Mice and rats are found most often in close proximity to safe shelter and an accessible food source. Unfortunately for us, our homes offer a first-class sanctuary for these critters. Domestic rodents: they’re everywhere. Read on to discover how to tell the difference between a rat and a mouse, and what that means for your pest control strategy.
SPOT THE DIFFERENCES
While these two rodents share many defining characteristics, knowing how to identify which furry creature just scurried across your kitchen floor is the first step in hindering a potential infestation.
The most evident difference between mice and rats happens to be the easiest to recognize, even in quick encounters. Fully matured mice will only grow to be a few inches at the most, while adult rats can span to over a foot long, tail included.
And the size difference doesn’t stop there. Mice have smaller heads and feet and shorter, furred tails. Rats, on the other hand, have larger heads in proportion to their body with distinctly longer, bulkier tails. If you’re unlucky enough to get a closer look, note another prominent difference: ears. Rats have smaller ears when compared to their head size, while mice have larger ears relative to their slighter size.
These notable differences in stature affect not only our ability to categorize unpleasant rodent invaders, but they also influence the ways these pests navigate their chosen headquarters.
Because mice are so small—generally weighing less than an ounce—they can voyage in and out of incredibly tiny spaces. The ability to maneuver quickly around your home makes the mouse a bolder scavenger than the bulkier, more timid rat. Rats’ larger size doesn’t deter them from attempting a tight squeeze out of sight, however; they’re able to fit through spaces as small as half an inch and are known to climb or even swim through narrow pipes to gain entry.
Spotting a mouse or rat isn’t a simple task, as both are keenly aware of your presence. Domestic rodents, rats especially, are not eager to surrender their newfound hiding spots, but the ways these two trespassers operate differ and provide new clues as to which rodent you need to oust from your home.
Due to their poor eyesight, both rodents employ their other senses to guide them. Mice, the more curious of the two, venture out using their whiskers to sense their surroundings and react swiftly to your movements, meaning they’re most often spotted when you and your family are lounging, still, and quiet. A rat moves cautiously, primarily at night, so if you spot one foraging during your waking hours, it’s likely a sign there are more rats than your home’s nighttime scraps can accommodate.
KNOW THE SIGNS
If these sneaky intruders haven’t made a visible appearance and you suspect the presence of rodents, a simple DIY home inspection is in order. There are several environmental signs that indicate an infestation on your hands, many of which carry dangerous consequences.
WHAT’S LEFT BEHIND
One of the most common initial clues there are rodents nearby is also the most disgusting: their droppings. Not only a gross nuisance, rodent droppings can carry pathogens, diseases, and infectious viruses, and the last place you want them is in your space.
Not sure which of these rodents has taken up residence? Mouse droppings are much smaller and have pointed ends, while rat droppings tend to be larger and blunted.
Rodent droppings are serious business, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends disposal of them be done with gloves and heavy disinfectants such as bleach. Contaminants can also be unknowingly inhaled when droppings are disturbed, so take extra caution when attempting removal on your own.
FOLLOW THE FOOD SOURCE
Rodents are pervasive, stealthy creatures. They nest out of sight around food sources, making your cabinets—and the food they house—open to the same contaminants found in their droppings. While rats are known to finish their meals, mice will often leave behind small pieces of food in their wake.
The types of foods they target may be another clue, with mice preferring grains and plants and ravenous rats willing to eat just about anything they can feast upon, even leather and other fragrant household objects.
CHECK FOR CHEWING
Both rodents are eager chewers whose teeth would continue to grow if they ceased to gnaw on whatever they can get their paws on. If you’ve noticed chewed walls, nibbled wires, or other tiny teeth marks, rodents are the likely culprit. Their penchant to nibble not only leaves your home with cosmetic damage, but also creates possibly serious fire hazards if these pests get their teeth on electrical wires, pipes, or even gas lines.
HOW DOES THIS AFFECT RODENT CONTROL EFFORTS?
To properly manage the headache that is a rodent invasion, different techniques must be utilized when dealing with rats vs. mice. Because of their size differences, eating patterns, behavioral habits, and even their reproduction rate, your rodent problem requires a species specific approach. Traps, baits, and exclusion methods must be implemented with the right target in mind.
What works for one rodent may not necessarily work for the other, and resolving an infestation is a many-sided process regardless of which animal has made your home it’s breeding ground. To save yourself time, money, and the hassle of going at it alone, our pest control professionals are ready to help in your DIY efforts or to step in to safely identify and remove any unwanted rodents from your home. Contact us today to learn more about rodent control and prevention. We’re here to help you design and implement a plan that will banish these pests and make your home a safer place.