No rodent infestation is ever welcome on your property. If you’ve heard scratching behind your walls or noticed droppings on the ground, a nest of mice or rats is the usual culprit. It is often difficult to tell without seeing one of these animals which rodent – mouse or rat – you may be faced with, and while they both show similar behavior, knowing which one is which can help you know what to look out for and understand the risks that are associated with prolonged invasions.

Different Characteristics of Mice and Rats

Although closely related in both appearance and behavior, mice and rats are different animals. The easiest way to tell the difference between them is, of course, if you happen to see one on your property. Adult rats tend to be much larger than mice, measuring up to 20 inches from its nose to the end of its tail. Mice are often closer to 5 to 7 inches long, thinner, and lighter weight.

Other differences in body parts can help you tell a mouse apart from a rat. This includes both the proportions and appearance of:

  • Heads – Mice have smaller heads in relationship to the rest of their body than rats. A mouse’s head is also triangular while a rat has a blunt snout and a less defined head.
  • Ears – The ears on mice are larger and floppier, protruding from their heads. Rats have narrower ears that are less apparent.
  • Tails – A mouse’s tail is longer in proportion to its body and is usually covered with hair. Rat tails are still long, but make up less of their overall measurement. They are typically hairless and pink.

These physical characteristics are dependent on seeing the rodent infesting your house. But if rustling noises or another sign has clued you in to an infestation, examining these signs can differentiate between mice or rats:

  • Droppings – Rat droppings are often larger, approximately 7 to 19 mm, and rounded at the ends. Mice leave droppings that tend to have pointed ends and measure 4 to 7 mm long.
  • Food – Both animals will eat what food is available, but mice generally consume more vegetables, fruits, seeds, and nuts. Rats go for items like meat, cheese, pet food.
  • Behavior – Mice are curious and will freely explore. They can also climb. Rats will stick to areas they know and it takes them a long time to approach new objects in their environment.
  • Nesting Areas – Since mice have the ability to climb, they are more likely to be found in higher spaces like attics and upper level walls. Rats more often nest on ground floors and in basements, although both have been found throughout homes.

Once you know what type of rodent you have, you can choose the right traps, baits, and placements to catch them. A professional wildlife control company can also handle identification and removal of rodent pests.