Difference Between Mice and Rats

This is a tale of Mice and Men… well, and rats. Since Shakespearean times these creatures have caused us problems — they have feasts with our food, leave smelly "presents", possess the talent to carry deadly diseases and are overall ugly. But how do we determine which one of them is gifting us with their undesirable presence?

Thoughts such as "Why does it matter? They do the same damage, don't they?" are probably crossing your mind right now. You are right to think that because the harm they accomplish indeed is similar, but you know what's not? The methods of wiping away the little devils. A mouse trap is very different from a rat one. What works for Jerry won't do the same for a Jerry on steroids.

So, how can we tell which one is which? In this article we will go through the essential characteristics like psychics, behavior, breeding, eating habits and most important - how to get them screaming out of your property, so you can have the upper hand in the war for your home's peace and health.

Types of Damage Mice and Rats Can Inflict

Let's get one thing straight: Yes, for some people these critters may seem cute, but they are in no way a matter to take lightheartedly. Just take a look at the risks their residence comes with:

  • They gnaw through surfaces, electrical installation, thermal insulation and more - Rats and mice chew on literally everything they can get their paws on. Electrical wires, ductwork, HVAC units, walls, foundations, you name it and they've already sunken their teeth into it. Would you let an evil-doer the size of your shoe, or smaller determine the state of your property?
  • They contaminate the area with droppings and urine - This is common sense. Any kind of animal poop is not good for you health. Duh.
  • Various diseases transmitted by rodents - The furballs carry a wide and colourful spectrum of deadly illnesses such as plague, salmonellosis, trichinosis, Lyme disease, lethal for both you and your beloved pets.
  • Infestations can become expensive to handle - The more unwanted house guests you have, the pricier their visit gets. If you don’t handle the invasion on time, Mr. and Mrs. Rat start to make babies and these babies can cost you up to £450.

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Battle of the pest: Rats vs. Mice

We have provided you with a TL;DR chart comparing the visual characteristics of the two types of creatures with which you can tell what you are dealing with. Check it out!

Body Length6-9 cm (2-4 inches)20-25 cm (8-10 inches)
Tail Length8-10 cm (3-5 inches)15-20 cm (6-8 inches)
EarsLarge relative to bodySmall relative to body
MuzzleWide muzzle, blunt and largeSharp muzzle, narrow
LegsSmall relative to bodyLarge hind feet
EyesSmallLarge and prominent
Breeding4-16 pups per litter, 7-8 litters per year5-10 pups per litter, 3-6 litters per year
Eating habitsLikes a large variety of foods but prefers cereals. Consumes 3g of food per day and can survive without water for longOmnivores - eat everything, even meat. Consume up to 30g of food per day and need regular water drinking
LifespanMice live 9-12 months and are sexually active from 1 and a half month.Rats live from 9-18 months and are sexually active 2-3 months after birth
Property damageRats and mice both gnaw on wood, paper, cloth. They drill holes in walls, furniture, electrical appliances and chew on wiring, which can cause a short circuit and engulf your property in flames. Contaminates your food and that of your pet and damages crops in your garden.
Diseases rats and mice carryHemorrhagic fever, Salmonella, Leptospirosis, Tularemia and many other

How To Tell If You Have Mice or Rats?

Ok, now let's go through the specifics of how to know which vermin is throwing a party at your home.

How do you know if you have a rat or a mouse?

When it comes to visual characteristics, rats are distinguishably bigger than mice. Generally, a mouse weighs about 50 grams, while a rat is 300 grams. Basically, you will have a hard time confusing one for the other.

Besides looking different, mice and rats have distinct behaviours and habits, too. Gaining knowledge about these details can help aid your control efforts. Here are the basic difference between mice and rats:


You won't believe how unalike the two creatures are behaviour wise. Rats are a bit shy, and we don't mean that they blush. They are very cautious about new things. The buggers need some get-to-know time when it comes to a new object, while doing so they choose to avoid it. So, if you decide to put down traps, first set some that won't hurt the animal. This way the rat will get used to it and next time you lay down a functioning one, it won't be afraid to go near it.Mice, on the other hand, are a bit more curious. They like to play detective and have an acquired taste for the new and mysterious. To catch one, you just need to place a trap, anywhere you sense their presence.

If you are planning to plant some bait for the imposters, bear in mind that they have a home range. And what is a home range? It is the limited area both types of rodent inhabit. It is no larger than necessary to acquire food, shelter, and water. If the conditions are good, the range is no bigger than 10 feet, and if there is no proper access to the described life necessities, the range can expand up to 150 feet. Rats have a wider range than mice.


When it comes to the vermins dinner preference, they are definitely not like Remi and won't cook you a 5-star ratatouille. Rats will eat ANYTHING. They are muricide, meaning that they have a predator-like behaviour and will hunt on smaller rodents if there are any around. A rather disturbing (and quite disgusting) fact is that they can go on a cannibal diet. Yes, rats consume other rats!

Mice are a bit pickier. If you find one in your box of Coco Pops, don't be surprised - they have soft spot for cereal and plant-based foods.

Habitation & Breeding

Mice and rats have interesting living preferences, too. While the first example likes to build nests in a hidden place, near a food source, the second one prefers to dig under buildings, along fences, and under plants and debris.

While on the topic of their housing, let's go over their breeding. Both species like to make babies and they make A LOT of them. In one year, a lady mouse can give birth up to 10 times and each litter can consist of 5 to 6 little ones. Let's do some quick math: 10x6… That would be 60 baby mice a year. Congratulations, as far as you know, you may be sheltering a kindergarten in your walls. Rats are even worse! They can parent 70+ youngsters. Now imagine how all those babies start to make babies. Sounds a bit more like an alien invasion.


Another way to figure out if you have a rat or mice infestation is to listen around for specific noises. Any type of scratching or squeaking, hissing, and chattering sounds mean that you are definitely dealing with one of the two. Rats tend to move through sewers, so if you spot a furry "friend" in your bathtub don't have any second thoughts on determining its kind.

Mice, on the other side, are like Tom Cruise from "Mission: Impossible". They can jump, swim, and climb. They can even climb up rough, vertical surfaces. And no surprise that Speedy Gonzales is a mouse, the little devils run REALLY fast. If you spot one, by the time you blink, the only things that are going to be left behind are a few mouse hairs and the echo from its evil laughter.

When taking strolls in your home, the rodents leave dark, greasy marks from their bodies. You can tell if it is a mouse or rat even by inspecting those. Rub marks left by rats are most commonly seen beneath beams or rafters. Mice don't usually leave distinctive spots, except if the infestation is big.

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Mouse droppings vs. rat droppings

Yup, we are going to talk about poop. It may sound funny and even a bit cringy, but one of the best ways to figure out what are you dealing with is by inspecting the droppings. And both species leave a great amount of those.

First, before you go looking around for the, let's call them "souvenirs", put on some gloves. Rodent faeces can carry harmful bacteria, diseases, and viruses.

Typically, you can find the "offerings" where the animals had lunch. And where is food located? In your kitchen. Look into your cupboards, especially in the ones you store any type of cereal. Another place you can find the brown surprises is near the vermin's nests. The rodents tend to make houses in old furniture, even inside your property's insulation.

Mice produce more droppings (around 70 to 150 per day), but are smaller in size (3-6 mm), even smaller than a rice grain, while rats leave fewer gifts behind, which are much bigger (2 cm). You can find mice excrements scattered around their housing, while rats tend to leave their poop in a small bunch.

Difference Between Adult Mice and Young Rats

But how can you make the difference between an adult mouse and a young rat? Don't they look similar? To an uninformed person, yes, they would look similar. But there are subtle signs that can help you in determining the rodents kind. A rats head and feet are visibly bigger in proportion to its body, their faces are chubbier and have wider noses. In comparison, mice have small, triangular heads, tiny noses, and little paws. Basically, they are way cuter than rats. Another point to make is that an adult mouse is practically half the size of a baby rat.

Is it Possible for Mice and Rats to Infest a Property at the Same Time?

Remember what we discussed about rats food preferences? And the gross part about them eating everything, including meat? That's the main reason why you can't have mice and rats at the same time. Rats can, and do, kill mice. Of course, that's not the only reason why you can't find the two types of animals living together. Mice, like every other living thing, have a sense of self-preservation. When they detect a rat, even only their odour, they flee the area. An interesting fact is that if a lady mouse is pregnant and take a whiff of a rat, she is more likely give birth to fewer babies.

If you have any suspicions that your home might be a hotel for either mice or rats, the first thing you need to do is to book a mouse control service. A professional company can schedule you an inspection to make sure what kind of pest they are dealing with and treat it accordingly. Don't try to get rid of the creatures yourself, especially by poisoning them. The wrong amount of poison, consumed by your pet, for instance, can put an end to his life. In cases like these, you better leave it to the professionals.


Consider that we give an information about the difference between rats and mice, as well as what damages and diseases each of them can carry. However, we don't advise you on how to get medical care.

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