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 16 inches in length (including tail) and weigh about 14 oz., 20 times heavier than a mouse. 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 8 inches, including tail) and larger ears. Mice also have a characteristically pointed snout and thinner tails than rats. Their tails are also about as long as their bodies, whereas rats’ tails are a bit shorter than their bodies.

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 nor rats are picky eaters, so they’ll consume whatever they can find if their favorites aren’t available. 


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. Rats have been recorded traveling for over a mile in a single night, whereas mice tend to stay very close to their food source. This makes rats a communal issue, unfortunately, but they can still be eliminated from a specific property.


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 about ¾ inch in length and may be slightly curled. Mouse droppings are much smaller, normally ¼ inch long, about the same size and shape as a grain of rice. 


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. 

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