Spring rains can bring a boatload of pests into your home… including rodents. But how do you know what kind of rodent you are dealing with? Can you tell the difference between mouse vs rat? There are three main rodent species that homeowners typically can deal with: the house mouse, the Norway rat, and the roof rat. Here are a few ways to spot the difference between rats and mice.
The house mouse is small in size, only about 4 to 6 inches long. In fact, they are often confused with young rats. They are usually light grey, brown, or white in color with lighter shading on their bellies. Mice have large floppy ears and smaller feet and heads than rats. They have triangular snouts with long whiskers. Their tail is proportionally longer than their head and body length. The house mouse prefers cereal but will eat almost anything. House mice usually live on the ground and nest in burrows. They are quite agile and great climbers. They have smaller footprints than rats do.House mice typically have litters of 4-16 babies. They can have 7 to 8 litters per year. The reach maturity in about 8 to 12 weeks. House mice are nocturnal creatures. They are social and territorial and tend to be bolder than rats. They are curious and will explore new things, making them easier to trap. They are skillful climbers and will fit into small holes to access areas of your home you wouldn’t expect. They are weaker than rats and are usually afraid of them as they will kill them. House mice have a musky odor and are color blind. House mice droppings are approximately 3 to 8 mm in length. They are often found scattered randomly. They are granular in shape and black in color. They can be found near their nesting areas.
Norway rats are the biggest of the three species at about 10 inches long. They have thicker bodies with fur that is usually brown with black shading and shaggy in appearance. They have a paler color underneath their tails. Their tail is shorter than the length of their body and head and is usually hairless and scaly. They have small hairy ears and blunt noses. Norway rats also prefer cereals but will eat what is available. They cut their grains when eating, giving them the appearance of being chopped. These rats also tend to seek food in the same places making them easier to bait, as well. Norway rats live on the ground and in burrows. They are usually spotted throughout buildings and in sewer systems. Their burrowing can cause extensive damage to sewers. Norway rats typically have litters of 7 to 8 babies. They can have 3 to 6 litters per year. They reach maturity in about 10 to 12 weeks. Norway rats are also nocturnal. They are typically fearful and cautious about new things. They don’t explore like mice do. They can climb but prefer to inhabit the lower levels of structures. They are stronger than mice and have been known to gnaw through building materials. They have poor eyesight. Norway rats don’t get along with roof rats and they will often fight to the death. Norway rat droppings are dark brown in color. They are tapered, spindle shaped droppings that resemble large grains of rice.
The roof rat is usually about 8 inches long with slender bodies. They have gray fur with black shading and smooth coats. They have dark tails that are usually hairless and scaly. Their tail is longer than their head and body, similar to a mouse. They have large, thin, hairless ears and pointed noses. Roof rats prefer most fruit but will eat other foods, as well. They also cut their grain when eating it, making it look like it has been chopped. They don’t usually eat in the same location on consecutive nights making them much harder to trap. Roof rats are mainly restricted to buildings and structures around ports and on ships in temperate climates. They are quite agile and very good climbers. They tend to nest up high under roofs (hence their name) and in warmer countries will even nest in trees. Roof rats typically have litters of 5 to 10 babies. They can have 3 to 6 litters per year. They reach maturity in about 7 to 8 weeks. Roof rats are nocturnal. They are skilled climbers and prefer higher levels of structures. They have stronger teeth than mice and can gnaw through building materials. They have poor eyesight. they don’t get along with Norway rats and will often fight them to the death. Roof rat droppings are long and thin and smaller in size than those of the Norway rat. They are more regular in form with a banana-like curve and pointed ends.
Regardless of which species of rodent has invaded your home, they can all cause issues with the structure of your house and pose risks to your health. Diseases from rodent droppings include Hantavirus, leptospirosis, salmonella, bubonic plague, and rat bite fever.