rat in toilet
How do rats get into toilets?Socar Myles/Flickr

A video has shown just how easy it is for rats to climb their way up into your toilet. The film by National Geographic explains how they are able to make it from the sewer into the toilet basin as a result of their incredible flexibility and swimming proficiency.

The film notes that while it is rare, rats ending up in toilets does happen, with Washington DC pest control authorities receiving a couple of complaints ever year. In a blog post about the toilet rats, Erika Engelhaupt said it turns out it is very easy for rats to climb up a three-inch toilet drain pipe.

Rat expert Robert Corrigan explained that if rats have a very low tolerance for hunger, causing them to go into a kind of "crazy mode". He said that toilet drains are an excellent source of food for them: "Lots of food gets flushed. Also, if push comes to shove, human faeces and dog faeces contain undigested food. They don't turn up their nose at anything that floats by. That's repulsive to humans, but it's called coprophagy, and it's part of the reason rats are so successful."

But just how do they get up there? The film explains how rats can easily sneak into residential sewer pipes from main tunnels – which they see as an "irresistible opportunity for exploration". Their sharp claws allow them to scale vertical surfaces, while the last few feet of winding pipes is easily traversed with their flexible bodies.

"If a rat can fit its head through an opening, the rest is easy because of its internal acrobatics," the film said. "When squeezing through the pressure causes its ribs to give way at the spine. The ribs are hinged allowing them to effortlessly collapse."

On top of this, rats are amazing swimmers. They can tread water for three days and hold their breath for three minutes. They paddle with their back legs while their front legs steer and the tail acts as a rudder. Food for thought on your next trip to the toilet.