s the getting into the toilet bowl through the toilet’s narrow maze of pipes that’s the difficult part. Underwater passages leave no room for mistakes. But a rat can collapse its body through internal acrobatics and fit through tiny spaces. A rat’s ribs are hinged at the spine, so collapse like an umbrella. If its head fits through a hole, its whole body can.

And the rat’s breathing is as clever as its ribs. Rats are expert swimmers and can hold their breath under water for three minutes. Their back legs act as a paddle while they steer with their front legs and their tail acts as a rudder. They have lots of stamina and can tread water for three days straight. There is no room for air in the toilet’s pipes so the rat stops to find a pocket of air at the turn, which is enough to help it make it the final distance to the bowl.

So it’s no wonder you’ll find him with a cheeky grin when you lift the lid.

Check out this website to see a video of a rat in action:


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