Pest Resources

Mouse vs Rat - What's the difference?

Mouse vs Rat - What's the differences?

While both rats and mice have been known to be fantastic additions to the family as new and cuddly pets, these will have often been bred for domestication. However, there are many other rat and mouse species out there, with some being regular pests in the average American home.

So, it’s quite important you know the differences between the mouse vs rat, as well as knowing that they are not your friends. Who are you going to call? Rodent-busters!

Here at Pest Resources, we’ve gathered all the information you need to know if you have a rat infestation or a mouse infestation. Read on to learn more.

A History of Rodents

Around 12-million years ago, rodents began to form different characteristics through evolution. This caused what we would call the modern rats and mice to go their separate ways in the family.

Since then, there have been various breeds of rats and mice found across the globe, with only some affecting the US. In fact, there are over 70 different species of rats and mice across North America, alone.

Currently, there are four breeds of rat that are commonly seen throughout the US, with only the top two being a major pest concern:

• Norway Rat (A.K.A. The Brown Rat)

Picture of a Brown Rat
• Roof Rat (A.K.A. The Black Rat)
• Wood Rat (A.K.A. The Pack Rat)
• Marsh Rice Rat

As with rats, there are eight commonly seen species of mouse spotted throughout the US depending on the geo-climate. Again, only the top two breeds are of a concern regarding infestation:

• Deer Mouse (A.K.A. The Field Mouse)
• House Mouse
• Western Harvest Mouse
• White-Footed Mouse
• Cotton Mouse
• Cactus Mouse
• California Mouse
• Woodland Jumping Mouse

What Are the Main Characteristic Differences Between Mice and Rats?

After 12-million years of evolution, the mouse vs rat debate has grown quite a few differences in each part of their lifecycle. For example: their looks, size, food preferences, breeding habits, droppings, and behaviors will all help us identify our pest problem from the rat to the mouse.

In terms of behavior, the starkest difference is that mice are curious creatures while rats tend to be quite cautious. In terms of traps, this means that you can put pre-set traps right in front of a curious mouse to deal with the issue. However, you’ll have to allow the rats to get used to seeing unset traps first and work with something like an electric mouse trap.

Then there’s the physical characteristics. For now, we’ll compare the two most prevalent breeds for pest problems: the house mouse and the Norway rat, who look very different. While the house mouse has a light brown body with small head, small feet, pointed snout and big ears, Norway rats usually have much bigger bodies with black hair, blunt snouts, small ears, and pale rat’s tails.

Fun fact: a final difference between these two species is that the Norway rat has six pairs of nipples while house mice have five.

What Are the Similarities in the Mouse VS Rat Debate?

As they come from the same families, rats and mice are bound to have their similarities. You’d think, anyway. Actually, not much is similar other than the fact they can be a common pest in your household, leaving droppings, eating crumbs, and gnawing holes into your attic space. These aren’t to be confused with Gopher and Mole holes, which are typically seen in the garden and are very different.

When it comes down to it, everything is different, from their size, to their litter, breeding habits, social abilities, sporting activities (yep, rats can swim and mice can jump), droppings, choice of food source, and eating requirements.

However, one important similarity to be noted is that rats, mice, and their droppings must not be touched. They should be removed with care by a professional exterminator. This is because they carry diseases such as:

• Hantavirus
• Bubonic Plague
• Salmonellosis
• Rat-Bite Fever

Did you know that mice can live on a mere 3ml of water per day, while a rat requires a staggering 60ml? You do now.

Where Do Mice Live?

Mice are family creatures that live in social settings. These little rodents prefer to make a home in your attic’s storage boxes or insulation. This is because they provide the warmest areas to sleep throughout the day and breed.

The deer mouse and the house mouse will often get access to your home through trees and pipes. They’ll then chew through packing materials and wood to burrow and create a suitable nest.

If you go into your attic to find that there are small holes (as small as ¼ of an inch) then you’ll likely have a mouse infestation. However, if this hole is closer to ½ an inch, then it might be rats.

For more information on how to best deal with a mouse infestation in your attic, visit: “The Best Way to Get Rid of Mice in Your Attic”.

Where Do Rats Live?

Rats are pack animals and will always be smart about their habitats. There are three types of home a rat will make themselves and these could all be in, under, or around your home. They’ll choose this home depending on their surroundings and food source, but there are some patterns.

There are rat nests, rat burrows, and rat holes. All of which explain their nature in the name. However, it’s Norway rats who are most likely to create rat holes and rat burrows under your house and in the basement. While roof rats, on the other hand, like to make the rat nests above ground such as in your attic and in your walls.

While the size of these rat nests can make it hard to determine the extent of an infestation, they have been found in packs of 15 all the way up to 220 under one roof.

Am I Looking at Rat or Mouse Droppings?

A final factor in the mouse vs rat battle would be to compare their droppings. As droppings are often one of the first signs of a rat or mouse infestation (alongside scratching noises in the night), it’s important you can tell the difference. Luckily, it’s quite stark.

Rat droppings are normally long and thin pellets. In terms of size, they can range from 10 to 20mm in length. The color of rat droppings will depend on the age. A good rule of thumb is to think, the blacker the fresher. Otherwise, rat droppings are normally black.

Mouse feces, unlike rat poop, are much smaller and come in larger quantities. They range between 1 and 2mm in length and have noticeably pointy ends. You’ll often find groups of around 75 of these pellets. The smell of mouse droppings is a distinct ammonia smell due to the urine around the area. And, rather than black in color, mice have dark brown feces.

Are Rats Worse Rodents to have than Mice?

To bring this mouse vs rat comparison to an end, we’ll go over the importance of getting in contact with your local pest control service. Both of these pests can cause structural damage to your home as well as posing a risk to you, your family, and any pets you may have.

Despite this, it can be said that rats are a worse pest to have in your home, simply because they are larger, noisier, and greedier. To top it off, they are smarter creatures than mice, making them harder to trap and kill.

Don’t forget to keep checking in with the Pest Resources website to find out more about your pests and infestations!

Ronald has 25 years of pest control experience under his belt. He scrutinizes each pest control method, product and process. Each pest resource we list on our website goes through an in-depth fact checking process.

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