How Long Does It Take To Drown A Rat

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Rats, those pesky rodents that invade our homes and bring along a host of problems, from infestations to diseases. But how long does it take to drown one of these resilient creatures? 

In this blog post, we’ll delve into the fascinating world of rat behavior in water, their survival abilities underwater, different methods used for drowning rats, and ethical considerations surrounding this controversial topic.

We will also explore a relevant psychology experiment involving these creatures’ ability to survive under extreme conditions.

Key Takeaways

Rats can swim for roughly 15 minutes before they run out of energy and drown.
They can hold their breath for up to 3 minutes, but it tends to be much shorter – closer to 10-20 seconds if they are in distress.
To drown a rat, submerge it in a bucket until it is dead. Dispose of the body in a sealed bag in an outside trash can.
Drowning rats can be questionably ethically. If they have been caught in a snap trap and are injured, simply drowning the rat will be a quick and relatively painless death when compared to eventually succumbing to their injuries.

Can Rats Swim And Hold Their Breath?

Rats are excellent swimmers due to their powerful legs and long tails, which facilitate their movements in water, but they cannot hold their breath for extended periods.

Rat Swimming Ability

Rats possess remarkable swimming abilities, enabling them to thrive in various environments. These small, agile creatures can navigate swiftly through the water due to their specialized body features, such as webbed feet and long, flexible tails for better balance and propulsion.

Their astounding endurance is another noteworthy aspect of rat swimming skills. For instance, in experiments that tested the limits of their swimming stamina, rats could often swim continuously for up to 60-80 hours without any stimulation.

Gray Rat in Rain Puddle with Debris

Rat Breathing Ability

Rat breathing ability is a crucial factor to consider when discussing their aquatic capabilities. These small creatures boast an impressive respiratory system, enabling them to hold their breath for up to three minutes underwater. However, this tends to be much closer to 10 to 20 seconds.

The respiration of rats plays a significant role in their ingenious survival skills. For instance, they can use this extended breath-holding capacity while swimming long distances or escaping predators by diving into water sources.

How Long Can Rats Survive Underwater?

Rats are known for their impressive swimming capabilities primarily stem from their innate flexibility and determination. These resilient creatures can hold their breath and survive underwater for up to three minutes, thanks to a unique combination of rat physiology and survival tactics.

Some extraordinary instances have even reported rats treading water for up to three days straight after being flushed down toilets – an incredible feat that showcases the aquatic ability of these rodents.

On the other hand, domesticated rats face higher drowning risks compared with wild ones due to physical differences like reduced muscle mass or lack of exposure to water environments.

Factors That Affect Rat Drowning Time

Several factors can impact the time it takes for rats to drown. For one, water temperature plays a crucial role in rat drowning time. Cold temperatures can induce hypothermia and decrease oxygen consumption, leading to longer survival times underwater.

Another important factor is the stress response of rodents when placed in water. When submerged, The panic and struggle can use up more oxygen than swimming alone, ultimately leading to a faster demise.

It is essential to note that while the bucket method has been widely used in experiments involving rodent death by drowning, it has received heavy criticism regarding its ethics.

Methods Of Rat Drowning

There are various methods of rat drowning, including bucket, trap, and pool methods. However, it is important to consider ethical concerns and alternatives to killing rats, such as using humane traps or deterrents.

Bucket Method

One of the methods used to drown rats is known as the bucket method. This involves filling a bucket with water and placing the rat inside it. The rat will instinctively try to swim but eventually tire out and succumb to drowning.

Dr. Curt Richter famously used this method in his experiments on how long it takes rats to die from drowning. He placed rats into buckets filled with water and timed how long it took them to give up and drown.

Through these experiments, he discovered that some rats displayed different behaviors when faced with drowning, being able to swim for nearly 60 hours before finally giving up and drowning.

Trap Method

Using traps is a common method for rat control that can be humane and effective. Non-lethal rat traps are eco-friendly and offer the safe removal of rats without harming them.

These traps allow you to catch the rats alive, enabling you to release them far from your property safely. Lethal traps have their downsides as they kill the rats instead of trapping them humanely, making it challenging to ensure a quick death without causing unnecessary suffering.

It’s important to note that when using lethal methods like drowning or glue trapping, many rats may need to die before controlling infestation successfully. The trap method offers an ethical alternative that won’t endanger other wildlife or leave dead animals in hard-to-reach places.

Pool Method

The “Pool method” is a common technique used for drowning rats in laboratory experiments. This involves placing the rats in a container filled with water until they eventually drown.

While this method may seem disturbing, it is often used to study rat behavior and physiology. Ethical concerns have been raised about the use of animal testing in general and specifically about this method of drowning rats.

Despite these concerns, the Pool method has yielded some interesting findings regarding how long it takes for rats to drown. In one study, most non-trimmed whisker rats lasted an average of 15 minutes before they drowned underwater, while those with trimmed whiskers drowned quickly in 1-2 minutes only.

Ethical Concerns And Alternatives To Drowning Rats

The use of drowning as a method to control rat populations is a subject of ongoing ethical debate. While some argue that drowning is an inhumane practice, others maintain that it is an effective means of pest control.

Alternatives include humane trapping and euthanasia.

Animal welfare organizations advocate for the implementation of guiding principles in pest management that prioritize the humane treatment and care of animals.

Sometimes, a snap trap won’t kill a rat, only injure it. We argue that in this case, drowning is a much better fate than being trapped in pain without food and water and eventually dying.

The same argument applies to glue traps. These rats are quite literally going to starve and dehydrate to death. It’s better to end the suffering quickly.

Dead Rats on a Glue Trap

The Psychology Experiment On Drowning Rats

In a psychology experiment, domesticated rats were submerged in water and drowned within approximately two minutes.

The Resilience And Results

Dr. Curt Richter’s psychology experiment on drowning rats demonstrated these creatures’ remarkable resilience and survival instincts. Despite being placed in buckets of water, the rats lasted an average of 15 minutes before drowning, showing their strong swimming skills and ability to hold their breath.

Moreover, the study highlighted the power of hope and how it can help us endure even in the most challenging situations. The rats exhibited coping mechanisms similar to humans, demonstrating that animals are not mere automatons but sentient beings capable of psychological resilience.

Curt’s Experiments Focused On The Duration Of Rat Death

Curt’s experiments on rats focused on how long it took them to die from drowning. The experiments were conducted by placing the rats in buckets filled with water, and the average time that they lasted before drowning was 15 minutes.

While the experiments may seem inhumane to some, Curt was a behavioral psychologist interested in understanding the resilience and behavior of rats in the face of drowning.


In conclusion, drowning rats may seem like an easy solution to pest control, but it’s important to consider the ethical implications and potential cruelty involved. 

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Sean is the founder of Conquer Critters. With more than 17 years of experience in dealing with various pests, he is passionate about spreading his knowledge to help everyone manage their pest problem in the fastest, most effective manor possible.

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