You’ve figured out that you have a rodent infestation, but can’t tell if it’s a mouse or rat problem? It’s important to know which of these creatures you’re dealing with, especially if you’re going to attempt to trap and control them by yourself.
Mice vs. Rats: Signs When There’s an Infestation
Whether you’re dealing with mice or rats, rest assured that both types of creatures will do their utmost to stay out of your sight. You don’t have to set up little rodent spy cams to figure out which is which, though – here are some other signs you can look out for.
If you do spot a rodent, despite their best efforts, here are the main differences between a rat and mouse when it comes to appearance.
Rat size vs. mouse size
Rats are large, usually weighing around 14 to 18 oz, while mice only weigh 0.5 to 1 oz. Rats tend to have a slightly longer, more blunt snout, whereas mice are more triangular, but this also depends on the type of rat.
Rat tail vs. mouse tail
Rat tails are long and naked, with some scaling. Mouse tails may seem naked, as well, but on closer inspection, you’ll notice they’re lightly furred.
Baby mouse vs. baby rat
Unless you stumble upon the nest, you won’t see the rodent pups, which are born blind and naked. Mice pups are tiny (you could fit a dozen in your hand!), while rat pups are a little larger (you could probably hold 4 or 5 at once).
The droppings will give you the clearest hint as to which house rodents you’re dealing with. Just like a mouse is smaller than a rat, mouse droppings are also smaller.
Rat droppings vs. mouse droppings
Mice droppings are about 1/8 inch to a 1/4 inch in size (about the size of a sesame seed or uncooked rice grain), while rat droppings are a little more than double that size at 1/2 inch to 3/4 inch (about the size of a cooked grain of rice). The ends of mouse droppings also tend to be a little sharper than the rounded ends of rat droppings.
Finally, mice also tend to leave their droppings scattered around pretty much everywhere along their path of exploration. Rats usually only defecate in specific spots, so their droppings will be more concentrated in a few areas.
If you’ve stumbled across a rodent nest, that can also help identify the type of infestation. Both rats and mice like to build their nests out of soft, shredded materials like paper or fabric. The key to telling the difference is location.
Mouse nests are going to be close to sources of food and heat. Mice can squeeze through the tiniest openings, so they often build their nests in walls or behind electric appliances.
So what does a rat’s nest look like? It depends on the kind of rat. Norway rats like to nest in slightly large burrows and underground locations like basements. They need slightly larger entryways into their nesting area, so you’ll want to look for holes. Roof rats, as their name implies, prefer to nest on roofs, in attics, or outside in trees.
Do you hear scratching or squealing from the walls or ceilings? The type of sound is a good hint. Both types of rodents usually communicate in frequencies outside the human hearing range, although mice occasionally emit audible squeaks. Rats are less likely to do so unless they’re very distressed.
Instead, scratching sounds are going to be the signal. If you can hear obvious scurrying or scratching sounds, especially in the ceiling, that’s probably a rat. Because mice are smaller, you won’t hear their scratching sounds unless you pay close attention.
Tracks & Marks
With rats, you may find visible and fairly large gnaw marks near their hiding areas or where they’ve attempted to access food. With mice, look for smaller marks of wood or packaging getting shredded. Both creatures may leave track marks along the areas where they like to explore, although mice are more likely to branch out while rats will stick to where they feel safe.
How to Get Rid of Mice and Rats
So how do you get rid of these rodents? Controlling either type of rodent requires the same basic practices, with some subtle differences.
What’s the Same?
With both mice and rats, your rodent control methods should first focus on tidying up to get rid of their food and water sources.
Then, identify how they got into your home and where they’re currently hiding. Seal any entry points that allow them to get inside (but don’t seal their entryway into their nest if that’s something you discovered – otherwise, they may end up expiring in your walls).
Sometimes, this is enough to deal with small infestations, but often, you’ll also need to set up traps.
Rats and mice will likely hide in different places, as we touched on already. You’ll need to focus on different areas of your house or property when tidying up and sealing away entryways.
The biggest difference, though, is with trapping. Rats are larger than mice, so they will require larger traps. Rats are also smarter, so you may have to trick them into getting into the traps by creating a false sense of security. We describe this process in detail in our post on rat trapping mistakes.
Mice are still hard to deal with because they reproduce more quickly. While you may find them easier to trap, you’ll want to keep traps set for longer.
Mouse or Rat? Either Way, Consider Calling the Experts!
Dealing with rodents is our specialty at Green Rodent Restoration. Whether you have a mouse or rat infestation, our service focuses on clearing away the critters, restoring the damage they created, and preventing future infestations.