Rats: One more reason you should shut the toilet lid

creepy crawly fb coverWe are not here to scare you. But those urban legends you’ve heard about rats in toilets? They’re (at least partially) true.

Rats in toilets – what are the odds?
It is very unlikely that you will find a rat in your toilet. The City of Seattle is estimated to have about 2.5 million toilets, and Public Health receives around 50 rat-in-the-toilet complaints a year. That’s .002% of Seattle toilets, assuming there are no repeat offenders. But, when it does happen, it’s a pretty big deal.

How does it happen?
Rats can access the sewers through cracks, holes in sewer pipes, man holes or grates. They navigate the maze of sewer piping that starts under the streets and ends at the open toilet. This is easy for rats to do because they can effortlessly collapse their ribs and because they are excellent swimmers. Watch a rat in action in this demonstrative video from National Geographic:

How do you keep it from happening?
Limit the use garbage disposals and avoid dumping grease down the drain, as rats are attracted to the smell. Kitchen pipes are too small for rats, so you won’t find a rat coming up there. Make it a habit to lower the seat and lid of your toilet; rats can easily jump out if left open. Clean your sink once a month, using a cup of bleach followed by boiling water. If you use your garbage disposal clean your sink more often.

Don Pace, of the Solid Waste, Rodents and Zoonotics Program, examines a sewer for rats
Don Pace, of the Solid Waste, Rodents and Zoonotics Program, examines a sewer for rats

What does Public Health do about it?
Health & Environmental Inspector Don Pace spends his days working to keep the population of Seattle rats under control. He regularly baits the sewers and responds to complaints about rats in toilets. When a rat burrow is suspected to involve a side sewer, a dye test is used to determine if there’s a break. If an issue persists with a negative dye test result, then a camera may be placed in the sewer to discover how rats are accessing it.

HELP! A rat is in my toilet!
If you do have the experience of finding a rat in your toilet and you live in Seattle, call Public Health’s Environmental Health Services at 206-263-9566 or submit your complaint online.  For all other rat complaints within the City of Seattle, our program is experiencing high volumes of complaints delaying our response time for rodent complaints by eight weeks.  If you live outside of Seattle, it is best to contact your city and inquire. Unfortunately, Public Health does not respond to rat complaints outside of Seattle unless the infestation is associated with illegal dumping or accumulations of garbage and solid wastes.

BOTTOM LINE: Put the lid down, and look before you sit!