Some people like to keep rats or mice as pets. Not you. They’re rodents, and they’ve invaded your home. You want them gone. As wildlife, they are dirty and carry disease. They leave droppings all over your house. The problem is that you don’t know whether you have rats or mice. Or both at the same time? Does it matter? Can you get rid of either by the same method? Rats vs mice: What’s the difference between them? Keep reading. The answers to your questions are in this article.
How Are Rats and Mice Different From Each Other?
Mice and rats differ from each other in several ways.
Differences in rats vs mice are primarily due to their genetic history.
If you spot a rodent, the first thing you’ll notice is size. Rats are several times the size of mice.
You may be able to observe other differences.
The most obvious are:
- A mouse’s head is more pointed than a rat’s head, which is wedge-shaped.
- A mouse’s ears are larger in proportion to its head than a rat’s ears are.
- A mouse’s eyes aren’t small and beady like a rat’s eyes.
The colors are grays and browns for both, but rat fur is darker and rougher than mouse fur.
More facts about mice you can find here.
They Aren’t Picky Eaters
Mice and rats are omnivores, which means they’ll eat anything when hungry, but they do have preferences.
- Mice will eat plants and cereals when those are available.
- Rats prefer meat and fresh grain.
- Mice get the water they need from their food, but rats often have to find an additional source of water.
The Norway rat, which is the species you’ll most often find outside, lives in burrows. Roof rats make nests in attics and walls. You may also find their nests in trees. Mice like to live next to where they eat, which is inside your house. They’ll use anything soft they find to make their nests. You can learn about the habits of a field mouse in this article.
How Can I Tell Which One Invaded My Home?
Three physical signs indicate the presence of rats and mice:
- Gnaw or chew marks.
These are in addition to discovering nests or burrows.
Rats and mice are nocturnal. You’ll rarely see either during the day. If you do, it often means that you have a severe infestation. They’re out during the day foraging for food because their increased number has led to food shortages.
Rodents Leave Fecal Calling Cards
The first sign of mice or rats in your home is often their droppings. As well as letting you know that rodents have moved in, the droppings give you a clue as to which species they are.
Both pests like to gnaw on your possessions. Mice will start on your walls to gain entrance. Once inside, they chew on anything that will make a good nest. That can include books, clothes, papers, and wood.
Rats Have to Gnaw to Live
Rats have a real need to chew on hard things. Their teeth never stop growing, so they must constantly gnaw to survive. If they don’t, their teeth grow so long that they are unable to eat.
Rats chew through wood and bricks easily. They can chew concrete and metal in certain circumstances. Roof rats chew up roofing materials, weakening your roof. Gnaw marks made by rats are larger than those made by mice.
Rodents will chew through drywall, insulation, pipes, and wiring. Their damage can lead to serious problems in the structure of your home. Gnawing through electrical wiring can cause dangerous fires.
You Can See Where They’ve Been and Where They’re Going
You may see tracks of either mice or rats, depending on what they’re walking through. If you can spot tracks, you’ll learn which invader you have, as the tracks are different. You’ll also know where they’re nesting and eating, which helps in identification.
The back part of a rat’s footprint ranges from ¾ to one inch. The same part of a mouse’s footprint is much smaller. At most, the mouse track measures ⅜ inch. Unless they are frightened, mice run with their tails in the air. If you see a “tail drag” mark between footprints, you’re most likely looking at rat tracks. Both rodents have four toes on their front feet and five toes on their back feet.
If you suspect that rodents are in your home, but haven’t seen their tracks, you can still discover where they are. Sprinkle a powder, such as flour, wherever you suspect rats vs mice. You may have to try more than one location, but eventually, you may see enough tracks to confirm your suspicions.
Do They Droppings Look the Same?
Although rodent droppings in your home are extremely disgusting, they are helpful in identifying which pest left them and when. The size and shape are different for each species.
The darker and moister the droppings are, the more recent they are. That will tell you if the rodents have just moved in. If so, you have a better chance of getting rid of them than if they’ve been around for a while and given birth to dozens of babies.
Mice reach sexual maturity when they are about six weeks old. Mice live an average of nine to twelve months. Female mice can have as many as ten litters during their lifetime. Each litter has five to six pups. That adds up to 60 new mice a year for each female.
Rats reach sexual maturity when they’re about three months old. They live for a year to eighteen months but can live as long as three years in ideal circumstances. Female rats average six litters a year, with as many as 12 babies each litter.
All these little rats and mice began reproducing quickly so that you’ll soon be feeding hundreds, if not thousands. It’s essential that you’re able to identify rats vs mice so that you use the correct eradication method before you’re overrun.
Rats and Mice Poop a Lot Everywhere
Droppings that gray and dry-looking mean that it’s been a while since they were deposited. Either the rodents are elsewhere in your home, or you’ve been successful in eliminating them.
You’ll most likely find the droppings near where they’re feeding.
Areas to inspect include:
- Cabinets and cupboards
- Hidden areas
House mice will be in your kitchen, such as under the sink, because that’s where they eat and close to where they nest.
Rats will stray several hundred feet from their burrows and nests, so you’ll find their droppings along the runways they use between their home and your food supplies. Rats don’t like change, so they tend to travel the same route every time they forage.
The three kinds of droppings you’ll usually see are:
- House mice – leave small pointed droppings. You’ll discover 50 to 75 pellets daily, each about ¼ inch long.
- Norway rats – leave 40 to 50 pellets every day. Each is about ¾ inch long and shaped like a rectangle. The ends are blunt. The pellets are often in a little group.
- Roof rats – their droppings look somewhat like a rounded rectangle and are ½ inch long. Their pellets are often scattered.
Rodents are disease carriers. Never clean up droppings without gloves and respiratory protection.
Questions & Answers
People tend to call any large rodent a rat and any small rodent a mouse. The names are based on general appearance only. Many so-called rats are genetically different from other rodents their size. The same is true of mice.rnrnThe different species of mice cannot breed with each other, nor can the different species of rats interbreed. Mice and rats cannot breed with each other, and there are no rat/mouse hybrids.rnrnA mouse is not a baby rat. Mice and rats have a common ancestor, but they are many different creatures now. They have genetic differences that make them separate species.rnrnIf you’re able to observe a juvenile rat, you’ll see the physical characteristics of an adult rat, such as the shape of the face. Other then being little, the juvenile rat doesn’t look like an adult mouse.
Mice are always small. Adult mice seldom weigh more than half an ounce. Their bodies are about 3 - 4 inches long, and their tails are the same length as their bodies. They are able to move through holes or gaps as small as ¼ inch.rnrnAdult rats can weigh from ½ to one pound. Their bodies can be up to 11 inches long, and their tails are usually shorter than their bodies.
For starters, Norway rats and roof rats will fight to the death if both are trying to live in your home. The Norway rats are larger and win most fights. Under normal circumstances, you will only have one kind of rat invader.rnrnRats are predators, and mice are among their prey. There are circumstances, however, in which they coexist. Rats are most often outside, and mice are nearly always inside. Their paths might not cross, especially if food is plentiful. But if they’re foraging for food in the same area, then the rats will kill and eat mice.
Mice are understandably fearful around rats. Rats practice muricide, which is hunting, killing, and eating mice. If a rat is hungry and finds a mouse, the mouse has zero chance of surviving the encounter. Rats are bigger and stronger.rnrnRats and mice have top running speeds of about eight miles per hour, so a mouse can’t outrun a rat. Neither rodent can see well, but both have highly-developed senses of hearing, smell, taste, and touch. Each is always aware when the other is in the vicinity. Mice can jump as high as 18 inches, but rats can jump twice that distance. Both rodents can climb, and both are skilled swimmers.
Understanding the differences between rats and mice helps you determine which rodent has invaded your home. That’s important to know because the eradication methods that eliminate rats are not the same as the methods you use to eliminate mice. Whether you have rats vs mice, it’s important to act quickly to destroy them.