What’s the difference between a mouse and a rat? Identifying the type of rodent you have is the first and most important step in controlling your rodent problem. What works to control mice won’t necessarily work to control rats. Here are the differences between mice and rats along with some tips to prevent and get rid of them.


The most common mouse found in the United States is the house mouse.
Mouse with white background

What Do They Look Like?

  • Small size, usually 1-4 inches long.
  • Adults weight about 0.5 ounces.
  • Small head, small feet, pointed snout.
  • Large ears with some hair.
  • Light brown body with some gray shading and dark tail.
  • Larger ears and longer tail compared to their body size than rats.
  • Musky odor
  • Color blind
  • Droppings shaped like rods

Where Do They Live?

  • They usually live on the ground or in nests in burrows.
  • Will build nests near food source.
  • Will use nearly any soft material or finely shredded paper to build their nest.
  • Can be found indoors or outdoors, in cities or rural areas.

What Do They Eat?

  • They prefer to eat cereals but will feed on almost anything.
  • They tend to seek food in the same place everyday.
  • They don’t need to drink water but will if it is available.

How Do They Move?

  • They can climb, jump, and swim.
  • They can jump up to 13 inches.
  • They can run along wires, cables, and ropes.
  • They are nocturnal and most active from dusk until dawn.
  • They are curious and will come out to investigate.
  • Mice can enter buildings through openings as small as 1/4″ in diameter.


The two most common rats found in the United States are the brown rat (Norway rat) and the black rat (roof rat, ship rat).

Brown Rat (Norway Rat)
Brown Rat in the grass

Black Rat (Roof Rat, Ship Rat)
Side profile of a Black Rat on a white background

What Do They Look Like?

  • Brown rats have a heavy, thick body, a blunt snout, and short ears with dark hair.
  • Brown rats have brown bodies with black shading and shaggy coats.
  • Brown rats have tails that are dark on top and pale underneath.
  • Adult brown rats weigh about 11 ounces.
  • Brown rat droppings are shaped like capsules.
  • Black rats have light, slender bodies, pointed snouts, and large ears with no hair.
  • Black rats have gray bodies with black shading and smooth coats.
  • Black rats have dark tails.
  • Adult black rats weight about 7 ounces.
  • Black rat droppings are shaped like spindles.
  • Rats have longer body lengths, measuring about 8″ in body length with another 9″ of tail length.
  • Rats have larger feet and heads compared to body size than mice do.

Where Do They Live?

  • Rats will dig under buildings, along fences, and under plants and debris.
  • The brown rat usually lives on the ground or in burrows.
  • The brown rat is usually seen in buildings, sewers, and outdoors.
  • The black rat is usually seen in buildings around ports and in ships.
  • The black rat will nest high up in roofs, attics, and trees.

What Do They Eat?

  • Brown rats prefer cereals.
  • Brown rats tend to seek food in the same place everyday.
  • Brown rats drink about 2 ounces of water a day.
  • Black rats prefer moist fruits.
  • Black rats tend to seek food in different places each day.
  • Black rats drink about 1 ounce of water a day.

How Do They Move?

  • Rats can enter a building through a hole as small as 1/2″ in diameter.
  • Rats are strong swimmers and can live in sewers.
  • Rats can enter buildings through broken drains and toilets.
  • Rats will climb to get food, water, and shelter.
  • Rats follow regular routines and paths everyday.
  • Rats usually stay within 300 feet of their nest or burrow.
  • Rats are nocturnal.
  • Rats have poor eyesight.

How Do You Get Rid Of Rodents?

Now that you know the difference between mice and rats, what can you do to get rid of them? Check out these 7 tips for getting rid of both mice and rats:

  1. Know The Signs. Signs of both mice and rats include droppings, gnaw marks, tracks, and burrows. These signs can especially be seen around food sources.
  2. Keep It Clean. Mice and rats will come into your home in search of food. Store food in airtight containers. Don’t leave food or dirty dishes out overnight. Wipe crumbs off the counters. Sweep and vacuum floors regularly. Secure your garbage. Don’t leave pet food out overnight and store it in airtight containers, also.
  3. Don’t Let Them In. Eliminate any entry points into your home. Seal any cracks in your foundation. Seal around any openings in the walls, especially around utility pipes and vents. Use weather stripping for gaps in doors and windows.
  4. Don’t Forget Outside. Remove debris from around your home. Keep your yard mowed and weeded. Trim shrubbery away from the sides of your home. Keep woodpiles away from your home.
  5. Use Your Pets. Cats and even some dogs will hunt rodents. Use them as a ready made form of pest control.
  6. Use Traps. There is never just one moue or rat so it is best to use several traps at a time. It is also a good idea to use different types of traps. Use whatever food the pests have been feeding on as bait in your traps. Place traps perpendicular to the walls and near where you have seen signs of their presence.
  7. Call The Pros. If you suspect a mouse or rat problem in your home, contact a pest control professional. They will be able to evaluate your home, identify what kind of rodent you have, and set you up with a comprehensive treatment plan.


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