Rats and Mice: What Are the Differences?

What is a Mouse

A mouse is a type of rodent with features like small round ears, pointed snout, a scaly tail covered all over by hair with a significant breeding. House mouse is the most common mouse species. They usually enter homes in search of shelter and food.

What is a Rat

Rats are also a type of rodents with long thin tails and pointed snout features. They have scaly, cylinder-shaped. Rats have two common types which include black and brown rats.


  • MouseDrawing rat and mouse

Species have evolved around 6-7 years back from their close relative striped-back mouse in Africa, Europe, and Asia. Mice have been ground dwellers; they may climb, swim or form burrows underneath the ground.Diet may vary among the species outdoor mice may consume seeds or insects while the indoor mouse may eat anything digestible. The mouse was originated at the beginning of human civilization. They were helpful as models for research work related to Biology field. In around 1700’s mice were kept in homes as pets in countries like Japan and China. New theories about inheritance and genetic mapping were carried out on mice. The greatest achievement by experiments on the mouse was to identify polymorphism based on DNA sequence.

  • Rats

Rats originated in Australia and Asia, but now they are found throughout the world. Rats have been used for research purpose to understand the effects of drugs, genetics, and diseases.Rats are used for psychological studies to understand mental processes and learning as it is similar to humans.

5 Physical Characteristic Differences Between Mice & Rats

1. Appearance and Size

Mice have fury bodies, elongated ears, hairless tail with a pointed nose. Mice possess different sizes and colors which include gray, white or brown. Their length varies from 1-8 inches and weighs around 0.2 to 1 ounce.

Brown rats have thick bodies, Short tail when compared to the size of head and body. Small eyes covered with hairs and blunt nose. Black rats have pointed nose, elongated ears, slender bodies and long tail when compared to the size of head and body.

2. Habitation and Distribution

Yummy Balance rat and mouse food

Mice can survive in any habitat near the countryside which includes gardens, yards, attic or forests. They may form the burrow underneath the ground and survive there from the reach of their predators which includes foxes, dogs, cats or birds. They are nocturnal by nature i.e. they sleep throughout the day and create nuisance at night. All species of mice are native to Africa and Eurasia. But their subspecies may be found anywhere in Srilanka, India and Southeast Asia mainly Java and Sumatra. Some species may prefer to live near moist, cool environment while others prefer to live in deserted rocky areas.

Black Rats mainly reside near the buildings, ships or ports in other temperate countries. They are also good climbers and nest under the roofs. In warmer countries, they nest primarily in orchards or woodland within the trees. Brown rats usually live in burrows or ground. You will easily see them on the buildings, outdoor areas or sewer system.

3. Eating Habits

Both are omnivorous by nature, but some may be herbivorous. Brown rats prefer cereals. They feed on grains by chopping them off. They drink around 60-70 ml of water per day. They eat residing in the same places. Black rats prefer to eat moist fruits. They feed by moving to different areas. They also prefer to eat grains by chopping them off. They drink around 30-40 ml of water.

Mice prefer to eat cereals. They kibble upon the grains and prefer removing the outer husk and eat the white endosperm present inside. They search for food in same places and drink around 3-4 ml of water.

4. Droppings

Mice and rat droppings

The droppings of brown rats are wide with dark brown color. They are spindle and tapered shape. While black rats have thin, smaller droppings with pointed ends and in the form of a curve.

Mice have droppings of around 4-9 mm in length. They scatter it randomly during their infestation. Their dropping has granular shape and black color.

5. Reproduction

Mice mature sexually much earlier than rats. The newborns of all the rodents are blind and depend on their mother for feed.  Mice have a litter size around 5-15. They litter around 8-9 times per year. These creatures mature within 9-13 weeks.

Rats have a litter size around 6-16. They litter around 4-7 times per year. These rat species develop within 11-13 weeks. Black rats have a litter size around 6-11. They litter around 4-7 times per year and mature within 6-8 weeks.

As Pets

  • Mouse

Mice are good companion pets. They are loving and playful. You should not leave your mouse pets outside otherwise the predators will eat them. Fancy mice are usually kept as pets. Male mice possess stronger odor when compared to females. You need some products to take care of your mice pets such as Gerbil or Hamster cage. Selected seed or pelleted food should be provided. Bedding should be made of hardwood pulp, for example, aspen, wood pulp or uninked paper.

  • Rats

Variety of rats are kept as pets such as Black Rats, giant-pouched rats, and brown rats. Pet rats are not harmful to humans.

Destruction Caused by Them

Destruction caused by rats

Rats or mice are a nuisance to your homes. They squeeze into your homes through small holes or gaps. These species prefer warm temperatures, so they invade into your homes. They can cause lots of destruction like structural damage to your offices, apartments, homes, buildings through infestation by building nests and defecation. These tiny animals chew upon books, paper, food, cloth or woods. Mice dig burrows in your furniture, car seats and make hiding places like burrowing nests. They can also reside in insulation areas inside the attic or walls and chew the wires leading to chances of fire. They nibble any chewable material which may be stored in garage, attic, cabinets or basement area. Mice and rat may invade your house searching for food leaving behind their fecal droppings, and urine trails. These are the potential cause of spreading diseases. So keep your food and drinking water in sealed containers. Diseases such as Salmonellosis, Rat-bite fever, leptospirosis, lassa and hemorrhagic fever may spread through the rodents.

Therefore, you definitely don’t want to keep either of them at home. At PestWiki.com, we listed several powerful products to help you get rid of them:

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Is Rat-mouse Hybrid Possible?

A hybrid is a procedure to develop an offspring from species of two types. Mice and rats are not associated with each other. They do not attract towards each other during the regular, natural situations. Even sometimes rats act as predators of mice and eat them. But attempts have been made in the laboratory to produce hybrids by merging the sperm with an egg of two species. But the results presented are not stable, and the embryo dies after some cell divisions.

Another technique which involves placing a rat nucleus into the mouse egg. These embryos with transplanted nucleus survive till 2-3 cell stages.The third type of technique called Chimera is produced by joining two embryos of mice and rats at an early stage, but they lasted in vitro and died when implanted to host. Chimeras may also be created if tissue, cells or organs are transplanted from rats to mice or vice versa. Transgenic rats are also produced which contain the gene of their counter species.Hybrid cell lines have also been created in laboratories by joining cells of two species.Rats simplified colored image and silhouette

Mouse Killing Behavior in Rats-Muricide

Rats have a predatory behavior; they can kill mice and feed upon them. Such action is referred to as Muricide. Both female and male rats like to kill mice. Muricide is a type of behavior in which the rats hunt mice and snap them with their sharp incisors and attack their upper back, head or neck. This bite is usually fatal and kills the mice.

The muricide behavior in rats can also be used to assess the function of antidepressants like MAO Inhibitors and Tricyclic antidepressants. Muricidal tests are performed to check the attacking ability of rats against mice. Long-term administration of Tetrahydrocannabinol can induce muricidal behavior in rats. This practice is typical in wild rats around 71-72% and domestic rats around 13-14%.

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