How to tell a rat from a mouse

Rats and mice are very similar animals; they share numerous characteristics with one another. However, there are also some important differences between them. Not only do rats and mice look different from one another, but they also have slightly different behaviours and habits. Understanding these subtle differences enables homeowners to quickly identify the culprit when one of these pests invades their homes.

The most prominent difference between the two is that rats are larger. There is some overlap in size between a large, fully-grown mouse and a young rat. However, other physical characteristics set them apart. For example, rats have smaller ears than mice at all stages of their lives. Their tails are also slightly different; mouse tails are thin and covered in fine hairs, whereas rat tails are thicker and hairless.

Aside from the visual differences between the two, the indirect evidence mice and rats leave is also different.  Mouse droppings are about the same size as a grain of rice. In comparison, rat droppings are much larger, sometimes as large as an olive or currant. Because of their larger body size and greater weight, rats generate more noise when they scurry about in attics or behind walls. Their larger teeth and need to constantly gnaw on whatever they can find also lead to much bigger bite marks than mice.

Rats and mice are both omnivorous; they will eat whatever’s available. However, black rats prefer fruit and other foods with high moisture content. On the other hand, mice and brown rats prefer cereals. Mice can extract all the moisture they need from the food they eat, even cereals. But rats need to drink much more water to survive, so both black and brown rats need a water source as well as their main food source.

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