Thank you for your question.
If you are having trouble with wild rats, then the first step is to make sure you remove any sources of food (ie bird food, trash, etc) that would attract the rats to your house during this less the plentiful time of year.
Ideally, rat bait is best avoided if possible, in households with pets or children (especially for all the time we see dogs getting into the rat bait and ending up serious medical problems).
While pets in the household can be a deterrent (especially once the rats appreciate that visiting your house is no longer worth the risk with the easy food sources away), you can also consider making the 'big scary predators are here' message clearer to the rats by leaving some ammonia down (in a place the pets won't get to). This (like the way cat pee would) is a smell that can control your rat problem. You will want to soak a rag in ammonia, place it in a coffee can, and place it near where the rats live or hang out. Some people will even sprinkle used cat litter around their houses, to help get the message across to the rats.
Alternatively, you can try using peppermint oil (not extract), another pungent unpleasant smell for the wee sensitive nosed critters. This can be done by pouring it over cotton batting (or rags)and placed in the areas the rats have been lurking. Many exterminators use peppermint oil to drive rats away. Peppermint oil can be used with other strong oils to maximize the rat deterring effectiveness. (tends to need refreshment often).
Finally, humane traps are always an option. These are non-harmful traps for catching the rats. The only dilemma of capture vs. turning them off visiting, is that it is possible they will return once you have released them back into the woods. But if they continue to visit, then doing this and releasing them away from your area might be an option to get some peace from your unwanted guests.
I hope this information is helpful.
Please let me know if you have any further questions.
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