A woman using an outhouse in Alaska got more than she bargained for when a black bear took a bite out of her backside. “I got out there and sat down on the toilet and immediately something bit my butt right as I sat down,” Shannon Stevens told the Associated Press. While encountering a bear in those environs is a rare occurrence, even in Alaska, it’s probably an experience that she’ll never forget.
She’s not the only one to encounter an unwanted critter in the commode. If the stories below teach us anything, it’s to look before you sit.
In 2015, San Diego’s Department of Animal Services removed a 5.5-foot-long Columbia rainbow boa from a toilet in an office building. Stephanie Lasca, the unfortunate person who found the snake, noticed a higher than normal level of water in the bowl and, when she began to plunge it, the snake popped out. “I thought my eyes were deceiving me,” Lasca said. “This is every person’s worst nightmare.”
Officials believe the snake Lasca found didn’t come in through the toilet, but was instead left there by someone. Still, snakes seem to pop up in toilets fairly often: An Israeli man was bitten on the penis by a snake in his toilet; a Staten Island man was brushing his teeth when he saw a California kingsnake in his toilet bowl; a Mumbai family discovered a 6-foot cobra in their toilet, mere moments after someone had used it; a Pennsylvania woman found a black snake in her commode; and so on.
It’s no urban legend: Rats can totally crawl up into your toilet bowl (here’s how they do it). Just ask the couple in South London who were afraid to go to the bathroom after a rat kept poking its head up into their toilet bowl for 8 months in 2013, or the Brooklyn residents who were watching TV when a rat entered their apartment through the toilet, or the many people who have posted videos of rats in their toilets on YouTube.
“It happens all the time, especially if you live in the basement or a first floor apartment,” Eddie Marco, owner of Brooklyn Pest Control, told Gothamist. “The pipe is empty, the rat crawls through the pipe and up over the hump and into the porcelain. And he can’t get back out.” Vector control in Portland, Oregon reportedly receives 10 to 15 calls a year from residents who have found rats, alive and dead, in their toilets. Marco’s advice: If you find a rat in your toilet bowl, flush it down—and if it gets into your apartment, call the experts to deal with it.
It’s less scary than finding a snake or rat, but it’s probably still pretty disconcerting to see a frog hanging out in your toilet bowl. It happens to lots of people: Googling “frog in toilet” yields millions of results. One Florida resident found enough frogs in his toilet that he wrote in to the Tampa Bay Times for advice: “How does a frog (of a pretty good size) get in the toilet? We had one a number of years ago and then again just Sunday.” The newspaper recommended putting a mesh screen over the toilet vent and keeping lights off at night (keeping them on would attract bugs and, therefore, potentially frogs).
Rats aren’t the only rodents to pop up in toilet bowls. In 2008, a writer for Tallahassee magazine recounted what happened when her cats tipped her off to a squirrel in the toilet, and in 2010, a woman in Edmond, Oklahoma, discovered a squirrel splashing around in the bowl. It took two officers several minutes to “apprehend” the creature—which jumped out of the toilet and ran around the bathroom—and release it in a local park. And in 2013, Winnipeg resident Angela Campbell heard loud sounds coming from her toilet. “I was envisioning … monsters,” she told the Winnipeg Free Press. Instead, she found a very smelly squirrel, “caked with whatever was inside the pipes, from wherever it was coming from.” Campbell didn’t freak out, though; instead, she removed the sad, weak little squirrel, cleaned it up in her bathtub, and set it free.
It appears that, in addition to playing dead, some possums enjoy taking a swim. In 2008, Brisbane, Australia resident Tim Fraser was doing the laundry in his bathroom when the water in the toilet began to gurgle—and out popped a baby possum. “It was like the toilet had given birth,” Fraser told the Sydney Morning Herald. And in 2013, West Virginia writer Karin Fuller recounted the tale of finding a dead opossum in her toilet—which, depending on your point of view, might be worse than a live opossum.
Updated in 2021.