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The Differences Between Mice and Rats

mouse coming through hole

If you were to walk into your kitchen in the middle of the night, flip on the light and see something furry scurrying for cover, you might not be certain whether you had just seen a juvenile rat or an adult mouse. Rats and mice have many things in common. For example, they can be the same color, they both have long tails, they both gnaw constantly to keep their teeth from growing too long — and they can both spread a variety of diseases. However, there are several notable differences between rats and mice.

Differences in Appearance

  • Size: An adult mouse will typically measure between two and three inches in length. In Massachusetts, the most common rat is the sewer rat, also known as the Norway rat or brown rat. These rats can be up to 11 inches long.
  • Tails: A rat's tail in normally scaly and hairless. By comparison, the mouse's tail is thinner and smoother.
  • Ears: Relative to the head size, a rat's ears are smaller than a mouse's ears.
  • Fur: Mouse fur normally appears relatively smooth. A rat's fur tends to be wiry.
  • Eyes: The eyes of a rat appear beady or small; the eyes of a mouse seem a bit large for its face.
  • Head: Rats have heads that seem proportionate to their bodies. Mice have heads that seem a bit small for their bodies. In addition, a rat's head is less pointed than a mouse's head.
  • Color: Norway rats are usually dark brown, but mice can be brown or gray.

Differences in Behavior

  • Mice tend to be more timid than rats, but they are also more curious and less wary of new things in their environment.
  • Mice usually make their nests in your home, but rats may nest in an underground burrow and only come in to feed.
  • Rats are not afraid of mice, but mice are terrified of rats. Rats will prey upon mice, so if a mouse even smells a rat, it will become agitated and look to escape.
  • Although rats and mice are omnivores, mice usually prefer starchy foods; rats have a preference for fish and meat.

Other Differences

  • Droppings: A rat produces 20 to 50 droppings daily, but a mouse produces twice that number. Mouse droppings are normally about 0.25 inch long and are pointed on each end. Rat droppings are usually three times as long. Mouse droppings are typically found in a pile, but rat droppings are often spread over a wider area.
  • Reproduction: In a year, a female rat can produce five to six litters of 12 to 14 pups per litter. A female mouse can produce as many as 10 litters per year, but each litter usually has five or six pups.

Whether you suspect that you have a problem with mice, rats, wildlife or other pests, you can count on F&W Pest Control for prompt, effective, courteous service. We will inspect your premises thoroughly to determine the best way to remedy the situation. Contact F&W Pest Control today for a free quote!

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