Do You Have a Rat Problem, or a Mouse Problem?

When you’re freaking out because there’s a furry little four-legged creature casually staring at you and chewing your biscuits, you might not think to mark down the physical features of the rodent. But once you’re over the shock of seeing it, you should think about what you can remember and if you see it again, you’ll be better prepared.

Why does it matter what it looks like? Because certain physical features can reveal you if you’re dealing with a rat or a mouse. And that, in turn, will determine how you deal with the problem.

What is the Difference Between a Rat and a Mouse?

Rats and mice are very similar. Genetically, not much separates the two and they are both members of the same Murinae subfamily in scientific classification. From there, rats belong to Rattus and mice belong to Mus. This is the same approximate genetic difference between chimps and humans – although the physical differences are much more marked between those two.

To the naked eye, rats and mice can be difficult to tell apart – particularly when they’re scurrying along the cupboard rails. The key difference is in the size of the rodent. The average house mouse weighs 25g, in comparison to the whopping rat, which weighs in at up to 500g if it’s a male, and 300g if it’s a female. Rats also have much longer bodies, from 9-11 inches in comparison to the mouse at 3-4 inches. Because they’re so much larger, rats also produce larger droppings.

Other physical characteristics distinguish rats from mice. Rats will have a thicker tail, larger ears and feet in proportion to its body, a flat, triangular skull and coarse fur.

Great. Now What?

You need to know if you’re dealing with a rat or a mouse because you’ll need to alter the method you use to eradicate them. Mice are curious beings, eager to explore and frightened by humans. They’re likely to scurry away if you confront them. Rats, on the other hand, are likely to aggressively charge when cornered. They are extremely intelligent and very cautious.

This means that if you’re using traps to catch rats, you’ll need to place them (unset and empty) in the area for a few days beforehand so they become accustomed to seeing them. Because of their size, you’ll need to invest in larger traps.

For mice, you can place the set traps straight away and if you haven’t caught anything in a few days, you can safely assume that you’ve got them in the wrong place. You can try glue traps, too – mice are perfect for this, but rats will just pull themselves free.

If you’re using a rodenticide, be extremely careful. These might work on both species but they’re very toxic to humans and pets.

The best course of action would be to call a professional pest control company so they can deal with whatever problem you’re having in a comprehensive and thorough manner. Neither animal is great to have around and both can carry diseases, so you should attend to the problem as soon as possible!

Kate Lee is a freelance writer and submits many articles on behalf of several reputable pest control companies including She is terrified of rats.

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