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Rats vs. Mice

December 12, 2016

norway rat up close in west palm beach basement

Did you know that rats and mice are two entirely different types of rodents? I didn’t! In fact, I used to think that a mouse was just what they called a female rat. Well, I was totally wrong! It is actually really important to know the differences between these common rodents, especially when choosing which method will be most effective in getting rid of them.


  • Rats and mice do share some basic characteristics, and it can be helpful to know what these rodents have in common before going into the specifics of what makes them different. 

  • Rats and mice are both nocturnal rodents.

  • They are both gifted with very strong senses of smell, taste, and hearing; but they both struggle with poor eyesight, most likely due to their nocturnal behaviors.

  • Both are skilled swimmers and climbers, but they tend to use these skills for different reasons such as for sneaking into a house versus for making a quick getaway.

  • They will feed on almost anything in a pinch, but they differ in their food preferences. Finally, if you have suspicions of an infestation in your house, both rats and mice can be detected by looking for signs of droppings, gnawing and tracks around the house.


Now that we know what their similarities, we can get into the more pertinent matter: what are their differences? The most notable and most significant difference is in their behaviors.Rats are incredibly cautious, while mice are quite curious. Each of these contrasting behaviors requires totally separate approaches when it comes to removal. So remember: rats are cautious, and mice are curious.

  • Rats are incredibly cautious, while mice are quite curious. Each of these contrasting behaviors requires totally separate approaches when it comes to removal. So remember: rats are cautious, and mice are curious.

  • Due to their cautious tendencies, rats typically need more time to adjust to new surroundings before they can become comfortable in them. So when trying to trap rats the most effective way to go about it is to start by putting unset-traps in their path and then giving them time to get used to those new additions in their environment, which will lull them into a false sense of security. Later on, once they are comfortable with the new features, you can switch the traps so that you are now putting set traps in their path which they won’t see coming because of their false sense of security, which will most certainly catch them. 

  • On the other hand, catching a mouse requires a totally different approach. Due to their curious nature, mice are quick to explore anything that is new to them, but that means they will also quickly lose interest in just a manner of days as the novelty fades. So when trying to trap a mouse the best method is to basically do the opposite of what you did for the rats. When attempting to trap a mouse start with set-traps, and make sure that you place the set-trap somewhere along the path that the mouse travels daily. You are more likely to catch a mouse on your initial attempt with the first set trap that you place in their pathway. If the set trap did not catch the mouse in the first two to three days, then you might not have put the trap in their daily pathway. In this case you should reevaluate your plan or you should call a professional for help. 

There are just a few other interesting, somewhat random, differences that you may be curious to know. The first and most obvious difference is in their appearances:

  • Rats are larger in size, while mice are much smaller in comparison.

  • The presence of rats can be easier to detect than that of mice because they leave behind more signs such as runaways and burrows, in addition to the gnawing, droppings, and tracks.

  • Rats often exhibit a burrowing behavior when settling into to their nest, whereas mice tend to gather various soft materials to use as cushioning for their nesting site, turning it into a cozy little bed to cuddle up in during the day. 

  • When you compare their diets, you will find a minor difference in that rats prefer to eat fresh grains and meats while mice prefer to eat cereal grains and plants.

  • Rats sometimes prey on mice, and since rats are often killing and eating them, mice are quite afraid of rats and rats’ scent has become a deterrent for mice.

  • Rats and mice each have their own unique and impressive skills that they use in very different ways. Both are good swimmers, but only rats use their excellent swimming skills to travel from the sewers, up broken drains and into your home via the toilet.  

  • On the other hand, mice are fast and agile thanks to the skillful use of their tails. Mice make very good use of their tail: they depend on it for support and balance when standing upright as well as when maneuvering around new locations or when making a fast getaway. 

If you have any questions about common rodents such as rats and mice or if you are interested in our pest control services, please call one of our Nozzle Nolen representatives at (888) 685-0376.


Cowley, Bill. "5 Ways to Tell the Difference between a Mouse and a Rat Infestation." Bill's Guide to Pest-Free Living. Cowley's Pest Services, 07 Oct. 2014. Web. <>.

"Differences Between Rats and Mice." Orkin. Orkin, LLC, 2016. Web. <>.

Lupo Pest Control Expert, Lisa Jo. "The Difference Between Rats and Mice and Why It Matters." Home. About, Inc., 01 Apr. 2016. Web. <>.


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