Rat vs. Mice: What is the Difference Between a Rat and a Mouse

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Keith's Pro Tips

"During fall and winter, rats are more prone to invading your home due to availability of food, water, and shelter. Keep in mind pest-proofing your home and storing food and nesting materials such as paper or fiber should be kept in sealable plastic containers to deter rodents from coming inside."

Rats vs. Mice: What is the Difference Between a Rat and a Mouse

This page is a general guide to discuss the differences between rats and mice. Both of these pests pose their own series of issues and damages within a short time frame, but knowing the difference between them can help homeowners quickly control rodent infestations before these factors come into play. To kill rats and mice in your home then follow the links within this article and use the recommended products for complete rodent control.

Rats and mice are similar in appearance, often causing homeowners to mistake one for the other. There are many people that think a mouse is the child of a rat, which is not true. A rat and a mouse are two separate species of pests with the mouse falling under the genus mus and rats under the genus rattus.

The house mouse is one of the most experienced species of mice that mainly lives with homeowners. The common species of rats to live with people are the Norway rat and roof rat. Each of these pest are equally unwanted and can cause a lot of damages throughout your home. Not to mention, rats and mice tend to carry numerous diseases and harmful pathogens that can spread to people or pets causing health problems.

The quicker you learn which rodent is infesting your home the faster and easier it will be to repel and eliminate them from your property. To learn the differences between rats and mice such as behavior, size, habitat and more then read on. Throughout this DIY guide, you may see some similarities between rats and mice because they belong to the same family, but there are important key differences to take note of for successful rodent control.

How to Tell A Mouse Apart From a Rat

Norway Rat and House Mice

Telling rats and mice apart can be difficult to the most experienced homeowner. But if you learn about the obvious physical differences between rats and mice, then it can be done. Rats and mice are similar in some ways with the exception that rats are noticeable bigger than mice. They both have hairless long tails, circular ears, similar coloration, snouts, and texture in fur.

To learn what rats or mice look like then look at the characteristics listed below.


Rats are nearly double the length of house mice, with Norway rats being the largest and roof rats following close behind.

  • House mice are 4 inches in length including the tail. Due to their size they are able to fit through openings as small as a dime.
  • Norway rats measure about 16 inches with their tail measuring more than 8 inches. In size, roof rats are about 8 inches in length and tails measuring 7 to 10 inches. Despite their size, rats are able to fit through openings as small as a quarter.


  • Ears of house mice are large and floppy.
  • Rat ears are small, hairy and thin.

Head and Snout Shape

  • Rats have big heads and with large teeth and more of a heavier blunt shape snout.
  • A mouse have a triangular-shaped head and pointed snout with long whiskers.

Fur and Color

  • A house mouse has a brown or gray coloration with woolly or velvet textured fur.
  • Rats will have brown, gray, to black colored hair with pale white undersides and velvet textured fur.


  • Rat tails are noticeable thicker than a mouse's tail and they have a scaly appearance and few bristly hairs.
  • House mouse tails have hairs on them that are the same color as the pests body and it will be long and thin.


  • Bodies of house mice are more rounded and short than that of rats.
  • Rat bodies differentiate between mice by being more larger, thinner, and slender shaped.

Mouse Behavior vs Rat Behavior

Norway Rat Coming Through Toilet

Both mouse and rats prefer to be more active at night when there is less activity in your home. However, when it comes to their behavior for finding food, water, and areas to nest their behavior for finding these resources can be slightly different.

Both rats and mice tend to be shy when it comes to being discovered or exploring new environments or things. However, mice are known for being slightly bolder than rats due to their ability to easily hide and crawl without being detected. For this reason, mice are less shy than rats when it comes to searching for one of the previously mentioned resources.

On the contrary, rats tend to be less willing to investigate new environments than mice due to their shy nature and large body size. Rats, in particular the roof rat, are especially strong climbers and will not hesitate to enter your home through elevated places, gaps in roofs, entry holes, and cracks and crevices. Some rats species like the Norway rat are excellent swimmers and find their ways into homes by traveling through pipes, plumbing, toilets, and other waterways if available. Both of these rats have their own methods to enter homes, but the most common way is through gaps, voids, and cracks and crevices.

What Does Rat and Mouse Droppings Look Like

Rat and Mice Feces

For a physical identification, the Norway rat dropping is on the far left, roof rat waste in is the middle, and the house mouse dropping is on the far right.

Rat droppings are significantly larger than mice droppings with Norway rat droppings being as large as 3/4 of an inch with blunt ends and roof rat droppings with pointed ends measuring 1/2 inches long. Quite prolific in their waste, the house mice droppings can be seen mistaken for the size and shape of a grain of rice and measure quarter to an inch long. Compared to house mice, rats create waste in smaller quantities than mice. Depending on the species of rats they can make as much as 50 droppings per day whereas house mice produce 50-100 droppings per day.

Rat and Mouse Nests

Rodent Nest

Although rats and mice will set their nests near reliable food and water sources, the way in which each will go about it will depend on the species of rodent.

Due to their small size, house mice are able to set nests more easily in outdoor and indoor areas of your home. Typically, house mice create their nests within 25 feet of reliable food sources. Outdoors, they often live in tall vegetation, shrubbery, near your homes foundation, inside garages, crawl spaces, or other outdoor structures. Indoors, they commonly nests in walls, ceiling, attics, basements, large appliances or clutter, cabinet voids, furniture, and other unused areas of your home that is hard to reach. They create small nests made out of shredded paper or fabric, plastic, hair, fiberglass insulation, and plant fibers.

However, rat nests are different than mice because they tend to settle in areas far away from people, but still in reasonable distances of homes. Norway rats nests in burrows, which are commonly found underneath slab, alongside your homes foundation, or beneath dense shrubbery or vegetation. The roof rat prefers to create their nests in elevated areas such as attics, rafters, above ceilings, tree branches, vines, shrubs, firewood piles and sometimes underneath homes in burrows.

Key Takeaways

Do Rats Cause More Damages Than Mice

  • There are numerous debates as to whether rats are worse than mice. While mice may seem less problematic than rats, the reality is both pests present a serious of health, cosmetic, and structural issues.

Do Rats or Mice Breed Faster?

  • Rats reproduce incredibly fast, with female Norway rats producing 3-6 litters per year and each litter containing 6-14 pups. Each female roof rat has 3-6 litters per year with 5 to 8 babies per litter. Female house mice produce somewhat slower than rats, but can create a significant increase in their populations. House mice can have between 5 to 10 litters per year with 5 to 6 babies per litter.

How to Get Rid of Rats and Mice

  • Whether you are dealing with rats or mice, we recommend using rodenticide bait blocks like Eratication Rodent Bait with bait stations like Solutions Rat & Mouse Bait Station, and using Easy Set Snap Traps indoors and outdoors, set glue traps like Solutions Pro Glue Boards along entry points, and finally stuff voids with Copper Mesh to deny rodents from entering your home or structure.

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