Mouse Control: Is it a Mouse or a Rat? Knowing the Signs

Scratching in your ceiling, gnawing at your furniture, nests in your cupboards and droppings on your countertops are all signs of rodent infestations. But the question is, is it rats or mice? And why should you care? Surely a rodent is a rodent, and you treat them all the same. Unfortunately not.

Mouse control and rat control are two very different scenarios, and if you want your pest control efforts to be successful, you need to know what you’re dealing with. Mice and rats behave differently and have different levels of intelligence, so you can’t treat them the same way. Rats are far more cautious than mice, and won’t come out of their hiding places until they are familiar with their environment. Mice, however, are curious and quickly make themselves at home in your home. This means that it is easier to spot a mouse infestation early on.

Spot the differences between mice and rats

There are three species that you need to be concerned about, they are the brown rat (also known as the common or Norway rat), the black rat (also referred to as the ship rat or roof rat) and the house mouse.

All rodents have common features, they have short legs, a long tail and a pair of incisors in the upper jaw. But it is possible to tell which species is invading your property. The simplest way to distinguish a rat from a mouse is size – a mouse is significantly smaller than a rat but of course, you could confuse a mouse with a juvenile rat.

Mice are typically 1 – 4 inches long and rats have a body of 8 inches and a hairless, scaly tail that is 9 inches long. A mouse has larger ears and a longer tail proportionate to its body, while young rats have a larger head and feet proportionate to their body. Mice are mostly light grey or brown with a lighter shade on their bellies. Brown rats have coarse brown fur and black rats are usually grey with white bellies.

What do mice and rats eat?

Rats and mice are omnivores but they don’t all necessarily eat the same types of food. Mice prefer to eat seeds and remove the outer husk to eat the endosperm inside. They tend to return to the same place every day to look for food.  Brown rats also like cereals and tend to return to the same place to look for food. This makes it easy to identify spots to place bait stations. Black rats prefer food with high moisture content, like fruit, and don’t return to the same place to eat. This makes them more difficult to control, and you need to put down numerous traps and replace the moist food in the trap often.   

Where do mice and rats live?

Black rats are agile and like to nest high up under roofs, or in trees. They are mostly found in buildings around docks and ports and onboard ships, hence the name ship rat. Brown rats usually live on the ground and in burrows, and their burrowing can cause extensive damage to sewers. They are typically spotted in buildings, sewer systems and outdoors. Mice tend to nest in hidden spots near their food source.

Rat and mouse control

If mice and rats are not dealt with quickly, you will soon have a serious problem on your hands as both species are prolific breeders. One mouse can have a litter of 4 to 6 offspring, 7 to 8 times a year. A brown rat has a litter size of 7 to 8 offspring, 3 to 6 times a year, and a black rat can have 3 to 6 litters a year with 3 to 6 babies in each.

There are simple steps that you can take to reduce your chances of a rodent infestation. Make sure that your house is clean and neat, and that there are no dark, damp places for rodents to hide. Do not leave food out, and make sure that garbage bins are emptied and cleaned regularly. If you see increasing rodent activity on your property, you need to contact a professional, like Truly Nolen, to help you with your rat and mouse control.