4 Ways to Distinguish Between Rats and Mice

17th October 2017 No Comments

Winter brings with it unwanted pests that seek shelter and food, but to deal with them properly you need to first know what kind of pest has invaded your home. While telling squirrels apart from fleas is fairly easy, the differences between mice and rats can be more nuanced, especially if you only see the damage and waste they leave behind but not the actual culprits.

As mislabelling one from the other happens very often, we’ve prepared this blog post to help you better distinguish rats from mice.

1.    Visual appearance

If you’re (un)fortunate to see the pest with your own eyes, making a visual distinction between rats and mice can be the easiest way to identify them.


  • Mice are much smaller than rats, with rounded ears and pointier noses. They don’t grow larger than 8” and are usually smaller than that with a grey, brown or white coat of hair on their body.
  • By contrast, rats have pointier ears and stubbier noses. Adult rats can reach 15” and their tails are usually hairless. Along with the same colour palette as their smaller counterparts, rats can also have brown coats.

To better distinguish the two species when the rats are young, you can use the below pictures to get a clearer idea of which pest has invaded your home.

2.    Droppings

Droppings are by themselves one of the main reasons any infestation must be dealt with as soon as possible – they’re excellent at spreading disease and contributing to the loss of cleanliness in your home, especially in the kitchen. There are two main things to look for with mice or rat droppings:

  • Mice produce about twice as many droppings as rats, around 100 per day compared to the rats’ 50.
  • Rat droppings tend to be much larger than those of mice, with the former’s around ½” in diameter and the latter’s about ¼” in size.

As not all of the droppings will be located in a single place, it’s best to use the size rather than sheer numbers when determining what made them.

3.    The marks they leave behind

The two pests have a few things in common when we’re talking about visual marks they leave as they scurry along their paths. They both gnaw on cables, insulation, furniture or anything else that’s in their way. They both leave droppings, though of different sizes, and they both leave tracks as they move.

The key differences between them, however, is that mice also leave behind urine pillars, formed from their hair, urine and dirt, while rats tend to leave grease marks where they squeeze through gaps or rub their fur against a surface.

4.    Whether they burrow

If you notice new holes in the ground around your garden or near the foundation of your home, chances are they were left by a rat. Unlike mice, rats like burrowing into soil or underneath the foundation of a building to create safe paths between their nests and food sources.

Contrary to this, mice simply build nests with whatever materials are available. They choose hidden locations with enough material nearby so they can safely stay in close proximity to the food and minimize travel.

As both rodents can produce multiple litters every year after they settle in, whether into your home or nearby, it is advisable to remove them as soon as possible. Store-bought traps can work for the occasional rat or mouse that strays into your home, but an infestation is best left to professionals.

If you think you have a rat or mouse infestation, don’t hesitate to give us a call, and our qualified pest control technicians will be with you as soon as possible! Alternatively, if you’d like to reduce the risk of an infestation, read our blog onHow to protect your home from rats and mice this winter.