The blog formerly known as   Fake Plastic Fish
March 21, 2011

What I Learned From The Rat In My Toilet

The text message I sent my sister Friday night was, “OMG OMG OMG OMG OMG!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! There was a rat in our toilet bowl tonight!”

You know the urban legend about rats and snakes and other critters swimming up through the sewer pipes into your toilet? It’s not an urban legend. Not where rats are concerned, anyway.

This story gets pretty gross, so be warned.

We buy Swheatscoop cat litter. It comes in a paper bag, not plastic, and it’s made from wheat, so it’s compostable and flushable. Our cats love it. In fact, they love it a little too much.

Swheatscoop cat litter

Swheatscoop cat litter

Which is why ever since this incident in 2008, we’ve kept the bag out of reach of little critters.

Swheatscoop cat litter

Swheatscoop is certified flushable (as long as your cats don’t have toxoplasma gondii, the parasite that kills sea otters, which ours don’t) but even still, sometimes the clumps get a little hard, so the company recommends to let it sit in the toilet for 20 minutes before flushing to help the wheat clumps break down. And that’s the problem…

Swheatscoop cat litter

We sometimes let it sit in there longer than 20 minutes. Friday night, we forgot to flush before leaving the house, and when I got home and lifted the lid, there was a fat brown rat EATING the cat litter IN THE TOILET! Did you hear what I said? The lid had been down! He got into the toilet through the pipes!

I dropped the lid and started to hyperventilate. “Oh my god, oh my god, oh my god, Michael, oh my god, OH MY GOD!!! There’s a RAT in the toilet!!!”

“Beth, I tried to tell you that before,” he said, “But you didn’t believe me.”

See, apparently, in the middle of the night a few weeks earlier, Michael thought he’d seen a tail scurrying down the toilet pipe when he got up to pee. But I’d told him he was hallucinating and forgot all about it.


“Well, it’s huge and it’s sitting in there! What should we do? (OMG OMG OMG OMG!!!)”

Michael came running in with a baseball bat. I don’t know what he thought he was going to do with that thing, but after pacing back and forth, peeing in the tub finally (because I really, really had to go!) and then pacing some more, I sloooooooowly lifted the lid to look in again, and… the rat was gone. GONE!

Of course it was. It had gone back into the sewer wence it came.

So I flushed and flushed a bunch of times. And then I started to Google. I found all kinds of discussions about rats showing up in closed toilet bowls, with people insisting that the rats had swum in from the pipes and others arguing that was impossible.

It’s not impossible. In fact, there is a device you can attach to your toilet to keep out rats and snakes and other unwanted animals.

Okay, so I’m not going to stop using Swheatscoop. It works well for us as long as we sprinkle baking soda in the litter box, comes in a paper bag, and can be flushed without a problem. (Well, except for this problem.) I’m going to get my landlord to install that device, and I’m not going to let the litter mellow out in the toilet anymore.

But aside from practical considerations, this incident has forced me to examine my feelings about and relationship to animals. How is it that I would do anything, anything to protect my little kitties? I don’t eat meat and have changed my life to protect wild animals from plastic pollution. And yet, for a few minutes one night, we thought about clubbing an animal to death with a baseball bat. And then discussed various types of poison before coming to our senses. What’s that about?

Hal Herzog has a book out called, Some We Love, Some We Hate, Some We Eat: Why It’s So Hard to Think Straight About Animals. iconI haven’t read it yet, but I listened to an interview with the Herzog on To The Best of Our Knowledge the other night and a few days later read Mark Bittman’s piece in the New York Times, “Some Animals Are More Equal Than Others,” in which he bemoans the treatment of farm animals and “pests” and wonders how a woman can be jailed for beating a hamster to death while the City of New York gets a pass for routinely poisoning its cousins the rats.

I don’t want a rat in my toilet. And I don’t want a rat as a pet either. So I’ll find a way to block its entry and stop leaving “food” in my toilet. But because of this incident, I’ll continue to examine my relationship to the animal world and the strong reactions I have to it.

Oh, and look before sitting down.

Leave a Reply

53 Comments on "What I Learned From The Rat In My Toilet"

Notify of

Sort by:   newest | oldest | most voted
6 months 9 days ago

years ago my aunt only had a tiny dog in the house. she picked up the toilet seat because she had to use the toilet. when she lifted the seat their was a rat in the water.she closed the lid and called the exterminator. when the exterminator came he flused the bowl and the rat went back down. he went to the water trap and someone didnt close it so it was a water rat.

2 years 10 months ago

dousing cotton balls with cayenne pepper and peppermint oil can be an effective natural deterrent in keeping mice away.  put the cotton balls doused in the cayenne pepper and peppermint where you have seen mice—and change every three months.

2 years 10 months ago

3 years 20 days ago

I’ve started using swheat scoop but I’m afraid the little weevils will move I to it (I tossed the instant rice where they lived, so they’re looking for a new home). Does anyone have a weevil/bug solution? Maybe add diatomaceous earth? Probably can’t use anti bug essential oils..

3 years 16 days ago

I wouldn’t add diatomaceous earth to the litter because it’s not good for cats to breathe.  And no, most essential oils are bad for cats and would probably drive your cats away from the box.   I haven’t had a bug situation, only a rat situation, and only in the toilet.  Wondering if anyone else has.

4 years 6 months ago

I am an animal lover so when you talked about the baseball bat, I was like “ohh no :(!!” I’m glad it didn’t get hurt though. I can understand safety concerns with the rat but I’m glad you were making the connection from how you treat your kitties to how you treat rats. I hope that you will be up for using a humane method of releasing a rat should another one come about :)

4 years 7 months ago

I have thankfully never had a rat in my toilet, or any other kind of living creature. But I’ve had a phobia about it ever since I heard a news story almost 25 years ago about a local woman with a snake in her toilet.

I think it’s normal to have an aversion to certain animals. While it may not be totally fair, the truth is that some animals carry disease and steal our food. I’ve had mice in my house (but thankfully never rats) and it’s pretty annoying when they pee and poo in your cupboard and eat the good… Read more »

4 years 8 months ago

Hey Petunia, we had a house mouse that we named Milton. We discovered him when an unexplained hole into a tunnel appeared in the soil of a potted plant. We figured it was a mouse but could not figure out how he was getting into the big tall pot to do the digging….

First, to verify the hole/tunnel was in use I put one piece of shipping popcorn in it. Next morning, the popcorn had been moved out.

So I set up my videocam aimed at the potted plant and let it run all night long. Bingo! I caught Milton in the… Read more »

Petunia GreenBeans
4 years 8 months ago

Ack! Ack! Ack!!!!! Good grief!!!!

The first time I found a mouse in my garage, my instinct was to let the cats loose and let nature’s take it course. Well that plan backfired, as Zoe & Mittens made friends with Mr. Mouse and went so far as to share their food with it!! After that I got a metal trap (no kill), and a spoonful of peanut butter did the trick. Once caught, the poor little guy sat their for (seemingly) hours while my husband and I debated who would set it free. “You do it”…”No you do it…” … Read more »

4 years 8 months ago

Your story made me laugh out loud… in other news, we use Yesterday’s News litter made from recycled newspapers, but I’d love to find Swheat Scoop… there are other litters that are flushable but in plastic bags. Bleh.

Anyway.. hrm. I think rats are pets are quite fine indeed, but as a pest? I also couldn’t bring myself to take one’s life– I’d probably set a trap and release them a few miles away, which is what one of my neighbors did.

This raises a very interesting question though. Huhm….

4 years 8 months ago

Oh my god. I have goosebumps just thinking of it. I think it’s instinctive for humans to recoil from certain animals: spiders, snakes, rats, wild things with really big teeth. These are animals that our bodies recognize as DANGEROUS. And I’ll tell you…I’m a vegetarian animal-lover…and I would have been brandishing a baseball bat if I’d seen a rat in my toilet.

Quick story: my sister worked in a restaurant – a very clean and well-reviewed restaurant in the downtown core – and one day when she was working 2 rats crawled up through the sewers and… Read more »

4 years 8 months ago

We discovered that mice were attracted to the wheat litter (the cat box is in an unfinished basement). And since our cats like to catch mice, but not kill them, and because they transported the live mice from the basement into our first-floor bedroom (via a really nifty series of ramps and a cat door), and because they would drop the mice and play with them (a little) and then get bored and come to bed (leaving the mice roaming our bedroom, often injured), we got rid of the wheat litter.

I was once told that if you have mice, you… Read more »

2 years 11 months ago

Mice and rats can coexist. We discovered both living in our floor’s insulation (open to the house’s crawl space).

4 years 8 months ago

Augh! Animals where they don’t belong are always troubling.
Myself, I love *pet* rats. They’re social, smart, and very friendly. One of ours figured out how to open his cage door and would sit waiting for my mother to come in and pet him :)
That said, there’s a difference between my dearly-departed Buddy and the wild ‘un in your bathroom! I’m glad you’re taking a nonviolent solution, though.

4 years 8 months ago

#2 Traveling through the Dark
William Stafford

Traveling through the dark I found a deer
dead on the edge of the Wilson River road.
It is usually best to roll them into the canyon:
that road is narrow; to swerve might make more dead.

By glow of the tail-light I stumbled back of the car
and stood by the heap, a doe, a recent killing;
she had stiffened already, almost cold.
I dragged her off; she was large in the belly.

My fingers touching her side brought me the reason—
her side was warm; her fawn lay there waiting,
alive, still, never to be born.
Beside that mountain road I hesitated.

The car… Read more »

4 years 8 months ago

Two poems for you, Beth, which I used to teach at the U of CO in a literature class:

#1 Woodchucks
Gassing the woodchucks didn’t turn out right.
The knockout bomb from the Feed and Grain Exchange
was featured as merciful, quick at the bone
and the case we had against them was airtight,
both exits shoehorned shut with puddingstone,
but they had a sub-sub-basement out of range.

Next morning they turned up again, no worse
for the cyanide than we for our cigarettes
and state-store Scotch, all of us up to scratch.
They brought down the marigolds as a matter of… Read more »

4 years 8 months ago

Is it possible the rat got into the toilet by jumping in from the outside, and then accidently knocked the lid down on top of itself?

In British toilets pests cannot enter the home backwards through the sewer system.

My mum’s cat chooses to do its mess in the bath all the time! It’s a bit disgusting but saves a lot of cat litter waste

4 years 8 months ago

I think I fell in love with you a little because of this post. I don’t know which part I loved more- the detailed description of kitty waste disposal, the admittance of peeing in th tub, or the well articulated, non judgemental way you questioned your reactions and came to a well-thought out conclusion. Maybe it was the picture of the cat languidly lounging in a pool of kitty litter. Whatever it was, this is one of my favorite posts on the internet, ever. Thank you for that.

4 years 8 months ago

I have a pet rat which is very different than a wild, sewer rat. Talk about ambiguous lines between love and loathe!

But seriously, I work at a country vet clinic. I see this situation every day. A farmer loves *his* dogs but when dogs come to his yard and attack his sheep, they need to be shot. No word as to whether his dogs ever get out and attack other people’s sheep.

Good luck!

4 years 8 months ago Might have to click around her blog for the rest of the story but it goes back to a rat in the toilet…

4 years 8 months ago

Not that this is the point of your post, but I have always heard it is a bad idea to flush animal waste simply because waste water treatment plants are build with a certain population capacity in mind, and if everyone with a pet flushed their pet waste it would overload the treatment plant. Maybe pet waste is not a bad thing to put in the trash (in a paper bag or sans any bag)…

4 years 8 months ago

There is a food chain and rats in the toilet are waaaaay down my list. Not to mention, did you see the movie Willard (original or remake)?! That made a rat in the toilet seem like a walk in the park.

Pet rats are a different story because they are not bubonic plague carriers.

4 years 8 months ago

Could you please send me some info on these anti-animal-in-your-toilet-devices? I use Swheat scoop, too!!!
thank-you so much :D

4 years 8 months ago

A few years ago we installed a new bathroom with a (sorry) plastic waste pipe – the rats came up and ate through the pipe and were running around under the bath. Fortunately that area was sealed off at the time and they didn’t get out into the house. As we were in the process of renovating the house at the time and not living there we only found out when we connected the growing smell with water seeping out from under the bath when we flushed the toilet. Removing the side of the bath revealed most… Read more »

4 years 8 months ago

LOL When I clear the drains here at work… people always look at my funny when I say I got the rat out of the drain line. Now I have proof!

4 years 8 months ago

As a kid, we regularly had frogs (toads? I forget which) hop out of the toilet. It made nighttime bathroom trips very interesting.

4 years 8 months ago

ok, this wins the “freakiest read of the day” award! And though I feel I must have a little Jain in me (at least enough to feel guilty about killing even insects), any intruder INSIDE my home may be subject to dire consequences. Manys the time I’ve picked up a spider in a tissue or trapped in a glass then put it outside, but a rat? I’m ashamed to say that I’d hope someone were around with a bat…or else I’d have to move. ;)

4 years 8 months ago

Kaylen- I’m worried by your comment of you put your dog poop in the municipal composting bin. I’m the recycling educator in Sonoma County and we don’t allow that. I was under the impression that it wasn’t safe because even a commercial composting system can’t breakdown any pathagons commenly found in meat-eating mammels animal’s waste. Does anyone know more info about this?

4 years 8 months ago

You have a natural right to protect your house and food from wild animals. They can cause some serious damage and can spread disease. I found the old fashioned wooden mouse/rat trap to be the most eco-friendly (not a plastic one). That may be difficult with your inquisitive kitties. Once in Hawaii, a rat jumped into the bathroom through an open window. It landed on my son’s back while he was on the john!

Throwing mice/rats outside does nothing. They just come back in. I love and respect nature but have no… Read more »

4 years 8 months ago

OMG, Beth, are you saying that in addition to having a mouse run under my feet when I stumble to the toilet in the middle of the night (true story), there might possibly be a rat IN my toilet?

4 years 8 months ago

Holy Crap!!! I think I might have become totally hysterical if I had found a live rat in my toilet. And I am utterly shocked… I would have sworn that rats coming in through the toilet was the stuff of urban legends. It’s giving me a little nervous hoe down here just thinking about it.

You know, I’ve sort of come to the conclusion that wild animals and real estate have a great deal in common. What’s really important about them is location, location, location! We had a mouse in the garden last summer and I thought it was the cutest… Read more »

4 years 8 months ago

Oh, Holly, that does sound horrible! Do you remember what trap style/company it was? I want to make sure I avoid that kind. It wasn’t a metal trap was it? That’s the kind I would use.

4 years 8 months ago

Oh, Meg, I did try the humane traps — only to have a mouse chew through the side and get stuck half in and half out. It was horrible.

4 years 8 months ago


I used to have a rat as a pet. But I had invited her into my home and expected her to be there. Likewise, I used to have a landlord who I would invite into my home and all was good until the landlord broke into my home in the night. I know bizarre right? Well I went from making tea for the landlord to running out of my bedroom with a big knife to protect myself in that instance, so I think your feelings about the rat in the toilet are justified.

I think you have made a wonderful decision… Read more »

4 years 8 months ago

I guess they should start calling it SWEETscoop

4 years 8 months ago

Thats so gross. I would have totally freaked out if there was a rat in my toilet.

4 years 8 months ago

Holly, there are humane mouse traps that don’t kill the mice. Please switch to them. Those kill traps are just awful.

Beth, I’m glad you’re not eating meat, but I hope you will consider the many other animals who are exploited and killed. The milk and egg and leather industries, for example, are all as bad if not worse. Even the stuff labelled “humane” is needlessly cruel.

I’ll admit, I’m still working on how I treat “pests”. I had to switch to a pest control service because ants were just attacking my house from all sides. I guess… Read more »

4 years 8 months ago

I know EXACTLY where you’re coming from. I’m a hard-core animal lover, but living in the woods, I have a chronic problem with mice infesting my parked car. They have destroyed the fire-proof lining inside my car’s hood, torn up everything in my glove box to make a nest, and left little turds all over my dashboard.

Mice are a real health hazard here. My stepmother died from hantavirus (which is transmitted by mouse feces). And if they nibble the wires or hoses in my car, it could be a real safety issue. Not to mention the repair bill! And the… Read more »

2 years 10 months ago

cayenne pepper–(cotton balls doused with cayenne pepper) and peppermint oil (same–cotton balls doused in peppermint oil) are natural deterrents for mice…put them in places where you see mice indoors/outdoors.  seems to work.

4 years 8 months ago


Any plans for green bins/municipal compost to come to your area? I compost veggies on my own but put my dog waste in the municipal compost.

4 years 8 months ago

Beth, it’s natural to defend your home and family. If a human had threatened you, you might get the baseball bat, too. That said, I’m glad you are taking a preventive and kinder approach.

I used to get the occasional mouse where I used to live, but cats got to them before I could trap them (in non-lethal traps for my karmic protection). I did manage to rescue one alive from my tabby’s jaws. An interesting day. I will only add that, while it’s no rat in the toilet, thank Goddess, finding a mouse in the house, alive OR dead, doesn’t… Read more »

4 years 8 months ago

My mom lives in the city and has experienced a rat in the toilet a few times. She ALWAYS looks before sitting. Not sure why they visit her toilet, though, as she does not use this litter. *shrugs* Who knows?

Glad you looked before sitting!

4 years 8 months ago

Rats are remarkable animals – it’s said that if there were a catastrophic event on earth, rats and cockroaches would be the most likely to come out on top.

I wouldn’t hesitate to kill a rat if there was a need to do so. They do bite, they do carry diseases and they don’t give a hoot about my welfare regardless of my attitude about theirs.

Every form of life strives to survive. The result of that is if there is nothing to keep a given form of life under control (like other forms of life in competition) it will take over.

Nobody… Read more »

Elana K
4 years 8 months ago

I like the apology part from the previous comment. It’s very Na’vi! And Beth, I had to laugh out loud from the visual of you and Michael with a baseball bat debating what to do about the rat!

But reconsidering about our relationship with certain animals is definitely something to think about. While my kids love looking for mice in the compost bin (which is over 30 feet behind the house), I would have a cow if one was in the house, or worse yet, a rat in the toilet. And while bambi is the thing that comes to mind when… Read more »

4 years 8 months ago

That’s crazy! I thought that was just a myth. I hope that never happens to me, because I don’t know what I would do. I wouldn’t want to kill it, but I also wouldn’t want it to bite me or anything. Now that’s all I’m going to be able to think about the next time I use the toilet. lol

4 years 8 months ago

While I have not yet (Please, God, never!) encountered a rat inside, I have much the same ambiguous feelings towards the mice that make themselves too much at home in my house. I much preferred it when my cat was alive and took care of the situation for me, but now that I have to deal with it myself, I do the following:
1) announce (out loud) to the world of mice that they are welcome to live under my house, around my house, just not IN my house, especially not in my kitchen. 2) then I set old-fashioned mouse… Read more »