What are the differences between rats and mice?

What are the differences between rats and mice?

As mice and rats are nocturnal creatures, it’s possible you may not know which one you’re dealing with in your home. You’ll want to adapt your control methods as one form of control may be more effective for mice than it is rats, and vice versa. Learning to spot the tell-tale signs of each will help you invest in the most appropriate solution for your rodent problem.

Know your rodents

Getting to know your rodents will help with identification. If you’ve got a mouse then it’s a house mouse, or Mus domesticus. There are two kinds of rat that may set up base in your home; the brown rat (Rattus norvegicus, common rat or Norway rat) or the black rat (Rattus rattus, ship rat or roof rat).

Rats vs Mice

If you have a rodent problem, it’s highly unlikely that you will have both rats and mice infesting your home. Rats tend to kill and eat mice if they are sharing territory. Brown and black rats will also fight each other, with the brown rat usually dominating as the more muscular and aggressive species.


Rats and mice have differing physical traits to help with identification if you spot one. The mouse in general is the smaller of the bunch, measuring between 3-10cm in length compared to 16-40cm for a rat, but their features tend to be out of proportion to the rest of its body, including its head, eyes and ears. The head is more pointed than that of a rat, with a rat’s nose being blunter. A rat’s eyes will look small and beady whereas mouse eyes look larger. Mice ears are typically large and floppy. A rat will have larger feet than mice with different shaped back and front feet. The thin tail of a mouse will be hairy whereas a rat’s tail will be hair-free and scaly.


Typically the first warning sign that you have a rodent infestation, their droppings will announce their arrival. They won’t be pleasant to look at but these can be key in identifying which rodent has moved in. Mice droppings are smaller, being no more than a quarter of an inch in size, whereas rat droppings can be three times that size. Mice droppings will have pointed ends and rat droppings can be more brick-like. A mouse will do around 80 droppings per day compared to 40 that a rat does, so the quantity of droppings can be a tell-tale sign too.


Mice tend to create burrows near ground-level but they’re agile climbers so will nest in any small spaces they can fit themselves into. They also prefer to stay near a reliable food source so are more likely to nest near kitchens. They’ll source bits of material such as strips of cloth, dry grass, and paper to build their nest. Brown rats will also nest in burrows close to the ground, but black rats (or roof rats) can be found higher up in attics and roof spaces.


Mice and brown rats prefer dry foods such as cereals and grains, choosing to re-visit food sources consecutively. Black rats on the other hand are more attracted to moist food, such as carcasses or fruit, and won’t eat in the same place twice in a row. If you’re finding nibbled grains, these are a sign of rats. Leftover husks indicate mice as they’ll peel these off to get to the grain inside.

Identifying your rodent

Once you’ve used the traits above to help identify whether it’s mice or rats that are causing havoc in your home, it’s time to select the best control method. The Big Cheese offers a range of products to either Repel, Catch Alive or Catch & Kill.

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