Rodent control efforts are made easier when one understands the exact type of rodent they are dealing with. For instance, is it a mouse or a rat problem? How can you tell the difference between a mouse and a rat infestation? Let’s look at significant differences between these two rodents to get a better understanding of the two. We shall look at them both in terms of physical and behavioral differences.
The difference between a mouse and a rat.
Mouse is an umbrella word that describes tiny sparrow sized rodents. There are several species in this group, including house mice, dormice, deer mice, field mice etc.
Rat is also a word that describes a group of rodents which are slightly larger than mice. The species in this category include Norway rats, black rats, cotton rats, roof rats among many others.
The main difference between these two rodents is their size. An adult mouse would grow to a total length of about 20cm including the tail and weigh about 30 grams. The rat which is larger, can have a total length of about 40cm and weigh twice as much as a mouse.
Their color difference is also another characteristic that differentiates them. While the mouse has a brown color and a dark belly from the beginning, rats tend to be mostly gray with bellies that are lighter in color, then as the rat grows its color may change to brown.
The other big difference is in the tail. A rat’s tail is dark with scaly rings while the mouse has a slightly smooth or hairy tail. A mouse has slightly larger ears in proportion to the head while a rat’s feet tend to be longer than the body. The rat’s snout is a bit blunt while the mouse a sharper triangular nose. These small differences and variations may be hard to notice but remember, size is the main difference!
The rats lifespan is slightly longer than that of mice.
When it comes to behavior, rats are extremely cautious and would avoid any foreign object in their path. Mice on the other hand are a bit careless or courageous and tend to approach objects without fear. Due to this, if you set a trap and the animal is not caught within the first few days, it is most probably a rat. A mouse would get caught almost immediately. A trap set in a rat’s path will take some time, as the rat takes time to familiarize with the object before approaching. A trap that is meant for a mouse should be able to trap the rodent almost immediately otherwise it should be moved to another place.
Rats have been known to kill and eat mice, therefore its a bit hard to have both living under the same roof. In fact, mice fear rats so much that a rat’s odor is enough to stress the latter enough to interfere with their reproduction!
Here are some other significant differences.
– They prefer to build a nest near the place where there is food. Its not easy to find that they have burrowed holes and may sometimes build a nest from materials such as shredded paper.
– They are not very choosy on foods, but have a preference for grains and plants.
– They are sociable creatures, meaning they can live in groups. They are also territorial creatures.
– Very fast runners. They can run along ropes, cables and thin surfaces. Their tail provides balance.
– They can climb vertical surfaces as long as there is enough roughness to hold on to. Mice are also great swimmers and can jump from a relatively high point without getting injured.
– A mouse can fit into a hole that is a 1/4 of an inch wide. This means they can access a place through cracks that one cannot even imagine possible.
– They are generally nocturnal, starting their activities at dusk and resting at dawn. A mouse can however be spotted during the day when perhaps its nest has been disturbed or when it is looking for food.
– A female mouse can breed up to 10 times in a year, producing about 5 little ones. The young take 6 weeks to also start producing. Basically, you can now understand why a mouse infestation is dangerous. The period they take to multiply is so short!
– They also tend to eat anything in their path, but have a preference for meat and fresh grain.
– Rats need to take a lot of water in a day.
– They burrow and live in fields, under buildings, fences etc. A rat’s environment can be very dirty or even poisonous. They therefore tend to have a dirty greasy coat that may leave marks when they rub against a surface.
– They are very good swimmers so they can access places through toilets and drains.
– Rats can fit through a half an inch of a hole.
– They can climb steep surfaces when they know they will find food there.
– They use set paths to access their burrows. If a foreign object such as a trap is placed within their way they will avoid it at all costs.
– Rats are also nocturnal creatures, preferring to look for food at night.
– Rats also breed and multiply fast. The female rat can get up to 12 little ones each time they get babies, which happens about 6 times in a year. The young ones can start multiplying in a period of three months after being born. Rats tend to actively breed during spring.
You will know that you have a rodent infestation when you notice signs of gnawing or the presence of rodent droppings. Mice tend to leave more droppings than rats, which is something like 40-100 droppings in a day. The rats can only defecate half as much.
Fun facts: Did you know that these rodents were eaten as food in prehistoric times? Some communities still consider them as food, while others eat them in times of emergency! Also, did you know that a mouse can eat its own tail when it has lacked food for a long period of time? Some people keep mice as pets too…
Hopefully by now when a rodent scurries across your home you can tell whether it’s a mouse or a rat!