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What is the difference between a rat and a mouse?

Before you set out traps or recruit for assistance, it’s a good idea to make sure you have properly identified your unwanted guests. Differences between mice and rats may seem obvious to many, but some of the differences may be more subtle than you think. Of course, they both fall into the rodent family and both can cause extensive damage if they invade your home. Besides the fact and mice look different, there are quite a few other differences between them. Your rodent control efforts will be most successful when you understand each of these pests fully. They may be related but each animal has its own biological and behavioral differences, and while one method of extermination may work for rats, it may not be as successful if applied to mice. Knowing things about them will help aid your control efforts.

How to Tell the Difference

If a homeowner has sufficient knowledge about rodents, they may be able to identify it correctly. However, when you lack the basic knowledge and see something scurry across your floor you may have a hard time choosing the right treatment to


Although both of them have similar coloration, there are few differences in other features that would help you distinguish between the two.

Mice: small head, small feet, pointed and triangular snout, large and floppy ears with some hair. These mice have a light brown body with some gray shading and a long, thin, and dark tail. Adults weigh 15 grams and their droppings are shaped like rods.

Rat: heavy and thick body, blunt snout, and short ears with dark hair. These rats have a brown body with black shading and a shaggy coat. Their tails are hairless and scaly. Adults weigh 300 grams and their droppings are shaped like capsules.


One of the most important differences in behavior between mice and rats is that mice are curious and rats are cautious. Even though they are smaller in size, mice tend to be a bit bolder than rats.

Rats: It’ll take more than a baited trap to trick a rat though, rat typically live in fear, so they are very cautious about new things and won’t explore like mice. It takes rats a lot longer to investigate new things as opposed to mice, which sometimes can make it difficult for trapping. They are very careful and will choose to avoid new things until they have the time to get used to them.

Mice: mice tend to be a bit bolder than rats. Mice are usually curious and will explore new things which include traps. They will investigate something new so you have to set the trap and put it right in its path.

When it comes to nesting, mice are skillful climbers and have no problem inhabiting the attic in your home due to their small size, they can also fit into the smallest holes, allowing them to access parts of your home you didn’t think anything could fit in. Rats, on the other hand, can climb but prefer to inhabit lower levels of a structure like a basement.

Habitat and Breeding

Mice: they prefer to eat cereal grains and plants, but they will feed on almost anything. A mouse will build its nest in a hidden area near a food source. It will use just about any soft material or finely shredded paper to build its nest. In one year, one female mouse can breed up to 10 liters of five and six babies. That is up to five dozen baby mice in one year. Mice usually live about 9 to 12 months.

Rats: they will eat nearly anything, but they prefer fresh grain and meat. Rats need half to one ounce of fluid each day. If rats do not get this in the food they eat, they have to find water. Unlike mice, rats will dig under buildings. A female rat can have six litters of up to 12 young and can live up to 12 to 18 months.

Food Preferences and Eating Habits

Mice: they prefer to eat cereals but will feed on almost anything. They tend to seek food in the same place every day and don’t feel the need to drink water but will if it is available.

Rats: prefer cereals and tend to seek food differently each day. Drink about 2 ounces of water a day and prefer moist fruits.


Mice: can stand up on their hind legs when supported by their tails. They do this to eat and fight. They are excellent jumpers, swimmers, and climbers. They can jump 13 inches high and run along wires, cables, and ropes. They are fast runners and move on all four legs, holding their tail up straight for balance.

Rat: can enter a building through a hole as small as half-inch in diameter. They are strong swimmers, so rats will live in sewers and can enter buildings through broken drains or toilets. A rat will climb to get to the food, water, or shelter. Rats usually stay within 300 feet of their nest or burrow.

Why does it Matter?

Both rats and mice require a targeted and unique approach to extermination. While both can cause similar damage, they can reside in different parts of the home and have unique behavior. Due to this, they require different methods to truly rid of them.

How can Elite Pest Control help?

No matter what type of rodent infestation you have at home, one thing is for certain, you should get immediate help from a rodent pest control expert. Professionals will be able to correctly identify the species that are in your home and will be able to take the appropriate steps to safely and humanely eliminate them from your home. At Elite Pest Control, we understand how difficult rodents can be to remove and the headaches they cause the homeowners, which is why we offer several different services to accommodate your mice and rat removal needs. We will be able to determine what the cause of your rodent problem is and take steps to help you correct those issues ensuring that your home remains free of unwanted guests.

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