Difference Between a Rat and a Mouse? Proven Answers

Both rodents (rats and mice) belong to the family of Sciuridae, which means “tree-climbing” in Latin. It can be difficult to distinguish between a rat and a mouse. It is true that many people are aware of the differences between mice and rats; however, there are many who ask, “what is the difference between a rat and a mouse? If you have either of these animals in your home, would you be able to distinguish between them?

difference between a rat and a mouse - Rat vs Mouse


How Can You Tell the Difference Between a Rat and a Mouse?

If you see something scurry across your floor in the middle of the night, while you’re up getting a midnight snack, will you stop and try and identify it? Most likely not!

differences between rats and mice -brown rat
Show Me a Picture of a Rat!
Difference between a rat and a mouse infographic
Infographic courtesy of Orkin – Difference between a mouse and a rat

Size Difference: Rat vs Mouse

House Mice (Mus musculus) are typically two to four inches long, while common Norway Rats (Rattus norvegicus) are seven to nine inches long. It might be simple to tell the two apart if they are at full size, but young Norway Rats that haven’t reached their full size might look identical to adult house mouse.

what is the difference between a rat and a mouse - mouse sitting on a fence
Mouse sitting on a fence

You may spot the discrepancy by taking a look at their tails. A Norway rat’s tail is the same length as its body, while a house mouse’s tail is shorter. Another method is to check their excrement. Norway rat excrement (poop?) is larger and coarser than that of a house mouse.

Physical Features: Difference Between a Rat and a Mouse

Mice and rats have similar coloring, but there are a few different features that will help you distinguish between them.

A mouse’s nose is more triangular than a rat’s, while a rat’s is blunter.

Mice have large, floppy ears, while rats’ ears are larger in size than mice’. Mice’ tails are long, thin, and covered in hair, while rat tails are scaly and hairless.


Rats are found in most places, from forests to bushes to cities. They can survive in extreme climatic conditions, from deserts to tundra.

Their habitats include sewers, garbage cans, attics, and other places that are filthy and unlivable for most other animals.

Mice can be found in a wide range of places, from forests to towns. They prefer areas with plenty of food sources, such as farms, gardens, and orchards.

differences between a rat and a mouse
Dark Gray Rat

Both rats and mice are nocturnal animals, which means that they are active during the night. The ones that live in urban areas are more likely to be diurnal, staying active during the day. Rats are known to move along the ground, whereas mice can climb.


What Can Rats Eat?

Rats are omnivorous animals. This means that they consume both plant and animal matter as part of their diet.

Rats need high levels of protein and fat, so they will eat meat, insects, and other small animals if available.

Rats are very opportunistic eaters and will take advantage of whatever food is available to them.

What Does a Mouse Eat?

Mice are also omnivorous. Some of the things that a mouse might eat are seeds, nuts, fruits, vegetables, insects, spiders, and small vertebrates like lizards and baby birds.

In the wild, mice typically eat 10-15% of their body weight each day.

what is the difference between a rat and a mouse - mouse sitting on a rock
Mouse sitting on a rock

Mice require high levels of calcium and folic acid in their diet. A lack of either of these nutrients can lead to health problems in mice, including stunted growth, bone deformities, and anemia.

If you have a mouse for a pet, make sure to include plenty of calcium- and folic acid-rich foods in your mouse’s diet to keep them healthy and happy.

Rat vs Mouse Behavior – Differences

Rats are considered to be very social animals. They live in groups, which are called “fours”. In fact, the name “rat” comes from the fact that these rodents often live in large groups, hence the slang term ‘ratpack.’

Mice are solitary animals and are known to live in holes, under floors, and in other secluded spots.

what is the difference between a rat and a mouse - a rat standing up
A rat standing up

Both rats and mice are active at night and have good hearing.

Rats are known to be very smart, while mice have a high level of curiosity. They can easily escape traps, as well as other dangers.

Unlike mice, rats usually live in fear and are therefore very cautious about new things. Rats explore new things much more slowly than mice do.

Teeth – Difference Between a Rat and a Mouse

Mice have weaker teeth than rats, so getting into your pantry for a snack may not be as easy as it is for a rat. Mice usually don’t get into food stored in glass or metal containers. However, the same can’t be said for rats.

Rat teeth are much stronger than mice and they have been known to chew through sheet metal, including aluminum, wood, glass, and even cinder blocks! Wow, now that is strong.

Lifespan – Difference between a Rat and a Mouse

Lifespan of Rats

The lifespan of a rat can vary depending on the specific species, but in general, rats typically live for 2-3 years.

However, some rats have been known to live for up to 5 years in captivity.

The average lifespan of a wild rat is usually shorter, due to predation and other environmental factors.

difference between a rat and a mouse - a rat with big ears
A rat with big ears

Lifespan of Mice

The average lifespan of a mouse is about two to three years. However, this can vary depending on the specific species of mouse.

For example, the house mouse typically lives for about one to two years, while the laboratory mouse can live for up to four years.

what is the difference between a rat and a mouse - show me a picture of a mouse
Show me a picture of a mouse

Can Rats and Mice Live Together?

Yes, rats and mice can live together. There are a few things to keep in mind, though, to make sure that your rats and mice are living together harmoniously.

First, it’s important to have enough space for both rats and mice. They both need plenty of room to roam and explore, so a cage that’s too small will quickly become cramped and stressful.

Secondly, you’ll need to provide both rats and mice with plenty of food and water. They have different dietary needs, so you’ll need to make sure that there’s enough of both for everyone.

Lastly, you’ll need to pay attention to their body language. Rats and mice can sometimes get along fine, but if you see them fighting or acting aggressively towards each other, it’s best to separate them.


So, there you have it. The rat and mouse may look similar to the untrained eye, but they are actually quite different creatures. Rats are larger and more social, and mice are smaller and less sociable, but make up for it with their intelligence and ability to quickly learn new tasks.

Both rats and mice can make great pets, but if you’re looking for an animal that is easy to take care of, a hamster or gerbil might be a better choice than a rat or mouse. Check out our blog post on squirrels who also belong to the rodent family!

I dedicate this article to my Sweets after we had a discussion about this topic. I knew I had to learn more about the differences and found out this is a burning question people want to know!

Subscribe to our VIP Squirrel Tails monthly magazine to keep up with the latest happenings at Kitty City Squirrels!

Learn More About the Squirrel Tails Magazine

Similar Posts

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *