The Differences Between Rats and Mice

rat-mouseMany people don’t know how to distinguish between mice and rats. Actually, their physical characteristics are different. Beside this, they are different in many aspects. Successful rodent control should be based on these differences. Therefore, it is important to know these differences between mice and rats, which can help improving the success rate of rodent control.

For example, their caution and curiosity are also different. Rats are more cautious and never contact with new items in their active areas until it has had enough time to get used to the new time. Therefore, if you plan to get rid of rats by using traps, you’d better place unset traps in their paths but not set traps. This can make rats get used to the traps and make them not feel dangerous. After that, once you have set traps, they can be captured easily.

On the other hand, mice tend to be more curious and dare to investigate new items. Thus, if you place set traps but there is not a mouse caught in the first few days, this implies the placement is not proper and you need to move the traps.

Other differences include:


Living and Breeding

  • Mice love eating plants and cereal grains. However, they can eat almost anything that is eatable.
  • They seldom burrow, and they build their nests near a food source or in hidden areas.
  • Mice use shredded paper or any material that is soft to build their nests.
  • Every littler, a female mouse can produce 5 to 6 young mice and it can have 10 litters in a year.
  • Generally, a 6-week mouse becomes sex mature and begins to produce their offspring.
  • The average lifespan of a mouse is about 9 to 12 months. Some can live longer.


  • The mouse can stand up on the hind legs and its tail is also helpful to support its weight, when it is fighting, orienting itself or eating something.
  • Mice are very versatile and they are good at climbing, swimming and jumping. They even can jump over rough, vertical surfaces.
  • They are also good at running and they are moving all the time.
  • They are more active from dusk up til morning light. Generally, they hate bright lights and would not like to move around during the day. If it moves around during the day, probably its nest has been disturbed or it is just looking for food to eat.
  • Any gap or hole that is more than 1/4 inch wide can allow a mouse to pass through. Therefore, if smaller gaps or holes are in the wall, make sure a mouse cannot slip through.
  • As a good jumper, it is able to jump 13” high from a surface. It also can run along cables, wires and ropes.

Mouse Facts

  • The house mouse is one of the top 100 world’s worst Invasive Alien Species.
  • Mice are smaller than rats, because rats often kill them and eat them. Therefore, mice feel afraid if they smell the stressful odor on rats. The stressful odor can affect mice’s behavior and reproduction.
  • Mice don’t have a stressful odor but have a musky odor.
  • Although they have poor vision and are color blind, their other 4 senses are very good, like smelling, hearing, touching and tasting.
  • They are almost found anywhere, in rural and urban areas, indoors and outdoors.
  • Droppings, mice hairs, tracts and gnawing mean a mouse infestation.


Living and Breeding

  • Rats are not picky and they can eat anything, but meat and fresh grain are their favorite foods.
  • If rats cannot get about 0.5 to 1 ounce of fluid from what they are eating, they will feel thirsty and will find water to drink.
  • Rats have a habit of burrowing and they will burrow under vegetation, under debris, along railroad tracks and fences, and under buildings.
  • A female rat can produce up to 12 young rats per litter and it has about 6 litters per year. And after 3 months, these young rats become mature and breeding themselves too.
  • Spring is the perfect mating season for rats.
  • The lifespan of rats is 6 months to 1 year.


  • Rats can slip through a 1/2 inch wide gap.
  • They are good at swimming and diving. They are able to live in sewers. And they even can enter our home or building through broken toilets and drains.
  • They are also good at climbing. They climb to access shelter, water, as well as food.
  • They will set their standard routines and pathways and strictly follow them. If there is something in the routines, they will be careful to avoid it. They are cautious but not curious.
  • Rats keep active within 300 feet of their burrow and nest.

Rat Facts

  • Evidences of rat presence are gnawing, droppings, runways, tracks and burrows.
  • They have poor eyesight and they are a nocturnal creature. They seldom go for water, food or just move around during the day. They will use other 4 strong senses, including hearing, smelling, tasting, and touching.
  • It is easy to distinguish between rats and mice in physical characteristics. Rats are larger than mice and have more coarse fur. Their feet and head are also very larger.
  • The main 2 types of rats in the U.S. are the root rats and Norway rats. They are two different populations and will fight each other. Generally, Norway rats are much stronger than the roof rats.
  • Norway rats live in lower areas in a building and roof rats live in the upper areas (like the attic). Therefore, if they don’t invade each other’s territory, they can live in a building together.

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