Mice and rats are commonly depicted in unsanitary environments, emerging out of sewers and falling from subway ceilings, but the truth is these pests can live in a variety of environments. They are highly unsanitary, carrying many diseases and disease-causing parasites. These rodents are also infamous for gnawing through a variety of materials in search of food sources, from plastic containers to electrical wiring to walls. If they are not stopped, they can cause substantial damage.
In order to develop a pest control plan to handle a rodent infestation, you need to get an idea of whether you’re dealing with mice or rats. They are almost identical in behavior and diet, so it’s easy to get the two confused. But there are a few key differences you can consider that can help you determine which one you may be dealing with.

Physical Characteristics

The most noticeable difference between mice and rats is their physical appearance.

  • Mice are on the smaller side, between 2 ½ and 4 inches long with long tails between 2 ¾ and 4 inches long. Their tails are thin and hairy, and they have slightly larger ears than rats. They are typically dusty grey or brown in color with cream-colored bellies. Their snouts are triangular and pointed. The most common types of mice include house mice, deer mice, and field mice.
  • Rats are medium to large rodents, usually between 6 and 9 inches long with tails about the same length as their bodies. Rat tails are scaly instead of hairy, and their ears and eyes are small. They are usually darker brown or black in color with gray, white or black bellies. Their snouts are blunter than mice. The two most common types of rats include Norway rats and roof rats.

Learn more about identifying types of rodents


You may be able to tell what kind of rodent is in your home simply by finding their droppings. In fact, rodents are incredibly smart–droppings may be the only evidence of their presence.

  • Mice produce rod-shaped fecal matter that is usually ⅛-¼ inch long with pointed ends. If these droppings are fresh, they will be soft and moist, but if they are older, they will be hard and dry. Typically, people will describe mouse droppings as being similar in size and shape as grains of rice.
  • Rats also produce rod-shaped fecal matter, but their droppings are usually larger than those of mice due to their bodily size difference. Roof rat droppings are about ½ inch long and pointed at the ends like mice, but Norway rat feces are about ¾ inch long and blunt on the ends.

Nesting Habits

Rodent colonies can grow quickly. Mice and rats do have slightly different lifespans with most mice living about a year and most rats living about two years. Rodents make their way indoors in search of a place to have litters of young close to food and water.

While mice and Norway rats are largely similar in social and foraging behavior, hiding in cluttered areas and searching for food nocturnally, roof rats are known to live in more elevated areas like gutters, rafters and attics. Mice and Norway rats also can commonly be found anywhere in the world, but roof rats are most often found in coastal or tropical environments.

Rodent Control Should be Handled by Professionals

Traps and poisons are some of the most common ways to get rid of mice and rats, but these methods can be both dangerous and ineffective. Both types of rodents breed rapidly, so you may not be able to get rid of them all with DIY methods. Professional pest control services are the sure-fire way to address a rodent infestation.

If you want to get rid of your rodent problem quickly and completely, contact us today for a free inspection!
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