Do You Have Rats or Mice, and Why the Difference Matters

January 15, 2018By

Rodents have lived with humanity for millennia. From the common house mouse to rats, they share our environments, and often go with us as we travel. In fact, humans were responsible for introducing rodents like rats to ecosystems where they had never existed before.

Today, we still share a close relationship with both mice and rats, and rodents can make inroads into your home. Of course, it can be difficult to determine if your pesky pests are really mice or rats, and you might wonder why it matters, in the end.

Actually, it does make a significant difference.

Rats vs. Mice 

Rat Control

So, why does it matter to determine whether or not you have mice or rats in or around your home? Simply put, they usually require different removal techniques, particularly when it comes to trapping them.

Mice are much smaller than rats in almost all instances, but rats are not always large – New Orleans wharf rats are not the norm. Rather, Norway rats are the most common representatives of their species throughout most of Louisiana, although roof rats can be problematic in some areas.

You Won’t Have Both

In most instances, you will have either an infestation of mice, or an infestation of rats, but not both. This is because mice and rats don’t really get along. Rats will kill mice and eat them, for instance.

So, realize that while you might have rodents, you at least only have one species invading your home. The trick is to determine which it is.

Living Areas

You’ll find that rats and mice live in different areas, as well. Mice prefer to make their nests within your home, generally in a dark place that’s out of the way but close to a source of food. They take up residence under your sink, or inside of your walls. The kitchen is often the first place they’ll infest thanks to the easy proximity to food.

Rats generally live deeper down. They tunnel and dig – they prefer to venture out from underground burrows to find their food, rather than living inside your home. That’s not to say that rats will never take up residence in a house. It’s just more common for them to remain outdoors, or at least confined to a subterranean portion of the home (that dark, dank crawl space, for instance).

Note that roof rats are different. These rats can live in your attic, and they’re very fond of living in the tops of certain types of palm trees. If these trees are located near your home, it’s a simple matter for the rats to migrate indoors.

Check the Droppings

You can tell a lot about your infestation by checking the droppings left behind. Mouse droppings are usually oval, with pointed ends. The individual droppings usually measure no more than a quarter of an inch in length. Rat droppings, on the other hand, are much larger. They can be up to three-quarters of an inch in length, and are usually sparser.

No matter what type of droppings you find, be aware that they can be serious health threats. Both mice and rats carry pathogens that are excreted in their droppings. Touching rodent droppings with your bare hands, or even just breathing dust containing rodent feces, can be very dangerous.

What to Do

Whether you can identify the invading rodent species or not, the best advice is to call for professional help. Even seeing just one mouse should be cause for alarm – where there’s one, there are many more.

Eliminating rodents from your home should be one of your top priorities, and you’ll definitely need a seasoned professional to help.

Filed in: MiceRat