Rodents have plenty of things in common. They’re intrusive, good at hiding, and sleazy. However, not all rodents are equal, not even similar-looking ones like mice and rats.
Although the rodents share the same biological order, they’re different animals. Mice are often smaller than rats and have longer tails relative to their bodies. Plus, they have hair, contrary to rats, which are hairless.
I know what you’re thinking: you won’t have enough time to inspect the rodent eating away at your pantry to see if it has hair!
In this article, I’ll let you know how to tell if you have rats or mice in your house.
The Difference Between Rat and Mouse
Rats and mice have different shapes, though you’d have to look closely to notice the differences. They also show other behaviours and leave different droppings behind.
Here’s how to tell the difference between mice and rats.
The easiest way to tell mice and rats apart is by checking their appearance. Of course, that’s if you see them enough to check for these differences.
Mice have smaller bodies, ranging from 3 to 4 inches on average. They also have tall tails nearly the same length as their bodies.
Mice’s feet are smaller than rats’ and have grey or brown bodies.
As for rats, their shape depends on their species. There are two common types of rats that you may find around your house: black rats and brown rats.
Black rats are known as roof rats, and brown rats are known as Norway rats. Black rats are slightly smaller in size but still bigger than mice, standing at about 5–7 inches long with 8-inch tails. They have dark bodies with light undersides, which are more common around coastal areas.
Brown rats have longer and thicker bodies, ranging from 15 to 20 inches including their tails. They also have shorter ears and are the most common around the US.
Black rats look more like mice because their tails are taller than their bodies, but they’re overall larger and thicker.
Mice vs Young Rats
Since mice are smaller than rats, you may get confused telling the difference between a young rat and a mature mouse.
Mice will have normal proportions. If you look at the rodent’s head and feet, you’ll know which one it is. Young rats have large heads relative to their bodies, and their feet also look large.
Mice and rats live in different places, so you may be able to identify the rodent you’re seeing around depending on where you live.
For example, black rats are good climbers, which is why they’re often called roof rats. You’ll typically find them around buildings and on trees. They mostly live around coastal areas and their favourite places to intrude on our ships, so you’ll seldom find them hiding inside houses.
On the other hand, brown rats love burrowing, so they mostly stay outside and spend most of their time close to the ground. They may also be found a lot around sewers and in buildings.
Mice are the same as brown rats, burrowing in the ground. They can also climb drainage pipes, which is why they often end up in kitchens or bathrooms.
Read more: How Mice Enter Homes
Rat Droppings vs Mouse Droppings
Although inspecting a rat dropping is a bit of a disgusting concept, you can tell much about rodents from their droppings. They can help you determine whether you’re looking for a rat or a mouse.
For one, black rats have thin, long droppings that are smaller than both mice’s and brown rats’ droppings. They’re often dark brown and will be left close to each other.
Meanwhile, brown rats have tall, wide droppings that look like thick rice grains, and mice have irregular-shaped droppings that are round than wide.
You’ll often find mice’s droppings scattered randomly, so you may not notice at first glance that it’s a mouse dropping you’re looking at.
One more difference to use to your advantage is the frequency of these droppings. Mice can leave up to 100 droppings per time, while rats will only leave 20–40 droppings.
Weirdly enough, rats and mice won’t enter houses looking for the same things. Rats are known for scaring cats. They may enter a house and stay in hiding for days before being discovered because they’re too cautious.
Interestingly, that makes rats harder to catch using traps because they’re too afraid to go near anything, even if you’re smart with your baiting.
Mice, on the other hand, are courageous. They like to explore their surroundings and will likely leave droppings anywhere. They’re also easy to catch because they’re likely to get curious about the trap and fall into it.
There’s also the fact that mice are good climbers, so you may find them on top of cabinets. Meanwhile, rats will aim at crawl spaces because they’re great hiding places.
Other than the obvious differences like the size, droppings, and behaviour, there are some other differences between rats and mice that you may be interested to know. For example, rats live up to two years, while most mice live for only one year.
Additionally, when it’s time for laying, rats can lay 5–10 babies at once, while mice can give birth to 14 babies max.
Mice’s diet ranges from seeds and bread crumbs to plants and fruits. Meanwhile, rats can eat almost anything they can get their tiny hands on.
Now, you know how to tell if you have rats or mice hiding in your basement!
Remember that mice are smaller in size, but they’re bolder. They’re more likely to be seen than rats because they’re not afraid to leave their hiding places. That makes them easier to catch because they’re more likely to go near a trap.