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The difference between rats and mice

Abell Pest Control

Popular opinion and old wives tales may have people believing that there is a big difference between a cute little house mouse and a dirty city rat. Rats are often associated with sewers, trash and repulsiveness while mice, although a nuisance, aren't thought of as quite so dirty. In fact, these tiny little pests can actually look quite similar, especially during the early stages of life.

Rodent species

According to Rat Behavior, the term "mouse" and "rat" are actually not even scientific classifications and both pests are filed under the rodent category. There are many different species of rodents called rats, just as there are many different species of rodents called mice. Rats can be black rats, naked mole rats, Norway rats, wood rats and pack rats and they may not be related to each other at all. When it comes to mice there are house mice, deer mice, field mice, dormice, smoky mice and many more. The most common domestic pests within these species are Norway rats, black rats and house mice.

What's the difference?

The similarities are the most similar between baby rats and adult mice. As infant rats, these pests may actually look very much like the mouse. However, there are several tell-tale signs. According to Live Science, mice have large ears, pointed noses and a tail that is typically longer than their body. Contrary to what many may think, the tail of a rat is actually shorter than it's body, according to Rat Behavior. Mice are often very tiny and never usually larger than the size of a potato. In relation to the head, and in comparison to those of the mouse, rats have slightly smaller ears.

Both rodents are nocturnal, spending most of the day sleeping. Live Science reported that mice live in almost every country, and make habitats in forests, grasslands and man-made structures. Mice will eat just about anything if food is hard to find, but they prefer seeds, grains and fruit. If they are especially challenged in finding food, they have been even known to eat each other. The brown rat and the house rat rely on human food sources and are known to kill poultry, eat grains and destroy stored foods, according to Britannica. They have also been linked to the spread of up to 40 different diseases.

Despite the differences, both the rat and the mouse can stir up a great deal of trouble in your home.


About the author:

Abell Pest Control is a family owned Canadian company dedicated to providing effective, professional and courteous service in pest management.Started in 1924 with one office, Abell now employs several hundred people with branch offices across Canada and the United States.

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