How Mice and Rats are Different

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Next week (October 20-26) is Rodent Awareness Week, which makes now the perfect time to broach a topic that might make you squirm a little: the differences between mice and rats. Mice and rats might both be rodents, but they are quite different both behaviorally and in the types of dangers they pose to humans. If you’re experiencing rat or mice problems (or even worse, both), or just want to be armed with the information to identify them, there are some things that you’ll want to know - especially as winter draws nearer and rodents start to more actively try and enter homes. 


How are Mice and Rats Different?

Differences between mice and rats can be broken down into 8 distinct categories: 

  • Feces- It might seem a little gross, but identifying the mice and rats through their poop can actually be extremely useful for telling the two apart. Mouse droppings are small pellets - usually with pointed ends. Rat droppings, on the other hand, are much larger (up to 20 times larger), and are rounded at the edge. If you know you have rodents in the house but aren’t sure what kind, identifying feces can help answer that question.

  • Ears- Mice have almost disproportionately large ears, while rats have smaller ears in relation to their head size.
  • Tails- Rats are pretty well-known for their thick tails; mice contrastingly have smaller, skinnier tails.
  • Burrowing Habits- Mice dig shallow holes, if they burrow at all - maxing out at around 1 foot deep, while rats are in fact prolific burrowers, digging deep and long holes to act as nests for collected food and safe places to hide.
  • Heads- Mice might have larger ears (proportionally) than rats, but their heads are quite small, and triangular in shape; rats have relatively large heads that are short and broad.
  • Size- Mice are smaller rodents, measuring in between 12 and 20 centimeters from the tip of the nose to the end of the tail. Rats can grow to up to 40 centimeters long, and are much heavier than mice. If you are actually seeing mice or rats in your home, you’ll be able to distinguish them by size alone quite easily.
  • Behavior- Although rats are quite a bit more intimidating looking, they are actually the timider of the two rodents, preferring to stay hidden and out of sight as much as possible - which makes them much less susceptible to traps. Mice are bolder creatures and like to explore, making them easier to trap. Rats are also usually basement or crawlspace dwellers, while mice will use their flexibility and climbing skills to inhabit attics or essentially anywhere there is space in your home.
  • Damage- Mice and rats can both cause home damage- gnawing on structures and through wires- but rats are more of a damage threat than mice are because of their stronger teeth. This superior tooth strength means no food in your home, no matter how strongly protected, is safe from contamination from rats if you have an infestation, and they can gnaw through much harder home materials than mice can. 


What Kinds of Diseases do Mice and Rats Carry? 

Mice and Rats are both known for their reputations as disease carriers, and while they carry some of the same diseases, each also have their own unique strains of disease that they carry uniquely--fun! Below is a list of North American diseases and viruses mice and rats both carry, as well as the viruses and diseases each carries independently, according to the CDC

Diseases both Mice and Rats Carry: 

  • Hantavirus Pulmonary Syndrome (HPS)- HPS is an extremely rare but serious respiratory disease spread by contaminated dust, direct contact with rodent urine/droppings, and rodent bite wounds - though this is an exceedingly rare way to get HPS.

  • Hemorrhagic Fever with Renal Syndrome (HFRS)- This group of illnesses is spread in the same ways as HPS, and can very rarely be spread human-to-human - though again, this is extremely rare.
  • Lesposterosis- This bacterial disease can be spread by consuming rodent-contaminated food or water, as well as by skin contact with rodent contaminated water or soil.
  • Salmonellosis- More commonly known as just “Salmonella”, this bacterial disease is spread by food and drink contamination from mice and rats.

Diseases Only Mice Carry: 

  • Lymphocytic Chorio-meningitis (LCM)- This viral disease is carried exclusively by around 5% of house mice, and while it is rarely fatal, it can cause major health difficulties if not properly treated quickly.

Diseases Only Rats Carry: 

  • Rat-Bite Fever- Rat-bite fever is a bacterial disease spread by- as the name implies- bites or scratches from an infected rat, as well as consuming contaminated food or water.

Rats and mice also carry other types of diseases, but no cases of those diseases have been reported in North America. 


You Can Get Rid of Mice and Rats

Clearly, mice and rats each pose their own unique threats, from home damage to disease risks. Thomas Pest Services offers the necessary services to eliminate rodent infestations for good: our specialists will inspect your home and property to identify problem areas and potential nesting areas inside and outside, whether the infestation is in your attic or in your walls. Your technician will then consult with you directly to recommend the best treatment methods, which may involve trapping, baiting, and professionally installed monitoring stations.

In addition to the removal of problem rodents, our team will also identify the access points rodents are gaining entry into your home. Once a point is identified, our professional technicians will properly seal the affected area to ensure they cannot gain entry inside.

Want to learn more? Here are some other wildlife critters to be on the lookout for during the rest of autumn and into winter


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