How to Keep Rats Off Your Boat (Mice & Other Rodents Too)

No, that scurrying little shadow was more than just a figment of your imagination. There are few things that are quite as unsettling as discovering that there are rats on board your boat. It’s nothing to be embarrassed about, though - even the cleanest, best maintained boats can have rodents on board. It’s all a matter of accessibility.

But while you definitely shouldn’t be ashamed, there’s no reason to just go about your business like there aren’t pests on board. So here’s a guide on how to keep rats off your boat, and how to get rid of the ones that are already there.

How Do Rodents Get On a Boat?

It can be quite the mental puzzle to try to figure out how rats get on board in the first place. Even when you’re moored, there’s going to be a bit of a gap between your boat and the dock. So unless a rat has the will and desire to make that jump, it really doesn’t make sense how they get on board in the first place.

However it’s important to remember that rats are pretty nimble on their feet. And while bigger species might be able to make the jump, others simple cross mooring lines. Remember, even the cleanest, most expensive marinas will probably have rats and mice around. And they’re all just waiting for that unguarded moment to sneak on your vessel.

Now, why exactly do you have to make a priority of getting rid of rats? Well, if you’re not bothered by the mere fact that there are pests on your boat, these reasons should help highlight the importance of that extermination job.

Disease

Rats and mice are loaded with disease. These pests carry leptospirosis, salmonella, hantavirus, and tularemia to name just a few. And because they leave their feces everywhere, and they tend to come into close contact with food supply, it’s not hard to contract disease when these guys are around.

Damage

Rats will eat pretty much anything. So even when there’s no food around, they’ll get creative. That’s why you’ve probably already heard stories of boat owners dealing with gnawed wiring, pontoon seats, and even dirty rags. Plus, they poop and pee continuously, and all that contamination and moisture can cause stains and serious damage to your electrical instruments.

Keeping Rodents Away When Docked

If you have to moor your boat for an extended period of time, then it’s important that you do what you can to prevent rodents from hopping on while no one’s looking. Here’s how to keep rodents away while your pontoon boat is docked.

Get a Cat

Now, it’s probably starting to make some pretty good sense why other boat owners keep taking their cat with them on board. If you’ve got a cat of your own, you can acclimate it to the conditions on your boat so that it feels more comfortable on deck. If you don’t, you might have a friendly dock neighbor who’s willing to let their cat hang on your pontoon.

Most cats are natural born hunters, and they’re quick and stealthy enough to catch a rat. Having one on board while you’re docked gives you a real-time alarm and capture system that should prevent rodents from making a home. On top of that, rats and mice tend to avoid cats all together, so just having one might make your boat less enticing.

Block Off Mooring Lines and Other Cables

clip on rat guards for your boat

Rodents can be impressively agile, commando crawling over lines to get to your boat. And while you might not be able to detach these lines, you can block them off to keep the furry little pests off of your vessel.

We recommend using the OFFBoard Rat Guards  as they are pretty simple - they clip on a line and create a barrier that prevents rats and mice from moving any farther. The disc itself is made from a durable, weatherproof material that isn’t easy to gnaw through, so you won’t have to worry about the vermin chewing their way to the other side.

Seal Off Points of Entry

You’d be surprised how cunning rodents can be. Even when it seems like you’ve got yourself covered, they manage to somehow magically appear on board. That’s why it’s important to make sure that you seal off as many points of entry as possible.

Pull back dive ladders and other boards that could provide a bridge between the dock and your boat. If there are any holes on the side of your boat, you can fill them up with wire wool. Rats and mice have been known to fail at chewing through the material, so they won’t likely penetrate if you use the stuff to cover up any holes.

Keeping Rats and Mice Away During Winter

It’s essential that you keep your boat in dry storage during the cold months to prevent damage from exceedingly low temperatures. But when the cold weather starts to kick in, any rodents in your home or nearby areas might look for somewhere warm and quiet to stay. And what better place than the engine of a dry docked pontoon boat?

No one wants to pull back the covers on a pontoon after a long winter just to find it covered in pee and feces with most of the wiring chewed off. So here’s how to protect your boat during winter.

Set Up Traps

humane live cage rate mouse trap for catch and release

While rodents tend to prepare for winter by stocking up on food right before the cold months start, they can still look for food. Setting up bait traps around your pontoon should catch any rats or mice that leave the boat in search of a tasty morsel.

There are lots of traps out there that will simply catch the critter, if you’re looking for something a little more humane. But if you want to get rid of them for good, you can add rat poison to your bait before putting it in the trap, or you can opt for a trap that snaps shut and kills them all together.

Set up the traps around the vicinity of your boat, or in it. If they’re already living on your pontoon, they’ll crawl out and snack on the bait. If they’re coming from outside, they’ll likely head into the traps before they make their way to your pontoon.

Depending on what you prefer, we would recommend the below:

Treat Your Boat with Repellent

rodent repellent spray for your boat

Rodent repellent spray just makes the environment less comfortable for rats, ensuring that they won’t find your boat cozy enough to set up camp. Lots of people have found that the stuff in moth balls just doesn’t ring well with rats, which makes it an easy, affordable solution for rat-proofing a boat in storage. Toss a bunch in your pontoon and make sure to get a few moth balls in those hard to reach areas.

If you’re looking for something a little more sophisticated, you can try a rat repellent spray. Give a generous spritz all over your boat every week to keep your boat’s protection fresh and in effect. The non-toxic stuff is pleasant to the senses, and doesn’t pose a health risk to humans and pets.

We like the Exterminators Choice Small Rodent Defense Repellent Spray.

Leave the Lights On

install led lights to rid rats from boats

Rats and mice like dark, dingy environments where they can move around undetected. Setting up ultra bright solar powered lights all over your boat should make it less ideal for the little pests to settle in. On that note, it also doesn’t hurt to check in on your boat every now and then.

Rodents prefer making nests in quiet areas where there isn’t a lot of movement. Disturbing their peace by turning on lights, climbing aboard your boat, and moving things around can disrupt their little ecosystem and force them to look for somewhere else to stay.

Keep in mind that all of these strategies work just as well for boat trailers. For added protection, you might also want to try using various scents like peppermint and spray them all over your trailer tires to make an inhospitable environment for rodents.

Checkout the Solar Powered Kizen LED Lanterns.

What to Do If Rats Make Nest on Pontoon Boat

keep a cat around to catch rats and rodents on boats

So you’re way beyond prevention now, and you’re looking to wage war on those intrusive rodents. Here’s what you can do to get rid of rats and mice that have already made home on your boat.

Deploy a Cat

The same way you would keep a cat around to keep them away, a feline can also help you catch any rats on board. Just make sure you don’t restrict its access to the different areas in your boat so it can completely exterminate the vermin on board.

Set Up Traps and Poison

Never use poison without a trap. If you want those suckers dead, set your poison inside a trap so the rodent has nowhere to go once it eats its last meal. Otherwise, you might find your boat stinking up with rat carcasses that nestled into nooks and crannies after having eaten the poison.

Clean the Clutter

Rodents stay where they have a place to hide. Clearing out clutter and making sure that your space is as empty as possible leaves rats no place to go. Set up strong lights in places where they might want to hide and clean up places where you find significant amounts of feces and urine.

Waging War on Rats

No one wants to play a game of cat and mouse when there’s an expensive pontoon boat in the equation. But hey, it happens to the best of us. When trying to figure out how to keep rats off your boat, there are a load of strategies you can try. Remember though - those things breed crazy fast, so you best get on your feet before they launch an all-out attack.