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Mice vs. Rats – What’s the difference?

Last Updated: 16.04.24


If you have dealt with a rodent infestation before, you have probably scoured the net for an efficient solution that kills rats. In this article, we have covered the topic of rats vs. mice. We talk about distinguishing traits, about the diseases that these rodents carry as well as about what you can do to get rid of them.


Is there a difference?

Both rats and mice are rodents. This means that these animals have strong incisor teeth in the upper part of their jaws that never stop growing. This is the reason why they feel the need to chew at all times.

Besides, most rodents have short legs and long tails and they love to burrow. However, there are plenty of other characteristics that set rodents apart.


Physical appearance

Mice are significantly smaller than rats. An adult mouse measures somewhere between two to four inches in length, while a rat is seven to nine inches. So, keep this aspect in mind next time you spot them in your home. 

Furthermore, if you find a lot of droppings around your home, you might be dealing with a mice invasion. Even though they are smaller than rats, these rodents produce more droppings than rats do. While a mouse produces 40 to 100 droppings per day, a rat only produces 20 to 50. 

As seasoned exterminators have pointed out, the droppings of mice have pointed ends, while the droppings of rats are banana-shaped.

When it comes to color, both rats and mice can have coats that are gray, brown or white, depending on the species. So, this factor is not very useful when it comes to distinguishing between the two.

The tail of the pest might be the telltale sign that can help you correctly identify the invader that has taken over your home. If the rodent has a long, thin and hairy tale, you are most likely dealing with a mouse. If, however, the pest has a long, scaly and hairless tale, your uninvited guest is a rat.

Last but not least, mice have large, visible ears, while rats have smaller ones that are not that noticeable.




The behavior is also a factor that you can use to determine whether your intruders are mice or rats. Specialized exterminators have noticed that mice are very curious by nature. They like to explore new territories and, thus, they have no issues going through their new home during the night.

Because of this, the specialists argue that you can catch your intruders by setting up traps around the home, especially if you have found the path that they most like to use. You will be able to see results in due time.

By comparison to mice, rats are more reserved in their explorations and, according to many, very cautious. They rarely take chances and they prefer being safe. 


Habitat and breeding habits of mice

Mice enjoy eating cereal grains as well as plants. Yet, they are not picky eaters and will eat everything they find available. They normally set their nests in hidden areas near food sources. To build their nest, they generally use soft materials such as shredded paper.

In just one year, a female mouse can breed no less than ten litters of mice. Each litter is made up of between five and six mice babies. This means that just one female can produce up to five dozen mice per year. A mouse reaches maturity at six weeks and it can start mating. A mouse usually lives for around 9 to 12 months.

When they are on the move and they want to see ahead, mice like to stand on their behind legs. They are very fast and very agile as they can climb on wires, ropes, and cables with ease. An adult mouse can jump 13 inches. 

These rodents are nocturnal animals and they enjoy rummaging around until dawn. They hate bright lights. However, they are known to look for food during the day as well, especially when their nest is disturbed  and they have nothing to nibble on.


Habitat and breeding habits of rats

Just like mice, rats are known for eating anything they can find. Still, as rodents, they also prefer fresh grain. What is more, differently from mice, they also eat meat. Because each rat needs to drink half or one ounce of water per day, these rodents often set their nests in places where they have access to water as well as food.

They have no issue burrowing along fences, under buildings, and in debris. Each year, an adult female rat can have up to eight litters of baby rats. Each litter can contain as many as 12 rats. By the time they reach three months, the baby rats transform into adults and they are also able to mate and have offspring.

Rats can adapt in most situations. They are strong swimmers and they can enter a home by hijacking broken drains or even toilets. They can climb easily to reach food shelves. Experts have observed that rats like to keep to the same route when looking for food. Whenever they see a new object on their path, they generally do the best they can to avoid it. 

According to research, these rodents are creatures of habit. Most of them stay close to their nest. To be more precise, within 300 feet. The most common species of rats in the U.S. are the roof rat and the Norway rat. 

Because Norway rats live in basements and the lower floors of a home, while roof rats like to live, as their name suggests, in the upper floors, both of these species can infest the same house at the same time.



Do rats and mice get along?

No. Mice are usually stressed by the odor of rats. When they live in the same area as rats, mice change their behavior and they also reproduce differently. This happens because mice perceive rats as predators.

When these two rodents come face to face, rats usually attack the mice. In most cases, the injuries sustained by the mice are fatal. A study from 1956 showed that rats also enjoy eating parts of the mice that they kill. 

While wild rats consume all of the body parts of the dead mice, it seems like domestic rats only eat the brains of the mice that they kill. According to recent studies, rats only consume their prey if there are no other sources of food around.


Who causes more damage?

As expected, both rats and mice can cause a lot of damage to your property if you do not hire help to get rid of these pests. Both of these rodents can gnaw on wires and, thus, they can cause fires. 

Still, because mice have smaller, weaker teeth, they cannot gnaw through metal and glass containers. Rats do not have to face this issue. These pests can gnaw through sturdy materials such as aluminum, glass, wood, sheet metal, and even cinder blocks.


Do they carry diseases?

Well, the short answer is yes. All rodents can transmit bacteria and disease agents quite easily, given that they like to wander around your home. The diseases that one catches from animals, including rodents, are called zoonoses. For instance, the Black Death, or the plague from the 14th century was transmitted by rats. 

Today, rodents carry diseases such as leptospirosis or Weil’s disease. Infection is transmitted through contact with the water, the food, or the droppings of a contaminated animal. Rat-bite fever is another disease that rats and mice can transmit. Also, these pests carry bacteria such as Salmonella. 

To avoid getting infected, it is advisable that you wear gloves when discarding of the dead pests and their droppings. All food that has been contaminated by these rodents should be disposed of. Additionally, if you get scratched or bitten by a rat or a mouse, immediately disinfect the wound and go to the local hospital to receive the needed care.



What to do?

The best and most effective way to get rid of these pests is to hire an exterminator. Because these rodents are known to breed a lot, you must get in touch with a professional as soon as you notice the presence of rats or mice in your beloved home.

If you like to take care of business by yourself, there are also plenty of products that you can try and numerous DIY projects that you can check out online. 



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