Mice Vs. Rat: Identification and Precautions

cover photo of a mouse (left) and a rat (right)

Rats and mice get mistaken for each other all the time. Although they’re very similar, both behave differently and can affect your home in very different ways. Rats are usually bigger and heavier than mice. And although rats are reported to be more aggressive than mice, mice are known to be riskier pests and are often spotted more. 

We’ll show you some of the differences between mice and rats, how to track where they are in your home, and how to get rid of them safely. 

Infographic explaining the differences between identifying rats and mice.

Identifying Rats

Exterminator hold a dead Roof rat

The most distinctive difference between mice and rats is size. Rats are larger and heavier. Even baby rats appear bigger than mice, as their heads often look overblown or out of proportion with the rest of its body. Typically, rats can grow up to a foot long from head to tail. The most common species of rats that infest homes will be anywhere from 12 to 18 inches long.

Rat Behavior 

Norway rats, one of the most common infestations, dig burrows to nest and live in. In contrast, Roof rats, or brown rats, make nests in (you guessed it!) roofs and attics. 

Like mice, rats are most active at night. Look out for strange noises at night and check for other signs of rats when you wake up in the morning. Much like humans, rats need food, water, and shelter, so expect them to hunt for these things at night. 

Rats typically need at least two ounces of water and at least one ounce of food or more. Because they intake more food and water than mice, they usually leave more droppings. Rats leave 20 to 50 droppings a day. Be sure to check out our full guide on rat poop for more tips on safe clean-up and identification.    

Also Read: Rat Poop: Indentification, Precautions, and Safe Clean-up

Signs of Rats in Your Home (Damage)

Rats are surprisingly big, but can still fit into relatively small spaces. Regardless, their tunnels and entryways will typically be much larger than a mouse. They only need a half-inch wide space to fit through. 

Rats can chew through practically anything: wood, vinyl, drywall, and even glass. You’ll likely find these entryways from inside your house and close to food. Once rats have found a source of food, they’ll generally continue to return to it. 

The signs of rats inside your home are similar to mice, which is also why they’re often mistaken for one another. Be sure to read our full article on how to get rid of both here

Precautions With Rat Infestations

Rats are known for carrying several different types of viral diseases along with other pests such as ticks and fleas. Common diseases rats carry or illnesses they leave behind through their feces include.

In addition to these concerns, rats are also more aggressive than mice and will attack oncoming threats like humans or animals. Do not attempt to trap or chase rats on your own. 

If you want to get rid of rats on your own, you’ll need to bait and trap them safely. Otherwise, you can call Pest Brigade to speak with a local partner to get a quote on rat removal. 

Rats aren’t necessarily harder to get rid of than mice, but there is more risk involved with a rat infestation. 

Identifying Mice

mouse hiding in a small crack.

Mice are usually only two to five inches long from head to tail. Grown mice can easily be mistaken for baby rats, but mice have larger and floppier ears compared to a rat. Mice tend to have long, thin, hairy tails. Although a lot of these features make mice seemingly much “cuter” than a rat, they can be just as destructive and pose several health threats.

Mice and rats are found throughout every region of America, regardless of the environment. Mice can live between one to three years and can reproduce in inconceivable numbers. A female mouse can produce up to 140 mice within her lifetime.

Mice Behavoir 

Mice are notorious climbers and can get into almost any space thanks to their size. Unlike rats, who often nest in the lowers parts of your home, mice often nest in attics and inside your walls. Mice are also much bolder than rats, curiously exploring new parts of your home constantly. It’s more common to spot a mouse in the house than a rat.

Much like rats, mice are nocturnal. So although you’re more likely to spot a mouse in your home, you’ll often find most of the activity is at night. Look out for strange sounds in your walls and look for grease marks around your home in the morning. You can see our full guide on places mice like to hide in our guide here.

Also Read: How Mice Get In The House

Precautions With Mice Infestations 

Just like rats, mice also leave a plethora of diseases and illnesses. They may carry these diseases themselves and can cross-contaminate your food, or can leave behind viruses through their waste.

Mice leave distinct smelling urine and produce 40 to 100 droppings a day. Their feces can carry viruses like listeria, salmonella, and hantavirus. For a full breakdown of safe mouse poop cleanup, check out our guide here

Also Read: Mouse Poop: Identification, Precautions, and Safe Clean-up

Signs of Mice in Your Home (Damage)

Mice can climb up and tear through almost anything from your walls to your ceiling. Mice build nests in dark, warm, quiet places they can easily run to their safe nest. Oftentimes, they’ll build nests in attics, walls, and unused closets. 

Mice only need a ¼ inch-wide hole to squeeze through. After a mouse infestation, you’ll need to find these openings and patch them up. Once mice get inside these openings, they can tear through your home’s insulation and electrical systems. 

Mice Vs. Rats: What To Do 

Both rats and mice have unique challenges when it comes to an infestation in your home. Neither is necessarily “worse” than the other, but the extent of the problem is what really matters. The only way to truly understand the extent of the problem is to call a local exterminator to assess the situation.

It’s imperative that the infestation is controlled as soon as possible. Rats and mice reproduced quickly and an infestation can get out of control very quickly. If you don’t get rid of the problem properly, they could easily come right back. 

To identify whether or not you have a mouse or rat problem, you can set up a bait and trap to find a specimen. Rats are cautious and may not be easily lured into a trap, but a mouse may be curious and might wander right in.

Also Read: The Best Rat Killing Products On Amazon

In the meantime, patch up as many entryways as you can. If you need to contact an exterminator, call Pest Brigade and we’ll connect you with a top-rated partner near you.