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Is That A Rat Or A Mouse And Why Does It Matter

You’ve discovered all the indicators and you’ve confirmed it– there’s a rodent in your house. Is it a rat or a mouse? Does it actually matter? How can you tell? There are significant differences in rat vs mouse, it can be tough for the average home owner to differentiate when comparing the two. The habits, diet, and habitat of each of these pests impacts just how they are eliminated and protected against. Correct identification is necessary for effective rodent control.

There more than 70 types of mice and rats in the USA. 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 check out anything new they come across. Due to this, you can put set mouse traps right in their path. Mice can stand on their hind legs when they are supported by their tails. They are exceptional jumpers, swimmers and climbers and are very fast runners. Mice are nocturnal and most energetic from dusk until dawn. They do not like bright lights.

Rats are more cautious than mice. They will stay clear of new things until they get used to them being there. Due to this, unset traps should be positioned in their path to begin with to allow them get used to them and afterwards changed with set traps later on. Rats are strong swimmers and will commonly live in drains, permitting them to go into structures through broken drains pipes and toilets. They will climb to get to food, water, and shelter. They adhere to regular routines and paths every day.

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House mice are much smaller than their rat cousins. They have small heads, small feet, pointed noes, and big ears with some hair on them. They are typically light brown in color with some grey shading and dark tails. Their droppings are formed like small rods.

Norway rats have hefty, thick bodies. They are the biggest of the 3 common rodent species. They have blunt snouts and short ears with dark hair. They are typically brownish with black shading and shaggy coats. Their tails are dark on top and light underneath. Their droppings are formed like pills.

Roof rats have light slim bodies. They have pointed snouts and long ears without hair. They are typically grey in color with black shading and smooth coats. Their tails are dark. They have droppings formed like pins.

What They Eat:

Mice like cereal grains and plants yet they will feed on nearly anything.

Rats will consume almost anything, as well, yet favor 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 type of soft material or shredded paper to build their nests.

Rats will burrow under structures, along fences, and under plants or debris. Norway rats commonly live in these burrows while roof rats prefer to nest in walls, attics, and trees.


Mice will have up to 10 litters annually and commonly live from about 9 to 12 months.

Norway rats will have up to 6 litters annually and live 12 to 18 months.

Roof rats will have up to 8 litters annually yet have less babies in their litters than Norway rats do.

Fun Facts:

The house mouse is considered one of the top 100 world’s worst intruders. They are afraid of rats due to the fact that rats will eat them. Mice are also color blind.

Rats are nocturnal and have bad vision. Norway rats and roof rats do not get along and will actually battle each other to the death. Norway rats tend to live on the lower floors of buildings while roof rats will live on the top floors.

Why Does It Matter?

Why does it matter whether you have a rat or a mouse? Both rat and mice droppings have pathogens that are dangerous to humans. Both are also very good at reproducing and increase their populations quickly, making them more difficult to control. The significance in properly identifying rats vs mice impacts just how they are managed and eliminated. Because they each have such different eating habits, habitats, and behaviors, different strategies are used when it concerns eliminating them. What may work for house mice might not work in controlling rats and the other way around.

If you have an issue with rodents or any other pests, get in touch with a professional pest control company that can not just properly identify the problem pest, but also set you up with the correct treatment and continuous prevention strategies.

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