9 Easy Tips To Keep Rats Out Of Your Swimming Pool

Tips To Keep Rats Out Of Your Pool

Rats are, without a doubt, some of the worst pests you can have. They break into your home, steal your food, and destroy everything you own. Everything at your property is game for rats if you have them around—not just your swimming pool!

Luckily, there are several things you can do to keep rats out of your swimming pool, and I’ll help you with a few easy tips and tricks to get it done!

Just to add – when you shop using links from Pest Pointers, we may earn affiliate commissions if you make a purchase. As an Amazon Associate, we earn from qualifying purchases.

What Kind of Rat Might Be Getting Into My Swimming Pool?

Brown rat (Rattus norvegicus) walking in grass on bank at night. Netherlands. Norway Rat.

Rats are relatively easy to identify because of their beady eyes and long tails. Still, since some species can harbor diseases that others don’t, knowing what type of rat you’re dealing with can help you better assess the situation and how to deal with it.

Four species of rat are common in North America—the Norway rat, the roof rat, the wood rat, and the marsh rice rat.

You can find more information about each species (and determine what type of rat was in your pool) with the chart below!

Differences Between Potential Swimming Pool Rats

SPECIESALSO KNOWN ASSIZEAPPERANCELOCATION
Norway RatBrown Rat | Sewer Rat | Wharf Rat 12 to 20inBald tails/ears and coarse brownish fur. They may also appear grayish and have a lighter-colored underbelly.All continents except Antarctica and are prevalent in the United States. Comfortable in both rural and city environments.
Roof RatBlack Rat | Ship Rat | House RatTree Rat6 to 8inBblack, gray, or brown fur with a tail that’s as long as their body. Their eyes and ears are often larger than those of a Norway rat, and their hair is softer.Coastal and Southern states, despite them not being native to this area. They also live in Arizona and Alaska, inhabiting citrus fields.
WoodratPack Rat | Trade Rat1 to 1.5ftBrownish gray with black highlights on their topside and white feet and belly.Southeastern and Midwestern states but have been located as far Northeast as Connecticut.
Marsh Rice RatFlorida Marsh Mouse | Swimming Rice Rat3 to 5inBrownish or grayish with long, hairless tails and short ears. They may appear darker in the winter.Florida Keys, Gulf Coast, Eastern U.S, and Texas. Marsh rats prefer to live in marshy areas and damp fields or meadows.

You might be wondering why river rats aren’t on the list, and the answer is simple—river rats aren’t rats at all. 

People commonly mistake Nutria (aka river rats) for giant rats because of their long tails and rat-like teeth. But despite their appearance, these rodents are more closely related to porcupines than rats.

While the species listed above are the most common rats found in the United States, other species may live in your area. You can find out more about the rodents that live in your state by calling a local professional.

Why Rats Are In Your Swimming Pool Anyways?

Brown rat (Rattus norvegicus) walking through water at night. Netherlands. Wildlife in nature of Europe.

Did you know rats can swim? It’s true! Most species are excellent swimmers; some can even tread water for up to three days.

I don’t know many humans that can do that!

But despite being good swimmers, rats rarely swim for pleasure. Instead, they usually find themselves in the water to escape predators or while searching for food.

But if the thought of a leisurely dip isn’t what’s attracting rats to your pool area, what is?

Rats Are Attracted To Standing Water

Standing water attracts a variety of pests, including rats, and your swimming pool is one giant water bowl.

According to the Massachusetts Department of Feed and Agriculture, rats need water to survive and may drink up to 12 ml per 100 grams of body weight each day. If they go longer than a day or two without water, they become dehydrated.

When dehydrated, rats cannot swallow or digest food properly. Their bodies stop producing vital bodily fluids, like blood, and they cannot rid their bodies of harmful toxins.

Water Sources That Rats Love

Since water’s such a critical part of their existence, it makes sense for rats to stick close to constant water sources, like swimming pools.

Other water sources may draw rats to your property as well, including:

  • Fountains
  • Ponds
  • Puddles
  • Gutters
  • Leaky pipes
  • Pet dishes
  • Bird baths
  • Watering cans

It’s also worth noting that baits can cause rats to become thirsty and search for water. If your neighbor is baiting rats, they may come into your yard to find water. 

Crumbs and Food Can Attract Rats

Even though rats can go longer without food than water (up to two weeks), they still need food to survive. And although you might not realize it, there are plenty of tasty things for a rat to eat around your pool.

Rats often fall into pools on accident while skittering around the area in search of food, and once they fall in, it’s hard for them to get back out.

On top of crumbs, rats also find food in the landscaping around your yard. While those fruit trees, berry bushes, and flowers look nice, they might offer rodents a constant food source.

Rats Eat So Much Food

Would you be surprised to know that rats can eat up to a third of their body weight daily! And they’re not picky about what they eat.

Rats eat a wide variety of foods, including:

  • Grains
  • Seeds
  • Nuts
  • Fruits
  • Vegetables
  • Insects
  • Meat
  • Garbage
  • Pet waste
  • Eggs
  • Candy
  • Pet food

Honestly, when it comes to rats, there’s almost nothing they won’t eat!

People usually gather outside in the summer, and between BBQs, snacking children, and swimming parties, a lot of crumbs hit the ground near a pool.

Shelter Is a Basic Necessity For Rats

Most species of rats prefer to build their nests near a constant source of food and water, which we know your pool area provides.

Unfortunately, when rats build nests near a swimming pool, it increases their chances of falling in. If you have a mischief of rats living on your property, there’s a good chance you might find them treading water.

Rats need shelter to protect themselves from predators (here’s a full list of rat predators if you’re interested), to stay warm, and to provide a nest for their young. Exactly where they find this shelter depends on the species.

Still, between deck boxes, bushes, flower gardens, sheds, pool heaters, and lawn furniture, most species can find at least one suitable living place near a swimming pool.

Heated Pools Attract Cold Rats

As temperatures drop, rats begin looking for warm places to spend the winter. Unfortunately, this usually means they wind up inside your house somewhere, but if they can’t find their way inside, they might look for a warm place to hunker down outside.

Heated pools and hot tubs attract rats in the winter because they offer warmth and humidity. Finding a rat nestled inside a pool cover or heater is not uncommon.

While it’s unlikely that a rat will purposely jump into your heated pool, it might fall in there while trying to nestle up under the cover. If you keep your pool up during the winter, inspect the cover at least once or twice a week to ensure rodents haven’t gnawed their way inside.

Oh, and if you’re curious about where rats hide when it starts to get cold, check out these places where rats go during the winter!

The Rat May Have Fell Out of a Tree or off a Roof

In addition to being excellent swimmers, rats are also agile climbers. 

Rats can quickly scale most structures, including trees, and easily jump between roofs and tree branches.

Unfortunately, when rats are scared, disorientated, or stressed, they can fall from roofs or tree branches into swimming pools or other bodies of water.

If they don’t have a way to climb out of your pool, you might find yourself face-to-face with a rat the next time you go to take a dip!

Luckily, you can prevent this from happening by checking out the tips below!

9 Easy Tips To Keep Rats Out Of Your Pool For Good!

black rat on white background

Okay, you know what’s attracting them to your yard, but how the heck do you keep them away from your swimming pool?

Fortunately, there are quite a few things you can do to ensure your pool remains rat free all summer long.

1. Use a Tarp or Pool Cover

The best way to prevent rats from falling into your pool accidentally is to cover it when it’s not in use.

Pro tip: Plastic and mesh covers work well to prevent pests from accidentally falling in, while solid lids can help keep animals from purposely getting into your pool.

That said, rats can and will chew through most materials (even heavy-duty covers) if they want a drink badly enough. The best way to ensure rats don’t do this is to eliminate rodent activity around your pool entirely, which you can do by utilizing the tips below. 

In the meantime, you can draw rodents away from your pool area by offering a more accessible water source on the outskirts of your property.

2. Don’t Allow Food Around Your Pool

If you and your family spend a lot of time by the pool, chances are good you eat there too. But keeping food out of the swimming area is a good idea if you want to reduce rodent activity.

Rats are often lured into places by the smell of food, and if you’re leaving crumbs behind, you can bet they will find them!

Try to keep outdoor seating areas away from your swimming pool. Patio chairs are fine, but tables inviting people to sit and eat should be placed elsewhere in the yard.

It’s also a good idea to store BBQ grills away from swimming pools. If you don’t have anywhere else to keep it, clean it well after each use to prevent stuck-on food from drawing a rat’s attention.

But I already have a dining area by my pool… Don’t worry, we’ve got you covered!

Outdoor rugs like this Large 9×12 Reversible Waterproof Rug can help keep messes to a minimum. Just sweep or vacuum when you’re done eating!

3. Store Pet Food Appropriately

It’s not just human food you have to worry about when it comes to rats—they eat pet food too!

Rats will eat a variety of pet foods, including:

  • Cat food
  • Dog food
  • Chicken feed
  • Cattle feed
  • Grains
  • Birdseed

But you can remove these temptations by storing pet food appropriately and cleaning up excess food.

The Less Access To Food The Better!

Store pet food and bird seed as far away from swimming pools as possible. Any pet food you store outside should be in an airtight container.

Are you searching for a way to keep pet food fresh and dry while protecting it from rodents? Check out this Vittles Vault Airtight Pet Food Bucket!

If you feed pets outside, pick up leftover food when the animals finish eating. Leaving pet food unattended—especially overnight—will draw unwanted attention.

Finally, try to keep bird feeders away from swimming areas. Birds are messy eaters, and rats love scrounging through their messes. Moreover, rats might try to climb trees and branches to get to the feeders and can fall into a pool below.

4. Use Wire Fences to Keep Rats Away

As we said before, rats are agile climbers, and most species have no problem scaling a fence.

Still, even though fences aren’t the best way to deter rats from your property, they can help you keep them out of certain areas of your yard.

Wire fences with holes smaller than ¼ of an inch thick work best because rats cannot chew or squeeze their way through them as quickly as they can a wooden or plastic fence.

5. Scare Rats Away with Decoy Predators

Despite them being a big annoyance, rats are small animals, and they have a lot of predators!

You can use decoy predators like owls and snakes to scare rats away from your swimming pool. Decoys work best when they resemble local animals that often prey on rats and other small rodents.

They also work better when they look somewhat realistic, so while your stuffed lion might look cute, it probably won’t scare away too many rodents!

Predators Of Rats

Rats have a ton of predators! Look at this list below:

  • Cats
  • Birds
  • Snakes
  • Foxes
  • Coyotes
  • Skunks
  • Turtles
  • Large Lizards

Which decoys work best in your area will depend on your local wildlife. However, almost all rats are afraid of predatory birds and snakes!

Some Must-Try Decoys

Owl decoys, like this Fake Owl with 360 Rotating Head, scare rats because owls are natural predators of small rodents. Plus, the movement will keep rats from getting used to the sculpture.

You can also place rubber snakes around the edge of your pool to deter rodents from getting too close to the water. 

Decoys work well because they elicit a natural response to flee in the small animals. That said, rats will eventually become privy to the trick, so keep them guessing by moving the decoys around randomly and getting ones that move or make noises.

6. Use Scent-Based Repellents

Rats have a keen sense of smell, and scent-based repellents take advantage of this by utilizing scents that the animals naturally dislike.

You can find scent-based repellent sprays, dry packets, and pellets online or at your local hardware store. Sprays cover large areas well, while pellets and packets are great for places you don’t want to get wet (like storage containers).

Most rat repellents use natural ingredients such as peppermint, pine, eucalyptus, cinnamon, or predator urine. I also reccomend cleaning areas with vinegar regularly (if they don’t damage your surfaces,) as the vinegar can help repel rats!

If you want to make a spray yourself but need help deciding what ingredients to use, check out this list of scents that rats hate!

7. Remove Any Possible Shelter Spots

picture of brown rat on flowerpot selective focus

Rats like to hunker down near a consistent water source, and removing any places they might call home from your lawn can keep them from accidentally falling into your pool.

Unfortunately, this might be easier said than done since various species like to live in different areas.

For example, roof rats prefer to build their nests in higher places, while Norway rats commonly nest on the ground level and may even burrow beneath the ground.

That said, you can eliminate most of the spots where a rat might nest by picking up lawn debris, trimming vegetation, and keeping firewood covered and stored off the ground.

Rats Like To Feel Safe Around Your Yard

Rats will also commonly nest in pool heaters and deck boxes. They might also burrow inside the cushions of deck furniture.

You can prevent this by covering any opening in your pool heater with wire mesh and replacing cloth deck furniture with wooden furniture.

8. Keep Your Landscaping Minimal and Tidy

There are thousands of ways to transform your yard into a personal oasis using your pool as the centerpiece.

Unfortunately, pools surrounded by vegetation are often more susceptible to animal activity.

Keeping your landscaping minimal and tidy is best if you live in an area where rats are a common problem. However, with some careful planning, you can create that natural space— without sharing it with rats!

Certain Plants Attract Plants

Rats are attracted to a variety of plants, including:

  • Berry bushes
  • Fruit trees
  • Vegetable plants
  • Ivy’s and Vines
  • Palm Trees
  • Honeysuckles
  • Oleander
  • Yucca Plants
  • Junipers
  • Jasmine
  • Cypress Trees
  • Sunflowers

You should avoid putting these plants (and any plant that provides food and ground cover) near your swimming pool.

Plants That Rats Are Not Attracted To

In contrast, a handful of plants work to repel rats from your garden, and you can add them alongside other plants to keep rats away from your pool area.

Plants that most rat species dislike include:

  • Daffodils
  • Elderberry
  • Black pepper
  • Rosemary
  • Lavender
  • Marigolds
  • Garlic
  • Various mints
  • Sage
  • Cayenne

9. Install An Animal Ramp

Most of the tips above focus on keeping rats away from your pool, but what can you do to ensure that animals who fall in get out quickly?

Install an animal escape ramp to give helpless wildlife a way to climb out of the water.

Products like these Floating Animal Escape Ramps are easy to install and help keep your pool clean by allowing animals to get out of the water before they become exhausted. 

In the meantime, a simple rope can be used to give animals an escape route. Tie a handful of large knots in the string and secure it around the inside edge of the pool.

These ideas not only keep backyard friends safe, but they reduce the likelihood of you having to clean your pool every time a rat falls in!

That’s a Wrap!

Swimming pools are a great way to beat the heat on a hot summer day, but that fun can come to a screeching halt when you find a rat in your pool.

Fortunately, by following the steps below, you can reduce rodent activity around your pool and decrease the chances of a rat accidentally falling into the water.

The best way to keep rats out of your swimming pool this summer is to:

  • Cover your pool with a tarp or pool cover
  • Keep food out of your swimming area
  • Keep pet food cleaned up and stored in airtight containers
  • Use fences and wire mesh to keep rats out
  • Scare rats away with decoy predators
  • Use scent-based repellents
  • Remove possible shelters
  • Keep landscaping minimal and tidy
  • Install emergency animal ramps

Now that you know how to keep rats out of your swimming pool, all that’s left for you to do is grab a float and have fun!

References

Clinton, J. M. (1969). Rats in urban America. Public Health Reports, 84(1), 1.

Kalandakanond-Thongsong, S., Daendee, S., Thongsong, B., & Chavananikul, V. (2010). The efficacy of pure natural repellents on rat responses using circular open field. The Thai Journal of Veterinary Medicine, 40(4), 411-418.

Kohn, D. F., & Clifford, C. B. (2002). Biology and diseases of rats. Laboratory animal medicine, 121.

Owens, N. C., Ootsuka, Y., Kanosue, K., & McAllen, R. M. (2002). Thermoregulatory control of sympathetic fibres supplying the rat’s tail. The Journal of physiology, 543(3), 849-858.

Recht, M. A. (1988). The biology of domestic rats: telemetry yields insights for pest control. In Proceedings of the Vertebrate Pest Conference (Vol. 13, No. 13).

Timm, R. M. (1994). Norway rats. The Handbook: Prevention and Control of Wildlife Damage, 5.

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