Rat vs Mouse: How to Tell the Difference

So, what’s the difference?

One of the most important distinctions between rats and mice can be seen in their behavior.

“Mice are curious. Rats are cautious.”

So what does this mean exactly, and how can you spot it?

Rats vs Mice Graphic with quote, "Mice are curious Rats are cautious" [A1 Logo]

By Joshua Thomas at 1-Stop Design Shop

Cautious Rats

Rats are very careful and will choose to avoid new things in their path until they have had time to get used to them being there. If you’re setting traps and they’re not going off, but you still see evidence of rodents, then it’s more likely you have cautious rats on your hands.

Tip: Because rats must first get accustomed to new things in their environment, you need to place unset traps in the rat’s path before putting set rat traps there.

Curious Mice

Mice are very curious and will investigate anything new. So you have to do just the opposite for them: set the trap and put it right in its path. In fact, if you do not catch a mouse in the first few days, the trap is probably in the wrong place and should be moved.

Rat vs Mouse: How to Tell the Difference – Chart by Western Exterminator

What’s the difference between rats and mice based on things like appearance, habitat, diet, and other factors like life cycle?

  House Mouse Norway Rat
Color/Length (without tail) Gray to light brown; light brown chest; 2¾ to 4 inches Coarse brown with black fur; gray or white chest; 7 to 10 inches
Nose, Ears, and Eyes Pointy nose; small ears and eyes; color blind Blunt nose; small ears and eyes; color blind
Tail Same length as body; nearly hairless with rounded scales Shorter than body; hairless with rounded scales
Habitat Urban and suburban areas, close to humans offering a food source and shelter Urban and suburban areas, close to humans offering a food source and shelter
Food Source Mostly fruits, seeds and grains such as cereal, occasionally meat Neophobic: avoiding anything they are unfamiliar with such as baits. Prefer unspoiled foods: grains, fish, nuts, and meats
Droppings ¼ inch long; rod-like with pointed ends ¾ inch long; rounded ends
Behavior Nocturnal, forage at dusk and night; excellent climbers; nest in attics, garages, and basements Nocturnal, forage at night; excellent swimmers; create burrows; use sewers as access points; nest in basements and garages
Life Cycle Gestational period 19-21 days; birth litter of 3-14; 5-10 litters a year; lifespan 1-3 years Gestational period 21 days; birth litter of 7-14; 4-6 litters a year; lifespan 1-3 years


Watch this video of Jeffrey Weisberg at A1 Exterminators discussing how A1 approaches professional Rodent Control.

Do you have a rodent problem? A1 has the solution.

Learn more about A1 Rodent Control here.

Ready to get pest free? Contact A1 today. 

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