Rodent Control: Differences between Mice and Rats


Do you remember that old saying which goes “Keep your friends close and your enemies closer”? Of course, you do, it’s a pretty common saying. But what makes it extraordinary is just how true it is. However, the meaning of this saying isn’t exactly as it seems.

The common understanding of this saying is that it means you should know your friends very well, but you should know your enemies completely. Basically, the more you know about them, the easier it will be for you to beat them. The same goes for rodents and infestations.

You’re a human being; a mammal capable of extreme intelligence (compared to all other animals on Earth). Most people would say that taking care of rats is as easy as ‘setting up a couple of traps and waiting’.

But the truth is a little bit different. You can’t just buy some traps, use random bait you find, and place them anywhere you like. It isn’t that simple, even if it sounds like it. You have to know a little bit about the rodents which are attacking you; you have to know something about trap placement, effective bait usage, and various other variables.

Your opponents are smart; they won’t just blindly come up with a trap and spring it. Both mice and rats will know something is up and they will hesitate to try new things (although, research has shown that rats are less prone to exploring and placing themselves in danger).

Mice are a bit more reckless which is usually what costs them their lives. This is why rat infestations are tougher to take care of.

Underestimating these rodents is a bad idea. If anything, you should overestimate them and plan accordingly. If they fail to achieve your expectations, well, they’ll be caught. If they do reach your expectations – you’ll be prepared. But if you underestimate them and they manage to outsmart and surprise you, you’ll be left with nothing.

And underestimating these rodents is nothing foreign to humans; after all, who in their right mind would think that such small creatures could be so cunning? Luckily, there are ways to learn how to fight them, including information.

Information and research play a large part in the successful extermination of the rodents in your home. You might have experienced a rat infestation in the past and think you will know how to deal with mice, but you’d be wrong. There are a couple of key differences at play here that will make or break your fight against them.

Although, when it comes to mice and mice species, there’s the only one you have to look out for (as it’s the most common one) and that is the house mouse. There are several different variations of the house mouse, but they don’t differ from each other that much.

Rat species, on the other hand, are different from each other.
But we’re here to talk about the differences between mice and rats, so without further ado, let’s get started!

Differences between Mice and Rats

First off, here’s a table showing the major differences between rats and mice:

HeadBroad, short, stubby; small compared to bodyTriangular; small compared to body
EarsSmall compared to headLarge compared to head
MuzzleWide muzzle; blunt and largeSharp muzzle; narrow
Tail/Body RatioBody longer than tailSame ratio/Tail longer than body
Weight200g at 8 weeks of age30-50g (adult)
FeetLarge compared to body (hind feet especially)Small compared to body

Physical Appearance


This is the first thing you notice when you see a mice or a rat. Physical appearances between these two rodent species differ greatly. Even though they look similar, they are vastly different in many aspects.

Rats are larger than mice and by a pretty big margin. Rats can be anywhere between 15 and 40 cm in size, whilst their smaller cousins usually don’t grow larger than 10 cm. This size discrepancy can help you prepare better.

For example, there’s a small hole on the outside of your home. However, the hole itself isn’t really that large. Rats won’t be able to enter your home through here (although they might try and chew their way through), but mice will.

Other physical differences include the size of ears and feet. Mice have larger ears whilst rats have smaller ones. Rats have better eyesight than mice, but it’s not great either.

Both species have blurry vision with a faint representation of colors (rats, however, see the same way humans do, except the color saturation is worse).

If you’ve ever seen a mouse in the wild (or in your yard), you’ve probably noticed its tail as well. Mice have tails that are slim and covered in hairs. Some species have less hair than others, but this is a common trait of all mice species.

Contrary to mice, rats have a thicker, longer tail which is completely devoid of hairs (with some exceptions occurring).

The last of the physical differences between these two species is weight. Mice, since small, weigh a lot less than rats. Around 30 grams to be exact, but they can weigh between 12-45 grams.

A typical rat weighs around 200 grams but there are variations here as well. Rats can weigh a minimum of 150 grams and all the way up to 300 grams! So they’re quite large.

This should help you identify the threat easier through sight alone. If you catch a glimpse of rodent and it seems larger than usual, it’s definitely a rat!

Rodent Lifestyles

You’d think that rats and mice live similar lives, but the reality is quite different. As mentioned before, mice are natural adventurers and explorers, never the ones to shy away from new areas and objects. Rats are more secluded and will not always try to explore and risk things.

Once a rat has found a comfortable location with enough food and water, it will not attempt to leave that place. Mice might choose to venture further in an effort to find better shelter and access to food and water, but it’s their curiosity that guides them.

The largest difference between rats and mice, in this case, is that mice prefer building shelters in burrows or secluded areas. Rats usually like living close to the ground, but this isn’t true for all rat species.

Only the Brown Rat likes living down where it’s comfortable; Black Rats prefer their shelters to be high up. This is why Black Rats will settle in your attic, whilst Brown rats will choose your basement (or yard).

Rats are less of a picky eater than mice. Rats have been known to devour things that aren’t even considered edible, but they have done it. Mice, on the other hand, will usually eat only food (or at least what they consider food).

Mice don’t need a lot of food and water to survive each day. Around 3ml of water and 3g of food should be enough for them. Rats require much more since they are larger and need more energy. Rats eat up to 30 grams of food every day and drink anywhere between 15 and 60ml of water.

This might seem trivial but you should know this since cutting the water supply might force the rats out, but not the mice (since they need less on a daily basis). The same goes for food.

And hey, if this isn’t enough info, check out this sweet infographic!

differences between rat and mice


rat babies

Rats are slower breeders but they can still increase their population size rather swiftly. All rodents share the common trait of being able to reproduce very fast.

Sexual maturity is reached at a pretty young age, which is nature’s way of saying ‘you need to protect yourselves. These rodents have no real means of defending themselves except biting and scratching, but when it comes to mice, they won’t stand up to you the way rats can.

Mice reproduce rapidly; a female mouse can birth around 10 babies per litter (but can range anywhere between 4 and 16 babies) more than 7 times a year.

Let’s take the worst-case scenario: Mouse life expectancy isn’t that high – just above a year and in some rare cases two years. So imagine a female mouse giving birth to 10 babies each time, 8 times a year. That’s 80 mice! And if she lives long enough, that number can increase to almost 150. That’s way too many mice!

Rats aren’t as quick as mice when it comes to reproduction, but their population can still increase rapidly.

Rats give birth to 5-10 pups in every litter, and they can give birth to a minimum of 3, and a maximum of 6 litters annually. Rats have a similar lifespan to mice, although there are distinctions between the two most common rat species.

Brown rats live longer; up to 2 years. Black rats have a shorter lifespan, reaching only 1 year of age (but some extraordinary exceptions do exist).

Other Notable Differences

You might not see the rodent, but you could run into some of the clues that it is there. In most cases, people often notice droppings lying around their homes. You should be able to distinguish the different droppings that these rodent species leave behind and figure out which ones are attacking your home.

Mice droppings are tiny; only a couple of millimeters in size, but there are bound to be huge amounts of them. Mice generally leave around 80 droppings daily. That comes from just one mouse! Now, if you haven’t experienced an infestation but are looking to prepare for one, imagine what 10 or even 100 mice can do.

This is a major health hazard as well as mice, as well as rats, carry many dangerous and lethal diseases such as Salmonellosis, Leptospirosis, the Plague, Lyme Disease, and many others. Some of these diseases are transmitted through rodent droppings hence the need to get rid of mice and rats as quickly as possible.

Continuing on this topic, rats leave fewer droppings daily; ‘only’ 40, but they’re much larger in size ranging anywhere from 10 to 20 millimeters. Again, rodent droppings are dangerous and if you do manage to see some around your home, be ready to act swiftly.


mouse in wall

There aren’t a lot of differences between these two rodent species, but they are distinctive. Such information will help you understand them better, which will, in turn, help you know what traps to buy and how to fight them.

Again, we can’t stress this enough, don’t underestimate either mice or rats. They are fully capable of surprising you with their willingness to go the extra mile.

Always think of them as equals while you’re ‘hunting’ them and you should have a much easier time!

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