What’s the Difference Between a Mouse and a Rat?

So you suspect you may have an unwanted small rodent living in your house? Chances are you probably don’t want to share your space with this critter – or the dozens of friends and family members he may have brought with him – but you’re not exactly sure what he is, where he is, or how to get rid of him.

Mice and rats are common household pests. They can cause significant damage to your home, soil your living area with their droppings, spoil your food, and carry diseases. Though they are often associated with one another, mice and rats are actually very different creatures. Catching them can be tricky, but the most effective rodent control begins with understanding the critter you’re trying to catch. Here are a few key ways to distinguish between mice and rats.

Physical Characteristics

House mice are small rodents that typically measure between 4 and 8 inches in length from nose to tail and are most commonly white, brown or grey in color. Their snouts are triangular, their whiskers are long and their ears are slightly floppy. Their tails are typically long, thin and hairy.

Rats can grow to be up to 16 inches long and, as medium to large rodents, are significantly larger than mice. Their coarse fur is typically white, grey, brown or black. Rats tend to be heavily soiled and may leave grease on the surfaces they touch. Rats’ snouts are less pointed than the snouts of mice. Their tails are long, hairless and scaly.

Behavioral Characteristics

Mice are very curious, adventurous creatures. They are fast runners and outstanding jumpers and swimmers. They are also adept climbers, capable of scaling even vertical surfaces and climbing along wires, cables and ropes. Mice are primarily nocturnal, but may venture out during the day to find food if necessary.

Rats are cautious, nervous creatures that follow set routines and pathways consistently. They avoid contact with objects they are unfamiliar with, making them somewhat hard to trap. Rats tend to stay relatively close to their nests at all times, typically within 300 feet. They are strong swimmers and will climb to obtain access to food, water or shelter. Rats are nocturnal and are rarely seen during the day.

Signs of Infestation

Mice tend to build nests out of soft or shredded materials and will nest in areas relatively close to a food source. They often live in storage boxes, attics and wall interiors. They prefer cereal, grains and plants, but are happy to munch on almost anything. They have an inherently musty odor. Signs of mice include small droppings, gnawing marks and tiny tracks.

Rats tend to burrow under buildings and along fences and nest in crawl spaces, insulation of walls and ceilings, behind or under cupboards and cabinets, and in basements and attics where boxes are stored. They prefer to eat fresh grains and meat, but they will eat almost anything – including garbage. Grease marks along walls and floorboards and rat droppings are key indications that a rat infestation may exist.

If you suspect a critter infestation in your home, contact Nature’s Way Pest Control at (518) 745-5958. We’ll provide a free inspection and, if necessary, we’ll get rid of the critters and set up a pest management system to prevent them from entering your home again.

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