How to tell the difference between mice and rats

Pests appear everywhere. Sometimes people think that living in a closed space or in a city they can escape from them, but that’s not true. If in your house, you see a rodent you might think it’s a rat. But, what if it’s a mouse? Have you wondered what’s the difference between mice and rats?

You might think it’s not important, however, taking care of them can be different even though they share similarities and behaviour. You need to learn if your home is infested by one or another so you can be more accurate and that might help you, or the professionals you hire, to get rid of them.


When you see a mouse or a rat you might think they’re the same, but they’re not. First, mice are smaller than rats. Their body is small, and it can’t be longer than 10 cm. Rats can go beyond this limit. Their ears are slightly larger, and their tail is a bit longer. They can be easily confused as young rats are almost identical to adult mice. Also, mice have a triangular snout and rats have a blunter one.

Eating habits

Although both are omnivorous, they have a slightly different diet since they prefer different kind of food. There are black and brown rats. They’re both from the same species but their physical appearance is different. With this said, you can tell the difference between mice and rats according to their diet. Brown rats and house mice prefer to eat cereals; however, black rats prefer fruits and other kind of food that have moisture in high quantities.

Also, a big difference is that mice don’t need water. They can drink up to 3ml if water is available, but it isn’t necessary for them. Brown rats drink a lot of water, nearly double the quantity drunk by black rats.

Another thing that has to be taken into account is that mice and brown rats tend to eat from the same place, they usually seek food in the same places which is bad for them because humans can trap them easily by setting some traps after they have been tracked. Black rats are different and eat from any place they can find so it’s harder to control them hence being more difficult to trace and trap.

Different nesting places

Mice, black rats, and brown rates differ in terms of housing. Mice often live in burrows and on the ground, but be careful, since they can climb and run very fast. While mice live on the ground, black rats refer ships, buildings that are located near ports. Since they’re very agile, they can climb up to treetops or under roofs and start building nests there. They’re called “ship rats”. Now you know where black rats and mice live, but what about brown rats? That’s an easy question to answer if you know how to tell the difference between mice and rats. Brown rats have a similar nesting location as mice, on the ground and burrows. Usually, they tend to go down the sewers, damaging them while building their nesting place.

Look out for some droppings

Droppings for each kind of animal are different. They can vary in terms of size and shape, leaving you a reference in order to know if you’re being infested by an animal in particular. Brown rats leave droppings like a grain of rice, but they’re black coloured and a bit wide. On the other hand, black rats’ droppings are a little bit smaller than brown rat ones. This time, they’re shaped like a banana with pointy ends. Mice droppings are the smallest of them all, and they tend to leave them near their nesting areas.

They move in different ways

Mice have different characteristics and abilities. For instance, they can run very fast, allowing them even to climb through vertical surfaces, having a great advantage against humans. And not only that, but they’re also incredible swimmers and jumpers, reaching up to 30 centimetres high. Also, they can walk on wires, ropes and cables.

Like mice, black and brown rats are very good swimmers, that’s why they’re usually near sewers and stay inside toilets and drains until they have to get food, so they climb up.

Breeding cycle

As they’re different species, their breeding cycle is also different as mice reach sexual maturity earlier than rats. Not only that, their litters tend to be larger than rats since they have at least 7 litters per year, almost doubling rats. Do you know how to tell the difference between mice and rats when they’re new borne? Well, it’s complicated since they’re almost identical.

Their behaviour also changes

There are two adjectives that describe rats and mice perfectly. Mice are curious and rats are very cautious. In fact, you can play with that in order for you to catch them or get rid of them quickly. Mice are always looking and trying to figure out things and get used to them so they can move on and continue with their routine. For this reason, setting up a trap on their way is an easy solution since they’re going to investigate it and then get caught.

Rats are cautious, so they’re not as easy to capture as mice. They try to avoid new things they find, so the best wait to catch them is to put some unset traps on their way so they avoid them and then set traps so they don’t have a choice.

These are the differences that exist between these animals. As always, find a professional first since they’re the ones with the knowledge and experience to help you in any case of infestation.

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