Close up head on shot of a mouse

Is it a mouse or a rat?

There may be two sides to every tale, but do you know a mouse tail from a rat tail? Visually, you may be able to easily identify a mouse from a rat while it’s standing still, but while these disease-carrying rodents are on the move or hiding, sometimes the only way to know for sure what you’re dealing with is to identify them by their droppings, or a specific trait. Read on to find out some of the key differences.

House Mouse Norway Rat

(without tail)

Gray to light brown; light brown chest; 2 – 4 inches Coarse brown with black fur;

gray or white chest; 7 – 10 inches

Nose, Ears,

and Eyes

Pointy nose; small ears and eyes; color blind Blunt nose; small ears and eyes; color blind
Tail Same length as body; nearly

hairless with rounded scales

Shorter than body;

hairless with rounded scales

Habitat Urban and suburban areas,

close to humans offering a food source and shelter

Urban and suburban areas,

close to humans offering a food source and shelter

Food Source Mostly fruits, seeds and grains such as cereal, occasionally meat Neophobic: Avoiding anything they are unfamiliar with. They prefer unspoiled foods such as grains, fish, nuts, and meats
Droppings inch long; rod-like with pointed ends inch long; rounded ends
Behavior Nocturnal, forage at dusk and night; excellent climbers; create burrows; nest in attics, garages, and basements Nocturnal, forage at night; excellent swimmers; create burrows; use sewers as access points; nest in basements and garages
Life Cycle Gestational period 19-21 days; birth litter of 3-14; 5-10 litters a year; lifespan 1-3 years Gestational period 21 days; birth litter of 7-14; 4-6 litters a year; lifespan 1-3 years

signs of miceSigns of a Mouse

  • Holes in food packaging or other types of packaging
  • Nesting material: ripped paper, cardboard, clothing or other fibrous material
  • Nest: ball of soft, shredded material about 5 in diameter
  • Tooth or scratch marks on wooden baseboards, cabinets, window panes, doors, etc.
  • Grease marks (rubs) on walls, baseboards, cabinets, window panes, doors, etc.
  • Droppings: pointed, seed-shaped; about 1/4 inch long; black and wet when fresh, grayish and dry when old
  • Tracks: less than inch; four toes on front paws and five in back
  • Chewed insulation or electrical wiring (potential fire hazard)
  • Scratching sounds within walls

rat near pipe

Signs of a Rat

  • Holes in food packaging measuring approximately 2 inches in diameter
  • Tooth or scratch marks on wooden baseboards, cabinets, window panes, doors, etc.
  • Chewed electrical wire, piping or insulation (creates a potential fire hazard)
  • Can chew through sheet metal, lead pipes and concrete
  • Grease marks (rubs) on walls, baseboards, cabinets, doors, etc.
  • Droppings: dark pellets with blunted ends, about inch in length
  • Tracks: four toes on the front feet and five on longer, hind feet; claw marks and/or tail mark often visible

How are rodent-borne diseases transmitted?

There are three primary ways that people contract rodent-borne diseases.

  • Breathing in dust that is contaminated with rodent urine or droppings
  • Direct contact with rodents, or their urine or droppings; possibly by contaminated food or water
  • Bite wounds

Are mice or rats outwardly aggressive?

  • Rats can exhibit aggressive behavior when threatened. This is usually the result of fear-induced defensive behavior.
  • Unlike rats, mice will avoid humans. They will not attack, but they may bite if handled.

With their ability to reproduce at incredibly fast rates, time is of the essence when it comes to implementing a rodent management program. The sooner you identify a rodent issue, the better. Western Exterminator pest specialists are experts in rodent prevention, treatment, and exclusion and can protect your home and family from the risks associated with these destructive, disease-carrying pests. Contact us today if you suspect you have a rodent problem.

Tiffany Tenley

As a Marketing Content Manager, Tiffany has come to love and appreciate the diverse and complex world of pests—good, bad and ugly. Not only does she research and write about them, she admits to having eaten a few crickets on some cheese-laden nachos. When she's not working, Tiffany enjoys spending time with her family, exploring new restaurants, concert-going, reading, writing and traveling.



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