Can you tell the difference between rat and mouse behavior and characteristics? While commonly, people don’t bother to tell them apart and might believe that it’s all right to use the two terms interchangeably, there are quite significant differences between them.

Why is it important to know which one is what? When your property is under the assault of rodents, dealing with pest control has everything to do with knowing exactly the root of the problem. Exterminator services don’t employ the same methods to get rid of rats and mice.

But they all look alike, you might say. And you would be right, because, at first glance, the short legs, the prominent teeth in front, and the long tail, are all there with minor variations, if any. However, a closer look will supply you with a plethora of differences. Let’s take a look at them, and then you will no longer be confused whether there are rats or mice on your property.


Size is the first indicator

The first notable difference between the two rodent species is size. Mice are 2 to 4 inches long, while rats are 7 to 9 inches long, at the age of maturity. As you can quickly tell, there should be no way to confuse a mouse for a rat or the other way around. There are subspecies for each of them, but, overall, mice are considerably smaller than rats, and they weigh a lot less.

An adult mouse may have as little as 0.5 ounces in weight, and that’s common for the house mouse you may be well familiar with. Rats can weigh up to 7 ounces and more, with some species weighing 15 ounces when they reach maturity.


Physical characteristics, in detail

While size is an essential telltale sign for the differences between mice and rats, a rat far from reaching maturity can be confused for a mouse since it didn’t reach its parents’ full size. However, you should still avoid letting yourself fooled. There are physical characteristics that make it clear which one is what.

For instance, mice, despite their small size, have large ears, while rats have small ears. The leg size compared to the size of the body is large for rats, and small for mice. The tail will also let you know what you are dealing with. Mice have theirs covered in hairs, while rats have hairless tails. A mouse has a triangular snout, while a rat’s snout is flatter in comparison.

One thing that might confuse you is the coloring that’s quite similar. White, brown, and gray are coat colors you will see in both. Rats can also be black, while black mice don’t exist.


Eating habits

You might not be able to spot any of the rodents doing damage to your property and belongings since rats and mice both are nocturnal, but signs of what and how they eat can tell you what you are dealing with.

Brown rats and mice like to eat cereals, but you will notice a difference right away if you see grains that have been raided by these pests. Rats cut through the grain, and leave parts behind that appear as if they were chopped. On the other hand, mice prefer to remove the outer shell and eat the endosperm, so you will see many husks left behind where these critters were.


Living arrangements

Even if you don’t see them, mice and rats leave plenty of traces behind that will help identify the pest invading your property so that you can choose the correct extermination method. Rats prefer living in burrows, and they are often a common occurrence in sewer systems. When walking, brown rats step on the pads on their feet, and that is why when they walk over surfaces, they leave greasy smudges behind from the fur that touches the ground.

Mice also prefer to live in burrows, but unlike brown rats that are not particularly good climbers, they don’t have a problem with escalating walls. The grease produced by their small bodies can mix with urine and dirt. That is why you will notice tiny pillars results from this buildup in areas where there are mice. Because of their smaller size, mice leave less prominent traces of their feet, compared to rats.


The appearance of their droppings

Another sign used by exterminators to identify the type of pest that must be removed from a property is the appearance of droppings. As expected, rats have larger and amount wise, more consistent droppings. The appearance is that of a tapered shape, like rice grains, and brown rat droppings are brown, too. Although black rats have their own characteristics, they are usually found in ports and shipyards and are not common invaders of homes.

If mice were the culprit, their droppings would give them away. They look granular and black and are usually spread around. One interesting thing that also helps exterminators in their job is that these droppings appear in more significant numbers close to the nests.


What about breeding habits?

The problem with both mice and rats is that they reproduce at high speed, and infestations occur right away when there’s such a small breeding cycle involved. New generations appear, and that increases the number of critters exponentially. Mice have a litter size that varies from 4 to 16 newborns, and they can produce about 7-8 litters in one year.

The litter size for brown rats is 7-8, but they reproduce only 3 to 6 times a year, which is slower than what can be witnessed in house mice. The time for reaching maturity is 8-12 weeks for mice, and 10-12 weeks for rats.

The newborns of the two species are hairless, blind, and they depend entirely on their mothers for the duration of their short childhood.


What differences are between them, behavior-wise?

Both species of rodents are nocturnal creatures, but there are some differences in their behavior to set them apart. For instance, mice are notoriously bolder than rats, as they are curious, and will venture to some distance from the nest to find new feeding grounds. That means that placing a trap in an area where mice live might yield results pretty fast, as some curious mice will surely try to explore it. When it comes to getting rid of mice, it is a much easier operation than when you want to get rid of rats.

Brown rats are a lot more cautious than mice, which means that trapping them can be a very difficult quest. They are not adventurous or explorers like their smaller relatives, so baiting them might be a challenge. Usually, they don’t walk farther than 300 feet away from their nests, so when you see one, you must be close to where they live.

As for the areas of your house where an infestation might occur, mice are more likely to be found in an attic, while rats prefer to live in your basement. Crawlspaces are ideal for them, too, while mice can discover the smallest holes to squeeze through.


Movement differences

Mice are pretty much excellent acrobats. They can jump, swim, and climb, and when detected, they run very fast. Running over wires and cables is no challenge for them. When you notice a mouse standing on its hind legs, that’s a common position it uses when it needs to inspect its surroundings. Also, it is something mice do when they eat or fight.

Rats are excellent swimmers, too, and that’s why they adapt so well to living in sewers. In buildings, they can climb through broken pipes and drains, and although climbing is not something these critters like to do when in search of food and water, they will do it anyway. They prefer to avoid obstacles.


Which one is the worst pest?

These rodents are known for causing a lot of damage to your belongings and property. Such damage can be extensive, which is why it is recommended that you hire exterminators to get rid of infestations if they are too big to handle on your own.

Mice and rats have powerful teeth in front, but the first don’t have the same strength in their teeth as the latter. You must know that mice are most likely to invade food sources and contaminate them. However, if all the foods are stored in glass and metal containers, mice will not be able to get to them.

Rats, on the other hand, are more dangerous than mice. Their strong teeth can go through more robust materials, even wood, glass, metal, and aluminum.


Dangers to your health

While it is widely known that mice and rats are destructive, there is also the critical matter of the health hazard they present. They are agents for transmitting various diseases, and they are a source of bacteria. When a property is invaded by these critters, it is highly recommended that you call professional exterminator services to help you get rid of the problem.