The Difference Between Rats & Mice: Why it Matters

All rodents are not created equal. You might think that whether you have a rat or a mouse problem, it would be treated the same. But that’s not strictly true. To prevent and get rid of rats and mice, you need to understand things like their behaviour, what they like to eat, and where they hide out. Read on to find out the difference between rat and mice and why it matters.

How Are Rats and Mice Different?

Here are some key differences between rats and mice that you need to know if you want to prevent or control them:


Rats and mice exhibit different behaviour. Rats are cautious and will tend to avoid new things. This is why rat traps can take a while to work. Rats will purposely avoid them at first. Mice are completely different in that respect. They are curious and won’t shy away from something new. Mouse traps can be more successful for this reason. That being said, if you haven’t managed to trap a mouse within a couple of days, it’s a fair bet you’ve set the trap in the wrong place.


There are around 56 species of rat in the world and 38 species of mice. However, let’s think about the differences in appearance between the most common species you’ll find in the UK.

The house mouse: Has a small head, small feet, a pointed snout, and large ears in relation to its size. House mice are usually light brown and have a dark tail. They’re also tiny; adults only weigh 0.5 ounces.

The Norway rat: Has a thick, heavy body, a blunt snout, and short ears. They are brownish black in colour and their tails are dark on top and light underneath. Rats are much larger than mice and adults can weight around 11 ounces.


Both rats and mice will eat anything, though rats prefer fresh grains and meat whereas mice like cereal grains and plants. Rats also need up to an ounce of fluid each day.


Where they choose to live is a big difference between rats and mice. Mice build nests in a secluded area in close proximity to a food source. They make nests from soft materials like cardboard or insulation. Mice hardly ever burrow, but rats are happy to have a good old dig under buildings, fences, and debris.


Adult female mice can have as many as eight litters of five to six babies. These babies can become capable of reproducing in as little as six weeks.

Adult female rats can have up to seven litters of around 12 babies. The babies can reproduce when they are around three months old. So you can see how easily an infestation of either pest could get out of hand.

How long do they live?

Lifespan is another difference between rats and mice. Rats live for around two years while mice live for around 12-18 months.

How Do I Get Rid of Rats and Mice?

There are a lot of DIY options out there like traps and poisons. They can be great for the odd mouse you’ve spotted in your home. However, both rats and mice are social animals so if you’ve seen one, there are probably others in close proximity. That’s why if you’ve seen signs of a rat or mice infestation, we’d recommend calling in professional pest control.

Contego understands rodent behaviour and what’s more, we have the know-how, experience, and products to eliminate an infestation fast.

Want a rodent-free home? (and to keep it that way?)

Call Contego.

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