Rats vs Mice: How to Spot the Difference

Diseases can be spread to humans from mice and rats through direct contact, through bites, or through contact with rodent urine, feces, or saliva. Around the world, these rodents spread more than 35 diseases.

If you’ve noticed evidence that you might have a rodent infestation, you are probably quite disturbed. Not only is it unsettling to have mice or rats in your home, but it also poses a health risk to you and your family.

Once you learn a little bit about the physical attributes, habitat, and other characteristics of these rodents, it can help you to tell the difference between rats vs mice.

If you’ve come to the internet to ask “do I have rats or mice?” consult this guide to help you find your answer.

Physical Attributes

In North America, there are over 70 different species of rats and mice.

When trying to identify whether you have a mouse or rat infestation, looking at the physical characteristics of the rodents can help you to make the distinction.

In general, rats are bigger than mice. The heads on nice also look disproportionately small compared to their bodies, while rats tend to have a more proportionately sized head.

You can also tell the difference by looking at their eyes and ears. Rats have small and beady eyes while mice have eyes that are quite oversized compared to their face. Mice have much larger ears for their head size and rats’ ears aren’t nearly as large relative to the size of their heads.

House mice tend to have small heads, pointed snouts, small feet, and large ears containing some hair. Typically having a dark tail and a light brown body with some shades of gray, an adult house mouse weighs roughly half an ounce.

Rats are larger than mice. Norway rats typically weigh about 11 ounces and have a thick and heavy body. With short ears with dark hair and a blunt snout, the brown and black body of these rats tends to have a shaggy coat.

The tails of Norway rats are pale underneath and dark on top.

Roof rats, on the other hand, have slender and slight bodies with a pointed snout. Their ears are large and don’t have any hair on them. These rats have a dark tale, a smooth coat, and a great body with black shading.

Adult roof rats weigh roughly 7 ounces.


One of the simplest ways to answer the question “do I have rats or mice?” is to pay attention to their behavior. As a rule of thumb, rats are cautious and mice are curious.

Rats are much more cautious than mice. If they notice new things in their path, they will avoid them until they have adapted to them being there. This means that if you are going to set traps for them, you first have to place unset traps in their path before placing set rat traps.

Mice, on the other hand, are known to investigate anything new that they notice. For these curious creatures, you’ll want to set a trap and place it in its path from the get-go. Because of this behavioral characteristic, you can know that you have likely put your trap in the wrong place if you don’t catch a mouse in the first couple of days.

Mice and rats are both nocturnal. However, mice tend to be bolder than rats and are more social and territorial.


Another way that you can identify the difference between mice and rats is the habitat that they choose.

Mice are much more likely to prioritize being near a food source, warmth, and a cozy nest. It is common for pest control companies to find mice nesting in accessible kitchen areas or in walls. They tend to hoard dry grass, paper, old clothing, or anything else that makes for comfortable bedding.

On the other hand, rats do not focus so much on creature comforts. They tend to build their nests underground or underneath stacks of trash or clutter.


Both mice and rats are basically omnivorous and will eat what is available when the opportunity is there, there are some differences in their diets.

Mice are much more carbohydrate focused. Things like popcorn, bread, and raw flour are appealing to them. They will eat meat as well, but it’s more like a supplementary part of their diet.

Rats are much more carnivorous than mice. They will scavenge animal carcasses and even eat mice. As far as household foods go, rats are partial to pet food, canned fish, and peanut butter.


Another thing you can look out for when trying to determine what type of rodent infestation you have is to look for the droppings. Since rodents tend to be skittish, you might not get a glimpse of the animal itself. By looking at the droppings, you can identify whether you have a mouse or a rat problem.

House mice droppings are often found scattered randomly and are roughly 3 to 8 mm in length. Black in color and granular in shape, you’ll find droppings near their nesting areas.

Norway rat droppings are spindle-shaped and tapered. These dark brown droppings look like large grains of rice.

Roof rat droppings are smaller than the droppings of Norway rats. They have pointed ends and a banana-like curve.

Rats Vs Mice: Either Way, You’re Going to Want to Call an Expert

One of the most damaging and potentially dangerous pests you can have in your home are rodents. If you don’t notice the problem right away or don’t deal with it quickly enough, a small problem can become a large infestation.

Rats vs mice: which problem do you have? No matter the answer, our professional pest control team can help identify the problem and solve it so that you can rest easy in your home.

No matter what kind of pest issue you have, we’re here to make your pest problems go away. Contact us today and let us know how we can help!

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