box on the loo

“I have been around the world three times and been to a chicken ranch. I know the size of a rat.”

Brett Henderson

It was an early Friday morning like almost any other when Deborah Henderson made her routine nature call to begin her early bird day. A few hours later she was sitting by her computer when her husband stood behind her. A wife knows a certain look. His was not the usual morning face.

“I don’t know how to tell you this.” he said. Fearing the worst, she asked, “What’s wrong?” He then uttered what I could refer to as immortal words in anyone’s life.

“There is a rat in the toilet!”

After the initial shock had sunk in, she did what every red-blooded American would do. She went to the Internet search engine. First things first. Put something heavy on top of the seat. Apparently, there is a possibility that a rat can lift the seat and get into your home. If there is anything worse than a rat in your toilet…!

Brett Henderson told me he had heard a strange scratching sound before he lifted the lid. When he did — there was a rat. Not a small rat. Brett, who has spent time in Southeast Asia, knows what an average-sized rat looks like. This was a large rat — and let’s be honest — is there any other kind when it is in your toilet?

For those who have never encountered an oversized rodent under their toilet seat, Deborah called animal control, exterminators, and anybody who came up online. One response she got was, “We only catch real animals.”

Rat removers seem to be at a bit of a premium when you need them. She did finally get in touch with a lady from Black Diamond exterminators. In a very calm and controlled manner Deborah said, “I might be in the wrong pew here. I have a rat in my toilet!” The lady on the other end was very polite and helpful but gave her the kind of news that nobody with a live rat in their toilet wants to hear. She informed her that they could come but it might be several hours before they had someone free. I must ask rhetorically. If a live rat in your toilet does not count as an exterminating emergency….?

Both Hendersons said the lady was very helpful. She then asked Deborah in a very serious manner, “Don’t you have some tongs?” I know you are thinking the same thing that came to my mind. How is a cookout on the grill helpful in this situation?

After seeking help on the Internet there were many suggestions and comments; none of which were helpful to get a rat out of a toilet. Some from people explaining how misunderstood rats in your toilet were and what excellent pets they could make. My favorite was someone suggesting if they had a gun, they could shoot it. I am not a firearms expert and have never shot a gun in my toilet; but?

I asked Brett how long it was after he saw the rat before he slammed the lid down. For the record it was “13 microseconds!”

I spoke with Tom Kendrick of Nuisance Animal Services, who told me this is the third case he has personally been made aware in his 20 years where a rat was in somebody’s toilet. It can and does happen. From reading other articles on the Internet, it appears to be a relatively infrequent occurrence.

I also spoke with Len Ashack, the Utility director for Jeffersonville Wastewater. He explained that new construction requires a Clean Check Extendable Backwater Valve, which will close in the case of a reverse sewer flow, stopping a sewage backup and indeed further hindering any critter from getting to the toilet. He also added that he was not aware of the rat in the toilet incident I am writing about and he has never heard of any other such problem in the city sewer system. Research on the computer also verified how rare such occurrences are, but I did watch a film showing how a rat could accomplish the feat it in a lab setting holding its breath as it navigated water through the design of the bottom of a toilet.

After some further research the Hendersons discovered a way to humanely euthanize the rodent. And then she put those grilling tongs to good use in the removal. “Now we can’t grill!”

When a columnist hears a story about a rat in a commode — well, this is the kind of story I just couldn’t sit on! I felt compelled to get to the bottom of it. I was flush with interest. I wanted to get a handle on it. OK, I will stop for now or at least not back up!

This story has made the rounds in my neighborhood of Franklin Commons since it occurred on Feb. 26. One lady ran into Deborah and asked if the story were true. “True just like the heart attack I almost had!” Deborah said.

For a few days she left the heavy container on the seat, but now is back to her normal routine other than looking before she leaps. Brett looks at it philosophically. He was just glad it was him and not her who made the discovery. Or even worse that this whole thing didn’t end up biting her in the, well; let’s just say have a bitter end. At one point he said with a deadpan face how Michael Jackson had ruined the whole rat hating thing with his rat love song, Ben! Younger people pull up the song on YouTube for grandma. In real life there is no lovable Ratatouille in your commode!

When I messaged Deborah about meeting to hear the story, I told her that I might want to visit the scene of the crime and photograph what has kind of become a local celebrity toilet. She responded, “Ahh, crap, let me clean the toilet!” Well to be honest that is not a literal quote — more of a paraphrasing.

Lindon Dodd is a freelance writer who can be reached at

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