June 6, 2024

Rats vs. Mouse Infestations: Differences You Should Know

No matter what time of year these pests sneak into your home, they’re guaranteed to cause problems. Rodents are notorious for spreading waste and disease and are responsible for countless yearly damages. 

While rats and mice are similar, they have distinct characteristics that set them apart. Plus, having rats vs. a mouse infestation may impact your home differently.

Take a look at our blog, and we’ll explain all the similarities and differences of a rodent infestation. 

Size Differences Between Rats and Mice

When deciding what type of rodent infestation you have in your home, you can easily differentiate the two pests by considering their size. 

All rat species are much larger than the average house mouse, with the two primary American rat species towering over their small frames. 

Roof rats range in size from 5-8 inches, not including their tail. Their long, wiry tails can reach lengths of 10 inches. Norway rats, also called brown rats or sewer rats, are significantly larger. With their tail included, these pests can be over 20 inches long!

House mice are usually half this size, typically measuring 3 inches or shorter. Their tails aren’t much longer either and are generally only 4 inches in length.

Besides their longer lengths, mice are usually much smaller in stature too. House mice may only weigh a few ounces, while some rat species can weigh nearly half a point to two pounds, depending on the type and food available. 

When considering rats vs. mouse infestations, either is bad for your home. However, a rat’s larger size can cause more damage. They can gnaw through larger items and may consume more food in your home. 

However, don’t discount a house mouse! These little pests can cause their fair share of damage too. While roof rats are known for their climbing prowess, mice are more nimble and brave; a small house mouse can easily squeeze into areas a rat may not fit. 

A rodent’s size will clue you into the type of infestation you have. For more information, specifically about the Norway rats vs. roof rats, check out our blog: “Norway Rat Vs. Roof Rat: Rodent Infestations.”

Behavior Differences Between Rats and Mice

Both pests are sneaky critters that exploit small cracks and crevices on your home’s exterior to reach the indoors. Once they’ve gained access to your house, they will stop at nothing to eat you out of your house and home.

However, every rodent has specific quirks, and Washington rodents are no different. Roof rats primarily populate hard-to-reach and tall spaces like attics, roof eaves, and upstairs bedrooms. Outside, they may even climb up trees and fences to build nests.

Norway rats prefer to stay on the ground and aren’t efficient climbers. They can’t reach the same heights as their smaller friends. You may see these pests living it up in garage areas or near your foundation.

In bustling cities, Norway rats are the most common pest you can see on the street or in other heavily trafficked areas. They tend to flock toward spaces with food and trash and often frequent sewers. 

Both rat species are typically shy and standoffish. They won’t approach you and run around if they notice your presence. Instead, they forage whenever you’re away or asleep at night. 

One of the largest differences between rats vs. a mouse infestation is the two rodent’s behavior. Mice aren’t as scared of humans. They’ll still run away whenever they see you drawing near, but they’re unafraid to look for food while you’re still moving around your home. 

Don’t be surprised if you spot a mouse running across your floor while trying to enjoy your evening meal or sitting down for a nice night of television. 

Despite their minuscule bravado, mice usually won’t attack or act out whenever approached. While any wild animal may act aggressively if mishandled or cornered, mice typically try to run away instead of fighting back. 

Rats, on the other hand, aren’t as calm. They may begin biting you if they feel threatened or if you’re encroaching on their territory. These pests are usually shyer but aren’t afraid to stand their ground. 

Despite this, most rodents are unlikely to attack you, but you should always approach these pests cautiously. Never try to capture a rat or mouse without proper protection, and never handle one of these pests with your bare hands. 

Rats vs. Mouse Diseases

One of the key reasons you should play it safe when it comes to a rodent infestation is their disease-spreading capabilities. 

Rodents have been historically responsible for disease spread throughout centuries. In fact, they were responsible for advancing the reach of the bubonic plague during the 1500s because of the fleas attached to their skin. 

Rats and mice can still transmit the plague, albeit on a much smaller scale. Modern medical advancements have made this disease less prevalent, and antibiotics can swiftly cure the ailment.

Despite that, rodents still cause numerous cases of salmonella each year as rats and mice forage through and defecate inside your food. Salmonella can cause symptoms like vomiting, diarrhea, and fever. 

Hantavirus is another serious illness spread through rat and mouse droppings. Because these pests defecate wherever they roam in your house, they can spread this harmful bacteria onto any surface. 

You may become sick with hantavirus if you breathe in contaminated air, either when cleaning up rodent droppings or if these pests have spread waste throughout your insulation or HVAC unit. 

According to the CDC, it’s also speculated that you can contract hantavirus from eating infected items or from cross-contamination after touching an infected surface and then touching your mouth or nose. 

This disease is extremely serious and sometimes debilitating, with over ⅓ of the cases leading to death. Infected individuals may experience flu-like symptoms like chills, fever, body aches, or even abdominal problems like nausea and vomiting. 

After the first few days of symptoms, the virus may escalate into dangerous respiratory issues, causing difficulty breathing and fluid in your lungs.

Rodents aren’t pests to underestimate. You should always take great care when cleaning up after these pests and never attempt to handle a severe infestation alone. Instead, contact us here at Zunex Pest Control for help.

Our highly trained technicians can swiftly eliminate any pesky rodents that have overstayed their welcome. No matter if you have rats or a mouse infestation, we can get rid of the problem and keep your home pest-free. 

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