How to Keep Rats off Your Boat?

How to Keep Rats off Your Boat

So, you saw some scary little critters on your boat, but your mind can quite settle with the detection of rats on board right away. 

You probably think it’s too embarrassing because rodents are associated with dirty places and cluttered areas. And that’s why you see it as mere imagination. 

Not only are these rodents disgusting, but they can also damage your boat and expose you and your passengers to serious diseases. 

But there is no need for distress as even the cleanest boats will fit the bill as long as it offers some warmth and a good hiding place. It’s all about accessibility. 

If you have a rat invasion, it’s nothing to be ashamed of. You can easily get rid of these rodents and restore your boat to its high-quality and pristine condition. 

This article will provide a detailed guide on how to get rid of rats and keep them away from your boat permanently. But before we get on the guide, let’s find out how rats get on board.

How Do Rats Get on a Boat?

How Do Rats Get on a Boat

When you detect any pests on your boat, what worries you at first is how they got onboard in the first place. 

It doesn’t make any sense, especially when your boat is clean and you have already left a few inches gap between your boat and the dock. 

However, it’s important to keep in mind that rats have agile feet, which allow them to cross from the dock to boats through the mooring lines. 

Bigger rat species are even able to jump from the dock to boats. So, if there are rodents in the marina where you dock your boat, they have several ways to get onboard.

They will simply stick around and wait for the moment when your boat will be left unguarded to sneak in. 

Whether you park your boat at a local marina or a private dock during the boating season, you won’t be using it all the time. 

So, if there are food crumbs or trash nearby, rodents can easily make a nest in your boat to have access to food and a hiding place. 

Here are the main reasons why you should get rid of rats from your boat immediately after you detect the invasion. 

Rats will Cause a Lot of Damage to Your Boat

When rats get into your boat, they will eat pretty much anything from boat seat covers to electric wires. 

While they are happier to find food on the boat, it doesn’t mean that they’ll idle around when there is no food available on the boat. They will get creative and start chewing anything they come across with. 

That’s why many boaters have to deal with chewed boat seats and ruined rags after a rat invasion. 

One more disgusting thing about rats is that they poop and pee nonstop in their nesting areas. So, all this filth and moisture will end up staining your boat or causing severe electrical issues. 

Rats Can Spread Diseases

Another reason why you do not want rats on your boat is that they carry loads of bacteria and other germs.   

Rats’ scat carries bacteria that can cause damaging diseases like Leptospirosis and Borreliosis.  

And since the critters will leave feces everywhere in the boat, they may contaminate the food surfaces in your boat and expose you to diseases. 

I’ve had a rat invasion on my pontoon boat in the past, and I didn’t hesitate to embark on the extermination job as soon as I detected them. 

Even so, it wasn’t an easy task to keep these grimy critters off my boat, as it cost me nearly $1,000 to fix everything. I had to try out several methods, but things worked out eventually. 

I researched more about pest control on boats to help other boat owners keep rats off their vessels. 

Read of to learn some practical ways to keep rats off your boat when docked and in storage. 

How to Keep Rats Away from Your Boat When Docked

How to Keep Rats Away from Your Boat When Docked

If you usually leave your boat docked at a local marina during the boating season, you should keep in mind that there may be rodents in the area, and they can hop into your boat anytime. 

Rodents can also get into your boat through the mooring lines, depending on how thick they are. Here are five effective ways to keep mice off your boat when docked:

Bring a Cat Onboard 

You may have seen other boat owners bringing their cats onboard, and you thought that they simply enjoy having their feline company. 

Well, some boaters bring their cats on board as a companion while others take them as a preventive measure for various boat pests. 

If you own a cat, you can customize your pontoon boat and make your pet get used to the vessel. This way, your cat will feel comfortable staying on the deck. 

And since your cat is a natural hunter, they will deal with the rat problem soon as they land on the boat. 

Another fascinating thing about bringing a cat on board is that rats are often afraid of cats, hence they try to avoid them altogether. 

So, if there are some mice on the boat, your vessel will soon be less enticing for them, and they will have to leave before the cat kills them. 

Trust me, no rodent will try to make your pontoon boat a nest when there is a predator onboard. 

Block off the Mooring Lines and Other Cables 

As mentioned earlier, rats have agile feet, which allow them to crawl over the mooring lines to get to your pontoon boat. 

Unfortunately, you cannot detach the mooring line from your boat. You have to find a way to block them off and keep rats away from your boat. 

One of the best ways to block rats from your boat when docked is to set some rat guards on the mooring lines. 

You can buy the OFFBoard Rat Guards as they are easy to set up on a mooring line. All you have to do is clip them on the line to create a barrier. 

These rat guards come in a disc shape that will prevent the rats from moving any farther on the mooring line. 

You don’t have to worry about durability as they use high-quality waterproof materials to withstand marine environments. 

The hard materials also mean that rats cannot easily chew the trap and get through to the other side. 

Seal off Entry Points 

Before leaving your boat docked at the marina, you need to check and identify any entry points and seal them off. 

Rats can easily find weak points on your boat and climb in. So, if there are small holes that rodents can use to get into the boat, you need to block them with wire wool. 

I recommend wire wool over other materials because rats cannot chew through such material. 

Pull the Ladders Back into the Boat 

Rodents can also use boarding and dive ladders to get onboard. It is, therefore, crucial to pull the ladders back into the boat before you leave the boat docked. 

If you cannot pull the ladders back onboard, you can create a barrier on one of the ladder steps to ensure that the rat can’t get through to the boat. 

Keep Your Boat Clean 

Another effective way to prevent rodents from nesting on your boat when docked is to keep your boat as clean as possible. 

Try to clean up spilled drinks and food crumbs before parking your boats to avoid attracting rats and other pests. 

You also need to ensure that there are no lingering odors in your boat, as this may invite rodents onboard. 

When there is nothing to feed on, rats won’t enjoy staying in your boat, and this will reduce the chances of nesting. 

How to Keep Rats off Your Boat When in Storage

How to Keep Rats off Your Boat When in Storage

During the winter season, it’s essential to keep your boat in dry storage to steer clear of damages that result from low temperatures. 

However, dry storage areas are also the places where rodents take shelter from the cold weather. These critters need somewhere warm, quiet, and dark to stay when the winter kicks in. 

If your boat has some openings or some sort of accessibility, rodents might end up making a shelter in your vessel. 

Here is how to keep rats off your boat during winter storage:

Block Off Any Holes and Gaps  

This is an essential aspect when it comes to protecting your boat from rodents during winter storage. 

As with my earlier recommendation, you can use steel wool to block all entrances and any small openings. 

Steel wool is the best material to use when sealing the entrances as rats won’t be able to chew it to get through. 

Set Up Some Snap Rat Traps under the Trailer 

Another practical solution is the use of snap traps under the trailer. With the relevant traps, rats won’t make it to your boat. 

While snap traps may not be the most humane approach to keep rats off your boat, they are effective.

Personally, I prefer rat traps that kill the rodents as I don’t want them to come back near the boat or the house during the winter months. 

The best way to use snap traps to deter mice and rats is to set them strategically near the boat trailer tires. This way, the traps will prevent rats and other rodents from climbing onto the boat. 

Install Bright Solar Light Under the Boat 

If rat traps are too unethical for you, the lighting solution is a better option. Rodents like rats and mice are afraid of light, and they hate being in lit areas. 

So, you can take advantage of their weakness to keep them off your boat. All you have to do is wrap some bright lights around the trailer’s base.

Nonetheless, you don’t have to invest in some expensive lighting system because even simple solar lights will do the job. 

I suggest getting some solar rope lights like the ones many people use to decorate their patio and gardens. 

Use Rodent Repellent or Moth Balls 

If you want to make your boat and its surroundings a harsh environment for rats and mice, you can use a rodent repellent spray or moth balls. 

Moth balls may not have a pleasant smell, but they are an affordable solution as rats and mice hate the smell.

For a more sophisticated solution, you can try rodent repellent sprays, as they usually smell nicer than moth balls. 

Once you get the repellent, spray it around the deck floor where you’ve packed your boat. The Specialist Rodent Repellent Spray will keep rats away from your boat when appropriately sprayed on the floor. 

The spray won’t really harm rats in any way but will discourage them from coming to your boat. 

How to Keep Pests Off Your Boat Cover

How to Keep Pests Off Your Boat Cover

Your boat cover is also susceptible to pests and insects that infest your boat, from mice to ants. So, you also need to protect it and prevent damage that may result from infestations. 

To protect your boat cover, you can apply a coat of pest repellent on the cover after covering your boat. 

You also need to clean the cover regularly to prevent accumulation that may attract pests and other animals. 

Other strategies that keep deter pest from boat covers include decoys, ultrasonic sound devices, and dryer sheets.

What to Do If Rats Have Nested on Your Pontoon Boat

What to Do If Rats Have Nested on Your Pontoon Boat

If rats have already made a home on your pontoon boat, preventive measures alone may not be sufficient. 

Here are a few things you can do to get rid of rodents that have already nested on your vessel. 

Deploy a Cat

Cats are great pets as they cannot only keep mice away but will also catch and kill those that are already on board. 

The best way to utilize your cat’s mice catching skills is by ensuring that they have adequate access to the relevant areas. Otherwise, some mice will still hide in places where your cat can’t reach.  

Use Rat Poison and Traps

Poisoning rats that are already on the boat seems like a brilliant idea until you end up with a smelly boat, and you can’t easily locate the corpses. 

When rodents eat poison and start feeling weak, they are likely to hide and rest in dark areas. So, if they spend their last hours in such sites, you’ll struggle to look for the smelly carcasses. 

The best way to prevent this is by trapping the rats so that they die in the trap after their poisoned meal. 

For this strategy to be effective, you need to ensure that there is no other food on board. So, the rodents will be forced to eat from the bait since it’s the only food available. 

Clean Your Boat and Install Some Light in Dark Places

The next thing you need to do is clean your pontoon boat to ensure that the spaces are as empty as possible.

Clean the cooking and eating areas properly to get rid of any food crumbs. Then remove foods like peanut butter and cheese as they are rodents’ favorites. 

If there are any darker areas, set up some lights to leave mice with no place to hide or leave their waste. 

When cleaning up the rat droppings, be sure to use some rubber gloves as the waste carries loads of bacteria that may lead to food poisoning and serious illnesses. 

And if there is any food mice have gotten into, you need to throw it away as it may be contaminated. 

Check the Wiring

When mice get on a boat, they chew everything they come across, from seats to wires. So, if they have invaded your vessel, you need to check the wiring after cleaning the boat. 

If the wiring is already ruined, you’ll have some repair work to do before you get on the water. 

Do not use your boat without checking the wiring and repairing relevant areas, as damaged wires may result in an electrical fire. 

What Scents Do Boaters Use to Keep Rats off Pontoon Boats

What Scents Do Boaters Use to Keep Rats off Pontoon Boats

Many boaters use peppermint, pepper, and cloves scents to keep rodents and other pests away from their pontoon boats. 

Such scents discourage mice and other pests from making a nest on the boat since they do not smell nice to them.

Other than spraying and crushing the products, you can also use scented dryer sheets that have your preferred scent to cover your boat.



Q: What will Keep the Rats Away?

A: Predator’s smell, chemical smell, peppermint oil, pellet repellents, and pepper will keep rats away. 

If you want to keep rats away from your boat, you should cover it entirely and use repellents around the docking area. 

Q: How Do You Keep Rats Away Permanently?

A: To keep rats away permanently, you need to use rodent repellents and accompany them with the appropriate preventative measures. 

For example, you can seal any openings, store food in closed containers, and set up some traps where necessary. 

If mice are already on your boat, you may consider using rodent poison and trapping them to get rid of them permanently. 

Q: What is a Natural Way to Repel Rats?

A: A natural way to repel rats and other rodents involves using peppermint oil, cloves, black pepper, and cayenne pepper. 

If you want mice to stay away from your boat, keep it clean and empty the garbage bins regularly. Then close all openings when storing your vessels to block the sneaky pests. 

Final Thoughts

Final Thoughts

Rats can be pretty destructive animals when they land on your boat as they can quickly do a nasty job within a few days. 

So, it’s important to prevent them from getting on board, and you can easily do that by following the strategies explained in this article. 

Even if you don’t think rodents can invade your boat, it’s better to have some preventative measures. Remember, prevention is better than cure.

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Lisa Hayden-Matthews

Lisa Hayden-Matthews

An avid Skier, bike rider, triathlon enthusiast, amateurish beach volleyball player and nature lover who has never lost a dare! I manage the overall Editorial section for the magazine here and occasionally chip in with my own nature photographs, when required.

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