Rats vs. Mice (What Are the Differences?)

As a homeowner, when you’re faced with a rodent issue, you’ll probably want to get rid of it as soon as possible. Maybe you’ve noticed droppings or chewed-up food in your pantry, or perhaps you’ve even seen them running around. While mice and rats may look somewhat similar, they require different types of treatment to get rid of them. Knowing the differences between these two pests can help you come up with the best plan for removing them.

In this article, you’ll learn the differences between rats and mice, including:

  • Size 
  • Head Shape 
  • Color
  • Tails 
  • Behavior 
  • Nests 
  • Droppings

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The Differences Between Rats and Mice

While every type of rodent can pose similar problems when they make their way into your home, key differences make them very distinct animals that require different techniques to eradicate them. Identifying what kind of infestation you have can help you or an exterminator figure out how to best get rid of it.

Size

One of the biggest differences between rats and mice is their body size. Adult mice are much smaller and have slender bodies that usually measure between 30 and 100 millimeters. On the other hand, common rats can grow to a body length of up to 220 millimeters, not including their tails. They also have much thicker-set bodies that can weigh up to 500 grams.

Head Shape

Rats and mice have very different head shapes, which can be an excellent way to identify them. While young rats can be around the same size as full-grown mice, their heads will always be different no matter what stage of life they’re in. House mice will have longer, pointier noses and large ears. Rats’ noses are blunted and short, and they have small ears compared to the rest of their head.

Color

Color is one of the areas where rats and mice are very similar. Mouse and rat species can be all kinds of colors, including gray, black, and brown. However, rats are generally going to be much darker in color. This is because they spend more time in places where they can get dirty, like in walls and sewers. Oftentimes, rats may even leave grease stains where they walk. Mice will usually be much lighter in color since they tend to stay indoors whenever possible, so their fur stays cleaner.  

Tails

Both mice and rats have long tails, but how long they are in relation to their bodies will tell you which one you’re dealing with. Mice usually have tails that are the same size as their body or even longer, and they will also be thinner and have a fine fuzz. Rats’ tails are thicker and slightly shorter than their bodies, and they will also be hairless and almost scaly in appearance.

Nests

Where you see rodents in your home will help you determine what kind you’re dealing with. Mice are excellent climbers, so they will be more likely to make nesting areas in places like attics or other spaces that are high up in your home. They’re also much bolder than rats and will be more likely to be out in the open in your kitchen or living areas. Rats are also good climbers, but because of their size, they prefer to make their nests in lower areas like basements, crawl spaces, or garages where it's easier to get to food sources. Both will use things like electrical wiring to make their nests, which causes a lot of damage.

Droppings

One of the first things you might notice when dealing with a rodent infestation is droppings. Mouse droppings will be very small, with a length between three and eight millimeters, and they will be black and granular in shape. Rat droppings are usually much larger, and they can be up to 20 millimeters long and have a tapered shape that looks like a large grain of rice.

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Get Rid of Rats and Mice By Knowing the Differences

Whether you’re dealing with a rat or mouse infestation, you’ll want to get rid of it as soon as possible. Rodents like these can carry fleas and diseases like hantavirus and are generally unsanitary to have in your home. Removing them and preventing them from coming back into your home can help keep the house safe and clean.

While it’s possible to remove a rodent problem yourself, a pest control professional can make sure that they’re thoroughly eradicated and that they won’t return. They have the tools and the knowledge to develop a plan and execute it to keep your home safe from these pests.

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Because pest control products can be dangerous to your family if mishandled, we always recommend consulting with an exterminator even if just to ask for advice on how to apply pest control products yourself.

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