Rat in me kitchen (pipe), what am I gonna do?

Rat eating

For almost all of us, there will come a point in our lives when our plumbing stops working. For some of us that point may involve a form of invasive wildlife.

Wild animals are instinctively drawn to drains and pipes. Plumbing and sewers are typically enclosed, warm spaces that offer shelter and protection, particularly in harsher, colder climates. Sewer pipes can also form a rich source of nitrates, for obvious reasons. Some animals, particularly livestock or pets, may also become trapped in wider pipes unexpectedly through either misadventure or exploration.

If this happens, removing the offending animal(s) from the drainage system quickly and safely should be a priority for the responsible homeowner. As well as endangering the animal, permanent damage to your drainage system or pipes could result if the situation is left unchecked.

What are the Signs that an Animal is in my Household Plumbing?

Rat droppings

Most animals that get into your plumbing will enter through the external drainage system.

The majority of household plumbing uses small diameter piping and remains dry most of the time. This can make the pipes ideal byways to reach the food and warmth in your house for animals that can squeeze into extremely small spaces, such as rats.

Plumbing can also easily become a semi-permanent home for these rodent scavengers as they venture further afield in your house to find food. This Old House magazine subsequently estimates that around 80% of home infestations are rodent based. Many of these start from a single migrating sewer rat.

Considering this, you should mostly be on the lookout for signs of a household rodent infestation concentrated near common points of entry, such as toilets. The common signs of a rodent infestation are:

  • Strange noises at night
  • A persistent smell of urine
  • Small droppings left on the floor
  • Animal nests
  • Missing food or gnawed containers & packets

Amphibians and reptiles, such as frogs and snakes, may also find their way up through the plumbing in confusion. However, they will usually be immediately visible upon completing their accidental journey.

Insects, although annoying, are usually harmless to plumbing and your house unless they appear in large numbers. Most will be caught out by the U-Bend “stink trap” installed in most modern households, regardless.

Larger animals can also cause problems with drains. It is not unheard of for stuck cats, dogs and even cows to cause blockages in larger sewer pipes. Strange noises can indicate this has happened if it is not immediately obvious. It’s unlikely this will happen in your home drainage system, unless you live in a more rural area, but in cases such as these, you should call your local authority for animal control. They will then work to carefully remove the unfortunate creature.

If an animal (usually deceased) is actually solidly lodged in the piping, or mains sewer connection and hasn’t been washed away, you’ll certainly know about it. Look out for signs of internal obstruction such as sinks or toilets backing up with no visible explanation and unusual, unpleasant odours entering the house.

What can be done About These Unwanted Infestations?

Pest controller spraying

To assess the severity of the pest or rat infestation on your drainage system, call in a professional drainage company to undertake a full CCTV survey of your drains. This can identify the location and size of the infestation so you can best decide how to deal with it.

Long-term, your plumbing being used as a transit route or temporary habitation for vermin can have serious effects. As well as the risk of blockage and degradation you can easily face the possibility of damage to other areas of your home, such as your insulation, sub-floor, interior walls, and household furnishings. Sewer rats can also carry a variety of unpleasant and dangerous diseases with them that you wouldn’t want to be exposed to.

Particularly in the case of rodent infestations, you should try to resolve to the problem as quickly as is reasonably possible before it grows. Although rats only live for 2 to 3 years, they are ready to mate and produce offspring after just 3 to 4 months, so a single female rat can have as many as 2000 descendants in just 1 year!  

For smaller infestations, you could opt for a trap-based solution, such as a humane trap that allows you to catch and relocate the rats, or a poison-based bait box that will swiftly eliminate the infestation, but may leave dead rats in your pipes.

For larger infestations it is not worth the risk of trying to tackle an entire colony on your own. Call in a pest control professional. 

If the drainage pipes become blocked or obstructed pipes, call a professional drainage company. Your sewer or wastewater line may need to be fully removed or excavated if the line is damaged beyond reasonable repair by an animal, or it may simply require high pressure jetting to remove an obstruction. Again, a thorough CCTV drain survey will ensure the problem has been eliminated and help to assess the remedial action required.

Preventive Measures

Once the infestation has been properly resolved, you should consider securing your plumbing system. This will usually require a full assessment of the state of your plumbing and drains.

The obvious points of entry for small animals are open drain access points, unsecured covers, and any unsecure vent or drainage stacks. Often installing grating or mesh, drain covers, or anti-climb mechanisms (such as plastic spikes) at key entry points will prevent animals from returning.

Here at Express Drainage Surveys we use The Rat Blocker by Vermend to stop rats from being able to enter the property via the water pipes and sewer system. The device simply fits inside the drainage pipes and locks securely into place. It features a double-steel flap which only opens when fluids need to flow through, remaining closed and inaccessible to rats and mice the rest of time. Once installed, it requires very little maintenance making it the ideal solution for your home or commercial building.

Solutions such as Vermend rat blockers are often favoured as they eliminate the need for potentially dangerous poisons and traps, and you can rest assured that they are 100% environmentally friendly.    


Express Drainage Surveys

Express Drainage Surveys offer professional full property CCTV surveys. Using a method similar to endoscopic examination, a small camera is inserted into household pipes and systematically run through them, in order to conduct a full survey.

The end result is a drainage recording of the entire system that allows a professional team to remotely identify any pests, damage or unsecured points of entry that remain in your plumbing system.

Contact us today to find out more and see if the drainage solutions we offer are right for you.