As members of the rodent family, mice and rats look very similar and are often mistaken for one another. Both are harmful, transmitting serious diseases to humans and pets, contaminating surfaces in our home, and chewing through structures and wires, causing damage and putting you at risk for fires. How do you know if you are dealing with a mouse vs rat? Here are 5 key differences between these two rodents.
Mice are noticeably smaller than rats, growing 3 to 4 inches in length. Mice weigh anywhere from 0.5 oz to 3 oz. A mouse’s tail is equal in length to its body and is thin, long, and covered in hair. Mice have small heads and large ears with pointy, triangular snots and smooth fur. Mice can be white, gray, or brown in color. Rats, on the other hand, are much larger, measuring 9″ to 11″ in length and weighing anywhere from 12 oz to 1.5 lbs. A rat’s tail can be 7″ to 9″ in length and is long, thick, scaly, and hairless. Rats have small ears and large heads with blunt snouts. They have coarse fur that can be dark brown or multicolored.
Mice have smaller droppings, about 1/4″ in length. Mice droppings are black with pointed ends and resemble a grain of rice. Mice can leave up to 100 droppings at a time. Rat droppings are larger with an elongated oval shape. These droppings are about 3/4″ long, black in color, and resemble a banana. Rats can leave up to 50 droppings at a time. Rodent droppings of both species are known to carry diseases that can be harmful to humans.
While both species are omnivores, their diets tend to vary. Mice commonly eat fruit, seeds, and plants. In your home they may nibble on bread crumbs or other cereals and grains. Their palates are not as wide as rats. Mice can also survive on 3 mL of water per day. Rats, on the other hand, will eat almost anything, even scavenging through your garbage for fruit, eggs, meat, and other leftovers. They will also eat plants and seeds. Rats need anywhere from 15 to 60 mL of water per day.
While both rats and mice will come into your home, they tend to frequent different areas once inside. Mice can be found in garages, under trees, under decks, and in walls and other voids that are too small for other rodents to get into. The species of rat you are dealing with determines where they prefer to live. Norway rats can be found in sewers, inside walls, and in cellars. They prefer lower levels of your home to reside in. Roof rats prefer higher environments, often being found in cabinets and attics.
Mice are nocturnal animals. They are timid but social within their own populations. They are very territorial and more curious than rats, making them easier to trap. They are skillful climbers and can access areas rats can’t because of their small size. Rats are also nocturnal but are more cautious and fearful of new things than mice are, making them more difficult to trap. Rats are also skillful climbers. Both rats and mice will gnaw through structures and wiring in your home, causing damage and putting you at risk for fire. Mice have weaker teeth and can’t chew through glass or metal to get to food. Rats have much stronger jaws and have been known to chew through wood, glass, sheet metal, aluminum, and even cinder blocks.
Regardless of which pest you are dealing with, proper identification and treatment is essential to eliminating them. Contact your local pest control company who can determine which type of pest you have and set you up with the appropriate rodent control plan to eliminate them.
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Rats and mice are both rodents and while they are often mistaken for each other, the similarities really end there. These two pests don’t breed with each other and typically nest in different places. If a population is big enough that the two species cross paths on a regular basis and the food sources nearby are plentiful, then they can inhabit the same area at the same time; this is rare, however. Most often they are competing for the same food and rats will kill mice instead. In fact, mice and rats give off very distinctive odors and mice will flee when they smell rats nearby.
Rats vs mice can be confusing and the two are often mistaken for each other when they infest your home.
Mice are much smaller than rats, usually only 2″ to 4″ long. They typically have lighter brown coloring and dark tails. Their ears are proportionately larger when compared to their body size than those of rats. Mice have wide, blunt snouts, small feet, and small, beady eyes. They prefer to eat grains and plants but will eat leftover food and garbage if inside. They can also go long periods of time without water. They typically nest in hidden areas near their food sources (e.g. your kitchen). They produce more droppings per day than rats (70-150) but their droppings are smaller in size and usually scattered throughout the house. They are more curious than rats and easier to trap.
Rats are much larger than mice, usually ranging from 8″ to 10″ in length. They also have much darker coloring. Their ears are proportionately smaller when compared to their body size than their mice cousins. They have sharp, narrow snouts, large hind feet, and large, prominent eyes. Rats are omnivores and will eat anything they find, including meat. They require regular amounts of drinking water than mice do. Depending on the species, rats also nest in different areas than mice. Norway rats will often dig under buildings, along fences, and hide under debris and landscaping. Roof rats will typically nest in higher locations (e.g. roofs, attics, and rafters). Rats produce larger feces (about 2 cm in size). Rats are more cautious than mice and can be more difficult to trap. They are also strong swimmers.
Both rats and mice are dangerous to humans. Risks of a rodent infestation of any kind include gnawing through surfaces, insulation, and wires; contaminating surfaces with urine and droppings; and carrying and transmitting harmful pathogens like salmonellosis, plague, and trichinosis.
The best treatment against a rodent infestation is to prevent them in the first place. Here are some of our top rodent prevention tips you can utilize in your home.
- Clean up spilled food immediately.
- Put away all food at night, including pet food and bird feeders.
- Keep food, including pet food and bird seed, in sealed, airtight containers.
- Keep garbage can lids tightly sealed.
- Declutter your attic and basement, especially anything made of cardboard.
- Store any items you can on shelves rather than in the floor.
- Keep your yard clear of debris.
- Keep grass and shrubs cut short.
- Trim shrubs and trees away from the sides of your home.
- Store firewood off the ground and a safe distance from your home.
- Repair holes in your foundation, garage, and interior walls and any gaps in your roof.
- Seal any openings larger than 1/4″.
- Use rubber seals under garage doors.
- Use door sweeps on exterior doors.
- Use weatherstripping around windows and doors.
- Use screens that are in good repair on doors and windows.
- Seal around pipes, drains, and vents.
- Use chimney caps.
If you suspect a problem with rodents or any other pest, contact your local pest control company who can help identify which rodent you are dealing with and set you up with the most appropriate rodent control plan for your situation.
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While rodents will typically infest your home during the colder months of the year, it is still possible for these pests to be found inside the home during the warmer months too. If a rodent, like a mouse or rat, is found inside a house during spring and summer months, it’s likely that they’ve been there since winter! Rodents can cause expensive damage to your property. Learning some common signs of rodents in your home is the first step in identifying an infestation and establishing a rodent control plan.
One of the most common and telling signs that a rodent is in your home is finding their droppings. Measuring around 1/8 to ¼” long, droppings are left behind in places where food is stored, such as the kitchen and pantries. Rodent feces can be dangerous as it can carry harmful bacteria and transmit dangerous diseases such as salmonella. When looking for these droppings, make sure to check under the sink, in pantries, in cabinets, along baseboards, and on top of wall beams.
Mice and rats are always in search of food and water and will often chew their way to it. Both rodents can cause serious damage by chewing through materials found throughout the house, such as plastic and lead pipes. House mice and Norway rats are known to gnaw on wires that are behind walls, causing the dangerous risk of a fire. Check throughout the house for any suspicious chewing marks on wires, pipes, or even plastic containers as these can be an indication that a rodent is inside your home.
Hearing strange noises at night is always concerning, but it’s also a common indicator that rodents have made their way inside. These pests are typically active during the night and, if inside, hearing them scurry around the house is common. Rodents usually prefer dark, secluded spots to build their nests, such as in attics or in between walls. Checking these areas could give you the answer on whether rodents have been infesting!
If you suspect a rodent infestation in your house, contact your local pest control company who can safely remove them from your home.
Rodents are one of the most resourceful pests when it comes to getting into your home. Mice and rats can squeeze through the tiniest cracks to gain access and they require very little space to travel inside. Rodents seek shelter indoors, especially during the fall and winter months as they go in search of warmth, food and water. While a rodent sighting can be scary enough, these pests also pose serious hazards to your home and your health. They can gnaw through cardboard, paper, and even electrical wires, putting you at risk for fires. They are known to carry bacteria, like salmonella and hantavirus, and can contaminate your food, kitchen surfaces, and other areas of your home. Even rodent droppings are dangerous – helping spread these pathogens to you and your family.
The first step in rodent control in and around your home is to prevent them from getting inside in the first place. Here are 10 easy tips you can use for preventing mice and rats:
- Use doorsweeps and screens on windows and doors. Make sure to keep them in good repair and replace them when needed.
- Use screens on vents and chimneys, as well.
- Seal up any cracks and holes on the exterior of your home with caulk or steel wool, especially around utility pipes.
- Store food in airtight containers. Make sure to empty your trash often.
- Clean up any spills and crumbs immediately. Don’t leave food out overnight, including pet food. Sweep, mop, and vacuum on a regular basis.
- Keep basements, crawlspaces, and attics clean, decluttered and dry. Use plastic storage containers instead of cardboard when possible.
- Check foundations and windows and replace any loose mortar and weatherstripping.
- Check for sources of moisture and eliminate them (e.g. leaky pipes, clogged drains, clogged gutters). Make sure downspouts are directing water away from foundations. Consider installing a gutter guard system.
- Inspect everything before bringing it into your home including grocery bags, boxes, packages, furniture, and appliances.
- Keep piles of firewood elevated off the ground and at least 20 feet from your home. Keep grass mowed and shrubbery trimmed back so it isn’t touching the house.
If you do find signs of rodents in your home, best practice is to remove them and prevent re-entry as soon as possible. This is best accomplished by a professional pest control company who can not only eliminate the nuisance pests, but help identify nesting sites and points of entry to help prevent reinfestation in the future.
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You’ve found all the signs and you’ve confirmed it – there’s a rodent in your house. But is it a rat or a mouse? Does it really matter? How can you tell? Although there are significant differences in rat vs mouse, it can be hard for the average homeowner to distinguish between the two. The behavior, diet, and habitat of each of these pests affects how they are eliminated and prevented. Proper identification is essential for effective rodent control.
There are over 70 species of mice and rats in the United States. The most common are the Norway rat, the roof rat, and the house mouse. Let’s take a look at the difference between rats and mice and why it matters.
Mice are curious and will investigate anything new they come across. Because of this, you can put set mouse traps directly in their path. Mice can stand on their hind legs when they are supported by their tails. They are excellent jumpers, swimmers and climbers and are extremely fast runners. Mice are nocturnal and most active from dusk until dawn. They do not like bright lights.
Rats are more cautious than mice. They will avoid new things until they get used to them being there. Because of this, unset traps should be placed in their path first to let them get used to them and then replaced with set traps later. Rats are strong swimmers and will often live in sewers, allowing them to enter buildings through broken drains and toilets. They will climb to get to food, water, and shelter. They follow regular routines and paths each day.
House mice are much smaller than their rat cousins. They have small heads, small feet, pointed snouts, and large ears with some hair on them. They are usually light brown in color with some gray shading and dark tails. Their droppings are shaped like small rods.
Norway rats have heavy, thick bodies. They are the largest of the three common rodent species. They have blunt snouts and short ears with dark hair. They are usually brown with black shading and shaggy coats. Their tails are dark on top and pale underneath. Their droppings are shaped like capsules.
Roof rats have light slender bodies. They have pointed snouts and long ears with no hair. They are usually gray in color with black shading and smooth coats. Their tails are dark. They have droppings shaped like spindles.
Mice prefer cereal grains and plants but they will feed on almost anything.
Rats will eat nearly anything, as well, but prefer fresh grain and meat. Rats also need 1/2 to 1 ounce of water a day to survive.
Mice prefer to nest near their food sources. They will use any soft material or shredded paper to build their nests.
Rats will burrow under buildings, along fences, and under plants or debris. Norway rats typically live in these burrows while roof rats prefer to nest in walls, attics, and trees.
Mice will have up to 10 litters per year and typically live from about 9 to 12 months.
Norway rats will have up to 6 litters per year and live 12 to 18 months.
Roof rats will have up to 8 litters per year but have fewer babies in their litters than Norway rats do.
The house mouse is considered one of the top 100 world’s worst invaders. They are afraid of rats because rats will eat them. Mice are also color blind.
Rats are nocturnal and have poor eyesight. Norway rats and roof rats do not get along and will actually fight each other to the death. Norway rats tend to live on the lower floors of buildings while roof rats will live on the upper floors.
Why Does It Matter?
Why does it matter whether you have a rat or a mouse? Both rat and mice droppings contain pathogens that are dangerous to humans. Both are also very good at breeding and increase their populations quickly, making them harder to control. The significance in properly identifying rats vs mice affects how they are controlled and eliminated. Because they each have such different diets, habitats, and behaviors, different methods are employed when it comes to getting rid of them. What may work for house mice might not be effective in controlling rats and vice versa.
If you have an issue with rodents or any other pests, contact a professional pest control company who can not only properly identify the nuisance pest, but also set you up with the appropriate treatment and ongoing prevention plans.
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