How to Tell the Difference Between a Mouse and a Rat

Some people may find it difficult to distinguish the differences between rats and mice. Rats and mice have many similar characteristics, however, there are several distinct differences – not only in their appearance, but also in their food preferences and preferred habitat. There are three species of rodents that will commonly infest structures: Norway rats, roof rats (black rats) and the house mouse. If you’ve found evidence of rodents in your home, the following information will help you determine whether or not you are dealing with a rat or mouse problem.

Mouse facts and features

Mice are commonly found in homes and commercial structures. These rodents are annoying, and also frighten some people. In addition, these animals are very destructive. They cause physical damage to property and buildings by gnawing on – and into – practically any type of material. Due to their feeding and nesting habits they contaminate and consume large quantities of food that is meant for humans, pets and farm animals. As if that weren’t enough, mice are also carriers of diseases such as salmonellosis, which is a form of food poisoning. The University of California Statewide Integrated Pest Management Program (UC IPM) factsheet on mice covers their basic characteristics:

The UC IPM factsheet goes on to explain the behavior and eating habits of mice vs. rats:

Rats facts and features

When comparing rats vs. mice it’s important to know that rats are also a common pest in homes and commercial buildings. Like mice, they contaminate food, damage property and structures, and are known to transmit a variety of diseases. The UC IPM factsheet on rats describes the basics for the two species you are most likely to encounter – Norway rats and roof rats:

Mouse vs. rat

According to the UC IPM factsheet on rats:

Now that you know the difference between a rat and a mouse, you should be able to identify whether you have a mouse or rat problem on your hands. Whether you're looking at one or the other, you don't want either of these rodents invading your home. If you suspect you may have a rat or mouse infestation, call the pest management professionals at Terminix® and let them show these pests the door.