Living in a city means I am usually confronted with pests of various kinds - cockroaches, over-confident squirrels, and the worst of the worst - rats. Although D.C. is no New York City or Medieval England when it comes to rats they are still abundant. So, I decided to read up on some "urban legends" about these city-dwellers and see if they were really as bad as we make them out to be.
Well, as it turns out...they're much worse.
For example, they CAN actually go through the sewer, up your toilet pipes, and into your home. Seriously, watch the video here for an interesting play-by-play on how it works. Basically, if a rat can fit its head through its opening, its ribs can give way because they are hinged to the spine - and that's how rats can get through the pipe. But, what about the water? Rats are actually pretty good swimmers. They use their tales as a rudder, their back feet to swim, and their arms to "steer". Rats can even tread water for three days straight, and hold their breath for up to three minutes. This is how they survive so effortlessly in sewers and are able to swim right up the pipes and into your toilet.
Oh, and rats are NOT easy to get rid of. This is mostly because they have an extremely low tolerance for being hungry and often go into berserker mode and do anything and everything they can to get their next meal as soon as possible. But, once they find a steady food supply - whether it be an apartment building, garden, or sewer - they really hunker down.
Furthermore, a rat may only venture a few dozen feet in its entire LIFETIME if it is near a food source that keeps on giving. They usually connect a pathway directly from their nest to their food supply and simply make the food run several times a day, every day. These are not a creature imbued with wanderlust. In fact, next time you're in a city see if you see a trail of what looks like grease...it is rat grease. Oftentimes, the trails are so well travelled that the continued use will leave behind grease from a rat's fur.
Oh, and just knocking down one rat population isn't enough to rid a city, or even a neighborhood, of them. It is theorized that killing one rat population just gives the survivors the resources to eat more and breed faster.
Not to mention, rats can still spread disease better than almost any animal in the game. In fact, after Katrina rat-transmitted diseases were a major public health issue, especially the spreading of bacterial diseases like leptospirosis, which can lead to kidney damage, meningitis, liver failure, and death in extreme cases.
So, not only can rats horrifyingly crawl through the sewers into your toilets, they are also hard to get rid of and still carry lots of diseases!