What Do Mice and Rats Look Like?

Image of rats

If you’ve noticed some droppings, shredded paper, missing food, and a strong urine odor, you may have a rodent problem on your hands. Rodents don’t just leave behind droppings and odors. They can also cause extensive damage to your property, and identifying the rodent is usually the first step taken by pest control.

Correctly identifying which rodent you have in your home determines the solution you need to treat the rodent problem. If you need help telling the difference between a mouse and a rat, here is everything you need to know.

Differing Characteristics: Mouse vs Rat

Mice and rats are both rodents, so they appear to be similar. Both rodents tend to have long whiskers, and most rat and mouse species tend to seek food at night. They often return to the same location, building nests for the young mouse or young rat to occupy, and both rodents have oily fur. Both rats and mice return to the same places if there is an adequate food source, and they can get out to drink water easily.

However, one of the key differences between rats and mice is their size. Rats are often bigger and heavier, whereas mice are much smaller in size, and their bodies are more slender. Mice have long, thin tails covered in fur or hair, whereas rat tails tend to be thicker, shorter, and generally hairless. You can tell the difference between a rat and a mouse by assessing the following characteristics:

• Appearance

• Body Size and weight

• Droppings


Image of mice


Mice have larger ears that are typically bigger than their heads, and a notable physical characteristic is their triangular, pointed noses. Their tails are long and hairy, and their fur can be light brown, black, or grey. Its tail is often a similar color to its fur. Mice have tails that are often longer than their body length. Their floppy ears, short legs, long tails, and smaller body size make these rodents much more tolerable in appearance to rats.

image of a rat


On the other hand, Rats have small hairy ears with larger heads that are more proportionate to their body length. Unlike mice with softer fur, rats have bristly, rough fur and their tails are often hairless, thicker, and scaly. They can either be white, grey, brown, or black in color and typically have a blunt nose. If you have a rat problem, you can expect to see significant damage to your home’s building materials, as these rodents have much sharper incisor teeth.

Body Size and Weight

A notable difference between rats and mice is that the former can grow much larger than mice. Mice tend to grow to about three to four inches. In terms of weight, mice typically weigh anywhere from 0.5 to 3 ounces, with the average adult mouse growing tails that are just as long as their bodies.

Rats typically reach body lengths of between nine and 11 inches, with shorter tails of up to nine inches. Several rat species can exceed these measurements, and many giant rats are being discovered. A rat can weigh anything from 12 ounces to 1.5 pounds.


Rodent droppings are all typically dark in color. However, rat droppings are larger than mouse droppings.

Image of mouse droppings

Mouse Droppings

Mouse droppings have pointed ends and tend to look like grains of dark rice, measuring 1/8 to 1/4 inches, and mice tend to produce significantly more droppings than rats, so you can expect to see a lot of tiny droppings if you have a mouse problem in your home.

Rat Droppings

Rat droppings are more rounded and are generally the size of olive pits, measuring up to 3/4 inches. If you have rodent problems, you can expect to see fewer droppings throughout the day if your problem is rats.

Identifying the Most Common Types of Mice

The characteristics above may not be enough to differentiate between rats and mice accurately. Here are some of the most common species of mice that invade the home.

Image of a common house mouse

The White Mouse or House Mouse

Habitat Preferences

White or house mice prefer to construct their nesting sites in burrows and are native to the United States. These rodents are nocturnal and inquisitive. They like to explore new objects, including poisons, repellents, and traps, before deciding whether to stay in or away from an area.


Their small black eyes, little paws, and rounded, large ears make it a cute pet but are formidable foes to those whose homes they invade. The house mouse is a dusty light grey color, and their small size means that they can get into tiny holes and cracks in the home.

Signs That You Have a House Mouse in Your Home

If you have a house mouse problem, you should see between 50 to 75 house mouse droppings per day which can quickly accumulate, spreading germs and disease.

You should notice a urine odor, along with a strong, musty smell if you have a house mouse infestation, and you can expect to find shredded books and paper towels around the home, as they tend to use these for their nesting areas. These mice also tend to make half-inch holes in walls and baseboards.

Image of a deermouse

The Field or Deer Mouse

Habitat and Food Preferences

Deer mice, also known as field mice, are known to be hoarders. You can expect to find this rodent in rural and semi-rural areas in midwestern and eastern states in the US. These mice prefer foods like berries, nuts, grains, and seeds.


They come in various shades of brown, ranging from golden to reddish, and have a white chest with white feet. Their tails are often two colors, and they tend to be larger than house mice.

Signs That You Have a Deer Mouse on Your Property

Field mice leave behind dark 1/4-inch droppings with pointed ends and tend to gnaw at wooden beams, feed bags, and cardboard, typically making holes for burrows in flooring. These mice hide food in various locations around their nesting sites, including the hollows inside trees, decks, sheds, attics, and porches.

Identifying Rat Species

Rats come in different colors and species. The most common types of rats include the Norway, or brown rat, and the roof rat (also known as the black rat or ship rat). A rat infestation can be much harder to deal with, so it is advisable to enlist the help of a pest control company like AAAC Wildlife Removal.

Image of a brown rat

The Norway Rat or Brown Rat

Habitat and Other Preferences

Norway rats, or brown rats, are rodents that prefer to travel close to ground level. They eat just about anything, including food scraps and trash from open garbage cans. These rodents tend to avoid snap traps, poisons, and glue boards, and the Norway rat can be found commonly across the US and Canada.

Because Norway rats can be found in so many different places, including sewer systems, they are often given names such as the sewer rat, water rat, house rat, and barn rat.


The brown rat can grow to be 16 inches long and have thick, heavy bodies with large, protruding black eyes, small ears, and blunt noses.

Signs That You Have a Norway Rat in Your Home

Norway rat droppings are typically 3/4 of an inch long, with rounded ends. If you have a Norway rat infestation, you can expect a urine odor with gnaw marks on areas such as corners, floor joists, and wall studs. Norway rats have amassed a bad reputation and are often the objects of disgust and disdain.

Image of a black rat

The Roof Rat

Habitat and Other Preferences

Roof rats are also commonly known as ship rats or black rats. These rodents travel along tree branches, rafters, overhead pipes, utility, and power lines to enter properties. Black rats have developed a taste for fruit and nuts as a result of living in trees.

A black rat often causes damage to cables and other structures in ceilings, attics, and the upper floors of homes and buildings. They are typically found in coastal cities and the swampy parts of the southeast.

These animals are neophobic (wary of new things in their surroundings), so they often avoid pesticides and traps.


Roof rats have dark, slender bodies, and they tend to gnaw on electrical wires, resulting in costly electrical power outages and damage to cables. These rodents have grey fur that has black shading, and their coats tend to be smooth. Their tails are hairless and scaly, and their tails are as long as their bodies.

Signs That You Have a Roof Rat Problem

Should you hear scuttling in your attic, the chances are that you have a roof rat problem. You can expect 1/2-inch roof rat droppings to be found scattered randomly if you have roof rats in your home.

Need Help with Your Rodent Problem?

Rodent infestations can be incredibly challenging to deal with without the help of professional pest control. At AAAC Wildlife Removal, we understand that rats and mice are different from other rodents. Therefore, the success of a trap and remove solution is completely dependent on the species and type of rodent you have in your home, building, or garden.

Most pesticides simply aren’t an effective way to rid your home of rodents such as mice and rats, so a more specialized, tailor-made solution is required. AAAC Wildlife Removal can help you tell the difference between a mouse vs rat problem. The longer you wait, the more structural damage you can expect these rodents to inflict upon your home, so contact AAAC Wildlife Removal today!

Originally published on https://aaacwildliferemoval.com/blog/rats/what-do-mice-and-rats-look-like/

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