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How to Tell If You Have Rats or Mice

Mouse with perked ears sitting on concrete floor

Mice and rats are some of nature’s sneakiest, smartest, and most creative household pests. They’ll exploit the smallest of openings to get into your home and they’re hard to get rid of once they’re in. It may seem like there’s very little you can do when an infestation occurs in your home—our experts have created a guide for you to arm you with the knowledge you need to keep rats and mice outside where they belong. 

Differences Between Rats and Mice:

  • Size and appearance
  • Dietary preferences
  • Behavior 
  • Droppings

Size and Appearance

The easiest way to tell a mouse and a rat apart is simply that they look different. Rats are larger than mice, typically around 16in in length and with a larger body mass and often, darker fur. Additionally, rats have a more blunted snout than mice and their greasy fur can give them a shiny appearance. Mice, on the other hand, can be distinguished by their smaller size (usually maxing out around 8in) and larger ears. Mice also have a characteristically pointed snout and thinner tails than rats.

Dietary Preferences

If you’ve noticed missing or gnawed on food, this can be an excellent way to sleuth out which rodent has taken up residence in your home. Mice tend to eat cereal grains like wheat, rice, and barley—this makes the pantry or dry goods storage area of your kitchen particularly attractive to them. Rats prefer soft and moist fruits and vegetables, so things like bananas, avocados, tomatoes, and apples that can stay unrefrigerated make for easy meals. Additionally, rats will drink significantly more water per day than mice, making pets’ water bowls likely areas of activity. Keep in mind, though, that neither mice and rats are picky eaters, so they’ll consume whatever they can find if their favorites aren’t available. 

Behavior

Mice are more habit-focused than rats. For example, mice will usually eat in the same area each time while rats are more prone to scavenging. Contrary to their larger size, rats are typically more cautious than mice, preferring to come out of hiding only when they feel confident that they won’t be seen. Mice are more curious than rats and will readily investigate new and unknown things in their territory. Fortunately for you, this makes them far easier to trap. 

Droppings

A great way to tell if you have a rat or a mouse infestation is to take a look at their droppings. While an unpleasant proposition, it can make identification much easier. Rat droppings are usually black and shiny and measure up to ¾ inch in length. Mouse droppings are much smaller, normally ¼ inch long, and occur in greater volume. 

How to Get Rid of Rodents

Once you’ve established that you have a rodent infestation and discovered which furry home invader you’re facing, the next step is to get rid of them. But how do you do that? A professional rodent control plan is the best way to ensure total elimination of the population. However, if you want to give it a go on your own first, here are a few of our preferred methods:

Keep them outside

Sealing off cracks in your home’s foundation and making sure that your doors and windows are secure deprives rodents of entry points into your home. Both rats and mice can fit into amazingly small openings so a thorough evaluation of your home’s foundation and other structures is a good start. 

Traps

Quality baits and traps can be remarkably effective at quickly eliminating rodents in your home. We recommend consulting a professional to ensure that you’re using the traps that best meets your needs and that you’re placing them at strategic points in your house. 

Cleanliness

Keeping a clean home won’t get rid of mice and rats that are already inside. That said, a clean home is much less likely to attract rodents in the first place. Make sure that you’re removing garbage on a routine basis and that food is properly and securely stored. 

Get a pet!

Humans have been relying on cats and dogs to battle rodents for millennia, and it’s still working today. Most cats and dogs love to chase rodents, preventing them from effectively scavenging for food or settling down long enough to breed. Also, the presence of a large (to them, anyway) predator in your home is a significant deterrent for any mouse or rat. 

FAQs

Are rats dangerous?

Rats aren’t likely to attack humans but can still give painful, easily infected bites if provoked or threatened. However, rats have been responsible for some of the worst outbreaks of disease in human history and can still make your loved ones sick today. Across America, rats can carry and spread illnesses like Lyme Disease, Hantavirus, Typhus, and Bubonic Plague. In addition, rats can carry parasites into your home that can easily infect any pets they come into contact with. 

Do rats come out during the day?

Most rats are nocturnal, so it’s unlikely that you’ll see them during the day. While they may venture out of their hiding places to eat or drink if they feel safe, it’s far more common to see rats at night. 

What attracts mice in your house?

Mice like being in our homes for many of the same reasons that we do: food and shelter. Easily accessible food is more likely to attract mice indoors, so proper food storage is essential. Mice can also be lured in by excessive clutter as it provides them with places to hide and nest. 

How do you know if mice are gone?

The surest way to tell that mice are gone from your home is the absence of new droppings. Also, if you haven’t heard their characteristic scratching and chewing or seen any live ones in a long time, it’s a safe bet that your home is mouse-free. 

Ready to speak with one of our professional technicians about rodent control?

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